Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday commissioned the first phase of a 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) modular refinery, owned by Waltersmith Limited, in Ibigwe, Imo State.
This comes as the President directed the Minister of State and Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Department for Petroleum Resources (DPR) as well as all other relevant government agencies to provide all the necessary support to the Waltersmith Refinery located in Ohaji Egbema Local Government Area of the State with regards to access to crude oil and condensate feedstock.
The President spoke at the virtual inauguration of the 5,000 barrels per day Waltersmith modular refinery in Ibigwe, Imo State, as well as the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Phase-2 works to expand the capacity of the refinery to 50,000 barrels/day.
According to him, the commissioning was in fulfilment of his administration’s Refining Roadmap rollout in 2018, to address challenges in the downstream sector.
He expressed delight that the commissioning was coming within two years of the roadmap after many years of government giving out modular refining licenses without any coming on-stream.
President Buhari said the establishment of modular refineries in the country will make petroleum products available in the country and eliminate importation.
He explained that the deployment of modular refineries was one of the four key elements of his administration’s Refinery Roadmap rolled out in 2018.
‘Furthermore, there is increased momentum in the other three focus areas under the Roadmap covering the rehabilitation of existing refineries, co-location of new refineries, and construction of greenfield refineries,’ he said.
‘The realisation of the Refinery Roadmap will ultimately lead us to becoming a net exporter of petroleum products not only to our neighbouring countries but to the worldwide market.
‘This modular refinery is the largest commissioned modular refinery in the country today.
‘The role played by the Federal Government through the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) in going into collaboration with Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company is novel in concept and superb in delivery.’
In a statement by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Mr Buhari described plans to commence the expansion of the capacity of the refinery to 50,000 barrels per day to refine crude oil and condensates as an important part of economic reforms the country is undergoing.
‘I look forward to seeing this new phase completed within the target timeframe,’ he said.
In line with his administration’s agenda on jobs creation, the President said he was pleased to note that hundreds of direct and indirect jobs were created during the construction of the first phase of the project in addition to the various business opportunities.
He further expressed hope that the construction of the second phase of the project will create bigger additional employment opportunities.
President Buhari thanked the local community and the people of Imo State for hosting the refinery, which, he stressed, will bring prosperity and economic development to the area.
The President commended the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, the Chairman and members of the Governing Council, and the management and staff of the Nigerian Content Development Board for making the public-private partnership a success.
He also commended the Chairman, Board, Management and Staff of Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Limited for their professionalism and focus in getting the project completed.
Chairman of Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company, Abdulrazaq Isa, in his remark, said that the refinery has a crude oil storage capacity of 60,000 barrels and is expected to deliver about 271 million litres of refined petroleum products, including diesel, kerosene, heavy fuel oil (HFO), and naphtha, per annum to the domestic market and create both direct and indirect jobs, particularly within host communities.
He explained that the 50,000bpd refining capacity will come with the planned additional two modules: 25,000bpd and 20,000bpd refining capacity respectively which will then add premium motor spirit (PMS), aviation fuel, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to the product slates.
Buhari also performed a ground-breaking ceremony for the 45,000 bpd second and third phases of the refinery.
Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma assured that the under his watch he will ensure that oil companies don’t cut corners and host companies create enabling environment so that it will be a win-win for all stakeholders.
He appealed to Waltersmith to ensure that all Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) signed are implemented, adding that as a private sector friendly administration, he will ensure a smooth operating environment.
The Governor also commended the company for creating a value chain of the petroleum products, urging it to consider the people of Imo and the youths of the host community when it comes to employment.