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The Federal Government, on Thursday, announced the mechanical completion of rehabilitation work on Area-5 Plant of the Port Harcourt Refining Company in Rivers State.

It said the first phase of the plant had been completed, as the facility would start refining 60,000 barrels of crude oil after the Christmas break.

About 170 litres of refined petroleum products can be obtained from a barrel of crude oil. This implies that the 60,000bpd production from the Port Harcourt refinery can provide an estimated 10.2 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol and other refined products.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, which is the manager of the refinery, revealed that the second phase of the facility would be completed in the fourth quarter of 2024 and would lead to the refining of 150,000bpd crude by the facility.

This came as the government also stated that the importation of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, popularly called cooking gas, would reduce after the Christmas break, as the refinery starts pumping out refined products.

The rehabilitation work at the Port Harcourt refinery has been ongoing for over two years and the NNPCL had pledged to complete phase one of the project (mechanical completion and flare start-up) of Old Port Harcourt Refinery (Area-5) by December 31, 2023.

Speaking during an inspection tour of the rehabilitation project, which also coincided with the 15th Refineries’ Rehabilitation Steering Committee Meeting, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, said the first phase of the PHRC was completed on December 20, 2023.

He said, “The meeting today coincides with the commencement of operations at the Port Harcourt refinery. This is to announce to Nigerians that in fulfilment of our pledge in completing phase one of the Port Harcourt refinery by the end of 2023, and the subsequent streaming of phase two in 2024, we happily announce the mechanical completion of flare start-up on December 20, 2023.

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“This heralds the commencement in the production of petroleum products after the Christmas break. We want to thank Nigerians for their patience and trust in the NNPC to deliver on our promise and mandate in the rehabilitation of our refineries.”

Lokpobiri noted that with the completion of the first phase of the refinery, the remaining refineries in Warri and Kaduna would follow.

“”The mechanical part of the plant is completed and this is the beginning of not just the Port Harcourt refinery phases one and two, but the one for Warri and then the one in Kaduna, so that we will be able to benefit from this massive investment that the country has made,” the minister stated.

The Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Gas), Ekperikpe Ekpo, said the PHRC would produce cooking gas, adding that this would lead a reduction in the importation of the commodity.

He said, “In August when we came here we were told that by December this plant will come on stream, and today we have witnessed that. So I’m really impressed.

“And it is good news equally to LPG (cooking gas) users that as the refinery begins after Christmas, we will have sufficient supply of LPG, which will automatically reduce the imports at that level. So it is something to celebrate.

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“With the coming up onstream of this phase one, others will follow as well, because the NNPC has fulfilled the first assignment and I believe others will be completed on schedule.”

However, the gas minister could not state the quantity of LPG being expected from the refinery, when asked to state the amount to expect from the facility.

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The Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPCL, Mele Kyari, explained that as of December 15, 2023, about 84.4 per cent of Area-5 Plant, a key component of the Port Harcourt refinery, and 77.4 per cent of the entire rehabilitation project had been completed.

“In our quest to ensure that this refinery is re-streamed to continue to deliver value to Nigerians, we made a promise that we will reach a mechanical completion of phase one of the rehabilitation project by the end of December and get the other plants running in 2024. Today, we have kept those commitments,” Kyari stated.

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The GCEO commended the NNPCL’s staff and the EPCIC contractors for ensuring that the refinery achieved a significant milestone, adding that the second phase would be completed in the fourth quarter of 2024.

“We are done with phase one. We will complete phase two as promised within 2024, maximum – the last quarter of 2024,” he stated.

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In his remarks, the Chairman, NNPCL Board, Chief Pius Akinyelure, described the milestone as historic, stressing that the board was proud of the staff and management of the refinery.

“We are just starting. We want to be at the highest level of production so that we will keep the prices of petroleum prices in the country stable in order to give comfort to our people and generate more revenue for our country,” Akinyelure noted.

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The Managing Director, Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited, Ibrahim Onoja, said the facility was thoroughly rehabilitated to last the country for many decades.

“This plant you see is a renewed plant that will last Nigeria for decades. We can beat our chest and say we’ve come over 50 years and we’ll go another 50 years.

“This will give value to Nigeria, create jobs, provide feedstock for industries, revenue, foreign exchange, energy security and more. Phase one of this refinery is 60,000 barrels per day, the other one is 150,000bpd. So we have a complementary 210,000bpd refinery,” he stated.

The PHRC rehabilitation project, which costs about $1.5bn, is an EPCIC project that covers Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Installation, and Commissioning phases.

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For Area-5, the Engineering, Procurement, Construction, and Installation have all been completed. The mechanical completion signifies the closure of the construction and Installation phases, according to NNPCL.

It also stated that the milestone was achieved under a Health, Safety and Environment record, which stood at over 9.5 million man-hour with zero Loss Time Injury.

On his part, the Managing Director, Tecnimont Nig. Ltd., Fabio Del Cioppo, one of the EPC contractors of the rehabilitation project, said his company remained committed to fulfilling the terms of the contract.

Nigeria’s refineries in Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Warri have been dormant for decades, as the Federal Government has spent several billions of naira to revamp the facilities.

On April 7, 2021, The PUNCH reported that the NNPC officially signed a contract with Tecnimont SPA for the $1.5bn rehabilitation programme of the Port Harcourt Refining Company.

Parties in the agreement also announced the commencement of the project following the signing of the contract at the headquarters of the corporation in Abuja.

Kyari had explained at the time that the agreement was basically between PHRC and Tecnimont SPA, as the contract was for the provision of engineering, procurement, construction, installation and commissioning services for the refinery rehabilitation project.

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