By Ismaila Chafe
Illegal refiners in the oil-producing communities maybe co-opted as shareholders in the Federal Government’s proposed modular refineries, a presidency source has disclosed.
The source who preferred to remain anonymous said the Presidency and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Agency (NSIA) are collaborating to realize the plan, in fulfilment of promises made by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo during his tour of the oil region, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The core of the plan is to integrate the illegal refiners, rather than a scorched-earth policy that seeks to eliminate the operations of such refiners.
The source however explained that there were a number of significant hurdles to be crossed especially issues around the engineering and technical ramifications of such a conversion, besides figuring out the financial models that would be workable and profitable.
“At a meeting late last week at the Presidential Villa, issues around technical and engineering implications of how to integrate the refiners were discussed with industry experts and practitioners making presentations on how to implement the Buhari presidency modular refinery initiative said to have been first proposed by Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.
“At the meeting the experts reported that they have worked closely with the NNPC, Oil & Gas operators, owners of marginal fields, operators of refineries and various technical services providers “to develop a workable system to develop this initiative,’’ the source further disclosed.
A modular refinery is a refinery made up of smaller and mobile parts- (skid-mounted)- that are more easily fabricated and can be more quickly transported to site. They come in different sizes with varying capacities normally lower capacity than conventional refineries with more elaborate and complex set-up.
“Under the plan being considered in the presidency, the Federal Government could supply crude to the local refineries at a reasonably considered price, as an incentive to stop the current practice whereby the illegal refiners vandalise and steal the crude.
The source maintained that the new concept, when operational, would also prevent the environment degradation that the spills and damaged trunk lines have been causing.
He said, the marginal field operators could also supply crude to the new modular refineries that would have the illegal refiners integrated.
“Another important component of the plan under consideration is to involve the current illegal refiners and their communities as shareholders while the NDDC and the NSIA will also hold substantial holdings/equity sufficient to make the smaller refineries operational as a business and a going concern.
“To facilitate effective community engagements, an MOU would be established under the plan with the affected communities determining the communities share, while the FG would supervise the implementation, which would be driven largely by industry operators and the communities,’’ the source added.
When contacted, Mr Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media & Publicity, Office of the Vice President, confirmed that a meeting was held last week on the issue adding that “the Buhari presidency is actively working on all fronts to speedily deliver on its promise of a ‘new vision,’ in the Niger Delta’’.