TRACKING >>ON April 5, 2017 when he launched his administration’s blueprint, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017–2020), President Muhammadu Buhari emphatically outlined his vision for a vibrant, non-import dependent economy.
“We are determined to change Nigeria from an import-dependent country to a producing nation. We must become: a nation where we grow what we eat and consume what we produce,” the President stated.
When leaders outline lofty visions, it is for patriotic citizens along with their corporate entities to key in. This is exactly what Azikel Petroleum Limited, a subsidiary of the Azikel Group, is doing. After a multi-million dollar investment that made it Nigeria’s first private sector refinery with ultra-modern processing equipment calibrated for processing some 12, 000 barrels per day, the Bayelsa-based company has moved one major notch further, signing an equity partnership agreement with the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board.
Initially though, cynics never believed that the modular refinery licences given out to some of Nigeria’s resolute private sector operatives, including the Azikel Group being promoted by Dr. Azibapu Eruani would really work. The fact that numerous such licences that were approved by previous administrations didn’t yield any appreciable results being recorded gave weight to such dismal expectations. But the Buhari administration and the Azikel Group have utterly disproved that assumption from different flanks of the investment process.
Before the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s bold decision to address the long-persisting problem of petroleum products’ scarcity by approving 36 modular refinery licences, Nigeria’s government-owned refineries were only trudging on with at best, 20 per cent performance levels. Nigerians’ hope to see the nation enjoy sufficiency in the production of refined petroleum products was more of a mirage.
Today, the story is positively much different; the licence granted the Azikel Group to construct a 12, 000 barrel per stream day (BPSD) hydro-skimming refinery has been impactful. Indeed, there is much confidence now that the pioneering success of the firm would ensure that, in no distant time, Nigerians would begin to enjoy high quality refined petroleum product. The Azikel Refinery, powered by the Azikel Petroleum Limited is presently wrapping up the deployment of high technology processing equipment at an unprecedented pace, with a productive pact and equity partnership between it and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board.
According to the President of Azikel Group and Chairman of the Azikel Petroleum Limited, Dr. Azibapu Eruani, the new partnership agreement is not only historic; it would also send the right signals to the international community about the Azikel Group’s strong resolve to facilitate Nigeria’s attainment of self-sufficiency in the domestic production/supply of refined products, along with the creation of more jobs through systematic value-creation towards achieving economic growth and development.
However, being in the lead to deliver refined petroleum products to Nigerians necessitates ramping up production capacity towards filling a vacuum of hope and petroleum products. Hence, the Azikel Refinery has rapidly accelerated efforts towards the completion of its additional facilities in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state.
“Brief overview and indicators adjudged the Azikel Refinery as the best modern refinery presently and the near future in Nigeria. At completion, the products from the Azikel Refinery will be the best grade with euro grade V as the base standard. The product from the refinery will continuously be high quality to meeting international best standards. It is pertinent to know, that the product slates of Azikel Refinery are Petrol, Diesel, kerosene, LPG, aviation fuel and heavy fuel oil to redress the insufficiency of these products and ensure its availability in Bayelsa, the Niger Delta and Nigeria.
“Beyond redressing the problem of insufficiency and providing availability of refined petroleum, the building of Azikel Refinery is geared towards catalyzing the industrial needs of Niger Delta and Nigeria, promoting the needed industrialization, creating employment and to rejig the economy of Nigeria,” Eruani said.
Explaining the significance of the Azikel Group/NCDMB pact,. Eruani noted that even though Azikel Petroleum Limited has attained critical achievements, the participation of the NCDMB would usher in a productive paradigm shift and economic multiplier effects that would benefit the business, people of Bayelsa, the Niger Delta and the nation.
Among others advantages, he notes that such partnership would reinforce confidence in NCDMB and what it stands for and more indigenous companies would be encouraged towards participation in the downstream refining/petrochemical and upstream investment in the Nigeria Oil and Gas sector
He said he was impressed by the leadership being offered by the Executive Secretary of NCDMB’s board, Engineer Simbi Wabote, noting that Wabote’s dynamic leadership does not only reinvigorate enthusiastic support for NCDMB but it also stimulates local industries’ interest for increased participation in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
The background to this perspective includes the detailed due diligence applied by the NCDMB Board during its several visits to the Azikel Group’s project site in Bayelsa state, the Azikel Petroleum office Houston and further visits to the Design and Fabrication Company in Houston, Texas, United States where NCDMB monitored the completion percentages of the Azikel Refinery Project.
On his part, Engineer Simbi Wabote who represented NCDMB at the historic modular refining shareholders’ agreement signing ceremony, said the Azikel Refinery has achieved over 75% completion capacity, with clear indications of attaining 100% completion soonest, with massive potentials for contributing towards reversing the trend of petroleum scarcity in the country.
Simbi explained that the company “represents the first and largest so far in their portfolios of various partnership in the construction of a modular refinery in the country,” noting that with its unique capacity, the Azikel Refinery would produce about 1.3m litres or 45 trucks of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) daily along with daily supplies of diesel, kerosene, mixed LPG and a small percentage of heavy oil.
“The uniqueness that places Azikel Refinery as the best modern refinery stem from compliance with environmental standards and the lowest level of gas emission into the eco-system, and the prospect of the partnership is massive job creation, value retention, petroleum availability and the development of in-country capabilities.
“The project fits perfectly with the vision of the NCDMB to serve as catalyst for the development of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, and we are proud with the professionalism demonstrated by the management of Azikel Petroleum Limited. ’The Azikel Refinery’s operational and design model is the best technology, operated with a Nelson 4.7 complexity model, a feature that distinguishes Azikel Refinery in Africa and the western countries,” Wabote said while calling on other licensed modular refineries to strive towards emulating the pacesetting patterns of the Azikel Refinery.
He further explained that various analytical indices show that as soon as few more of such licensed modular refineries start performing optimally, the development would double the contribution of the oil sector to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
“We are proud to be part of the journey to wean off our country from massive importation of petroleum products; our data analysis show that we can more than double the contribution of the oil sector to the GDP if we achieve the current growth trajectory in the refurbishment of existing refineries, the completion of the Azikel Refinery, Dangote refinery, and the on-going modular refineries which brings refining to about 50 per cent of our daily production capacity as against the current level which is 20 percent. There is hope of increasing percentage of production to 100 percent,” he stated.
Noting that the NCDMB Act is not limited to oil refining, the Executive Secretary posited that the board’s assignment also extends to gas processing and utilisation, stressing that they are looking at establishment of inland gas depots across the country to complement the LPG penetration initiative, adding that it is part of the gas value chain as it utilises condensate which is a bye-product of gas.
He commended the foresight and focus of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, noting that the positive change being achieved requires the perseverance and patience of all Nigerians to reach fruition.
“The NCDMB is optimistic that in the next two years, no fewer than four refineries would be running in the country, and not forgetting the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) for the provision of feedstock and also for working assiduously to see the policy of the federal government to outlaw importation realised,’’ Wabote noted.
It is the general belief that if all well-meaning Nigerians with the capacity to invest in people-oriented projects do so, it won’t be long before Nigeria begins to record success in its drive for self-sufficiency which the Azikel group is daily thriving to achieve.