Despite claims by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) has commenced operations, insiders close to the rehabilitation project revealed to Leadership Sunday that it is not yet fully operational.
The PHRC, with a capacity of 60,000 barrels per day, capable of yielding about 10.1 million liters of petrol daily, was reported by NNPC to have started operations. However, sources indicate that the refinery is not yet completed and was hurriedly commissioned with a “flare start-off” to meet a set deadline, according to Leadership.
Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the minister of state for Petroleum Resources, previously announced that the refinery would begin operations by the end of the year. The federal government had approved $1.5 billion for the refinery’s repair in 2021, with Italian company Maire Tecnimont handling the three-phase repair work.
Sources revealed that the refinery was commissioned with a staged event called “flare start-off” where imported Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) was used to light the flare instead of the normal flue gas produced from the refinery. This was done to create the impression that the refinery had started operations.
Insiders also mentioned that the rehabilitation work was not completed, and the refinery cannot process crude oil for the foreseeable future. No crude oil has been supplied to the refinery to date.
While Minister Lokpobiri announced the “mechanical completion” and “flare start-off” during a ceremony, insiders suggest that the refinery cannot produce any products in the near future due to incomplete rehabilitation work.
NNPC’s chief corporate communications officer, Olufemi Soneye, clarified that the mechanical completion phase is expected to be ready by December, with remaining steps including testing, checking for leaks, equipment calibration, and introducing hydrocarbons.
The general secretary of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASAN), Lumumba Okugbawa, acknowledged that the refinery is still undergoing test running, and production is expected after completing test-runs, possibly in the first quarter of the next year. Okugbawa cautioned that the refinery’s operation wouldn’t automatically lower fuel prices in Nigeria, as the fuel produced would be sold at international prices.