The African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARDA) has said Nigeria and other African countries would need at least $15.7 billion to upgrade existing refineries in their bid to reduce sulphur content.

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Speaking at the second Refining and Specifications Virtual Workshop organised by the ARDA, the association noted that the upgrade was necessary to ensure that Africa embraces cleaner sources of fuels.

The Executive Secretary of ARDA, Anibor Kragha, noted that adoption of harmonised specification would halt importation of fuels not meeting the AFRI specs into Africa.

In addition, he explained that it would give existing refineries until 2030 to upgrade their facilities to produce cleaner, lower sulphur AFRI-6 specifications, arguing that targeted financing was urgently needed for projects to upgrade refineries and infrastructure.

“New process units required are to improve key fuel specifications, especially Naptha Hydrotreater (NHdT), Diesel Hydro-desulph. (DHDS), Benzene Extraction, Sulphur and Hydrogen Plants.

“Another key focus area is for African countries, especially those sharing common fuel supply chains to develop an integrated policy covering both fuel quality and vehicle exhaust emissions.

“This is to achieve the ultimate objective of clean air in our African cities. Without this integrated and coordinated policy, the objective of clean air will not be realised whether by imports or local production,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Oil and Refining Research Analyst at Vitol, Maryro Mendez, noted that despite the withdrawal of fund from fossils, investment with sustainability plan had been on the rise.

Quoting Bloomberg statistics, she noted that sustainable debt annual issuance now borders around $824.7 billion as capital raised for renewables funds now dominate the energy sector.  According to her, lack of uniform policies make it difficult for refineries to pass on the cost of carbon to customers as carbon price shifts the cost burden of climate change from society as a whole to the entities responsible for the emissions, providing lack of incentive for refiners to reduce emissions.

“The refining sector accounts for only three per cent of the global energy sector emissions. While refineries contribution to global energy sector emissions is low, the opportunities for reducing them are significant.

“Refineries globally have started thinking about measuring, monitoring and reducing carbon emissions and environmental sustainability has to be a priority for refiners and Africa is no exception,” Mendez said.

She said 80 per cent of refinery carbon emissions come from fuel combustion, hence fuel source and energy optimisation would present the biggest opportunity to reduce emissions.

“The challenge is not technical but is commercial with facilities requiring sufficient incentive and capital to invest without impacting on their competitive position,” she added.

Speaking on, “Upgrading refineries to produce AFRI-6 standard fuels,” Data Manager at CITAC, Richard Augood, said investment was still needed to make African refineries comply with AFRI-6.

For compliance in the aspect of gasoline, Augood noted that North African countries such as Algeria would need to upgrade its Adrar refinery, while in Egypt, refineries like Amreya would need Benzene extraction.

“In Libya, Azzawiya would need Benzene extraction, El Brega would need NHT, Benzene extraction while Sarir would need to be upgraded with NHT, Benzene extraction,” he stated.

In West and Central Africa, Angola, Sonaref refinery needs NHT, benzene extraction as Chad’s SRN needs CGDS and Benzene extraction while Congo’s CORAF needs NHT, Benzene extraction and H2 and Côte d’Ivoire’s SIR needs Benzene extraction and H2.

In Nigeria, Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries, he said , would need NHT, CGDS, Benzene extraction while Senegal’s SAR must be upgraded with benzene extraction to meet AFRI Specifications.

Also speaking at the event, Honeywell-UOP’s Luque Guillermo decried that the oil and gas industry has been hit hard by the current global economic situation with rapid drops in demand.

He added that the changing mix of preferred products, volatile crude prices, and difficulty safely staffing production sites posed a challenge.

This prevailing development according to him, is forcing demand for some products such as diesel and naphtha to exceed demand for gasoline and jet fuel.

He said the sector now has to cope with new ways of working which is making workforces to operate remotely.