Declining Global Petroleum Refining Portends Great Danger For Nigeria

Yemisi Izuora

Signs of what may be the worst time for Nigeria’s energy crises is beginning to emerge with crippling of petrol queues across major cities of the country.

Declining global petroleum products refining is reportedly placing Nigeria at a greater precarious position.

Oriental News Nigeria reports that Nigeria is the only member country of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that imports 90 to 95 per cent of refined petroleum products to meet its domestic consumption, available data shows.

According to Rystad Energy, global diesel and petrol markets are witnessing blowout crack spreads in the $50-60 per barrel (bbl) range, reflecting a clear lag in the refining system to respond effectively and decide between supplying diesel or petrol.

Nigeria spent a total of N4.56 trillion on the importation of moto spirit (petrol) in 2021 about 128 per cent higher than the N2 trillion spent on fuel importation in 2020.

This is according to foreign trade data recently published by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS.

Nigeria also spent N6.3 trillion on Fuels and Lubricants imports in 2021 as against the N2.83 trillion, N2.5 trillion, and N3.8 trillion incurred in 2020, 2019, and 2018 respectively.

The country is currently experiencing one of the worst fuel crises in recent years and fuel queues remain sticky due to protracted clear out of adulterated fuel recently and the challenges with the importation of fuel.

Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, also called diesel prices recently rose to over N700 per litre and is also imported. and according to the data, importation of petroleum products other than the fuel cost N1.7 trillion which includes AGO.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC, Limited NNPC reported in 2020 that it earned a revenue of N151.8 billion in from premium motor spirit import and another N39.9 billion in AGO.

The news of dwindling refining capacity is coming as recent news indicated that Dangote Refinery is unable to secure a commissioning team.

Rystad noted that the precarious situation is driven by inventory stocks across the globe being at their lowest levels historically and, therefore, unable to provide the necessary shock absorbers.

According to Rystad, the loss of Russian refining owing to operational outages and product containment challenges has caused a diesel/gasoline hole greater than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in Europe that is not easy to plug.

“Diesel is the lifeblood of the global economy, essential to vital sectors such as agriculture, construction, and transportation – its price impacts almost all supply chains and goods. Governments face tough decisions. They can assist consumers by dropping taxes on diesel, but this will likely only increase demand, which may support the overall economy but will worsen the existing tight supply situation.

“If supply does not improve, governments will be forced to enact emergency plans to limit sales to consumers to ensure essential sectors are kept going,” says Per Magnus Nysveen, Head of Analysis at Rystad Energy

On the demand side, the recovery is resilient as residual Covid-related restrictions are being removed. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended removing all Covid testing requirements for incoming flights is one such clear indicator.

On the supply side, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted product flows and crude flows to the European market at a time when the rest of the world has limited ways in which to respond.

The loss of crude supply has hindered the shrinking European refining sector’s ability to run at high utilization rates and has accelerated a downward trend in Europe which has lost 2 million bpd of crude refining since its peak capacity of 17.5 million bpd in 2005.

The US has been following a similar trend, losing between 1 million and 1.5 million bpd of refining capacity in the last 3-4 years. The move to phase out Hydrofluoric Acid Alkylation technology and lower availability of imported vacuum gas oil/residues has dented the US refining sector’s ability to increase gasoline production.

Outside the European Union and the US, refinery capacity has been growing primarily to meet rising domestic demand. However, the pandemic has severely impacted the pace of additions with many Middle Eastern, African, and Asian refinery projects reporting delays owing to supply chain and resource issues.

Latin American refining was already in decline before the pandemic and does not have much to offer, let alone meet domestic product supply.
Overall, the cost of refining has gone up alongside inflated gas, hydrogen, and utility costs. Thus, a constrained refining system as demand has recovered has resulted in precariously lower days of supply cover in most countries. Many have mandated higher days of stock cover making it hard to solve regional product imbalances with trade flows.

To meet rising demand, refining runs will need to increase by 4.6 million bpd from June to August 2022, compared to current projections of 3.3 million bpd. With a limited increase in overall runs, the second-order lever of diesel versus gasoline optimization does not have much to offer. Diesel/jet fuel maximization is being pursued and indirectly fueling gasoline crack spreads.

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