• Gennette Cordova

Nigeria's Dangote Refinery nears completion

Nigeria’s multibillion-dollar Dangote Refinery in the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos is at 75% completion, according to Femi Otedola, a Nigerian businessman who is the former chairman of the publicly traded Forte Oil PL.

“Dangote Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited did a test run of its fertilizer plant which is the second-largest in the world after that of Qatar,” said Otedola on Sunday, calling the refinery “the eighth wonder of the world.”

The facility, owned by Aliko Dangote, both Nigeria and Africa’s wealthiest citizen, will be Africa’s biggest oil refinery and the world’s biggest single-train petroleum facility, once it’s operational in 2021. The refinery will have an annual refining capacity of 10.4 million tonnes of gasoline, in addition to 4 million tonnes of jet fuel, which will be exported and also used within the country.

Currently, Nigeria, Africa’s largest nation by population, imports nearly all its refined petroleum, due to a lack of domestic refining capacity, which has led to high petroleum costs. In 2016, around the time when plans for the refinery were launched, Raphael Kuuchi, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) vice president for Africa, said the Nigerian government was killing the continent’s aviation industry with the inordinately high cost of fuel. He estimated the cost of fuel was, on average, 21% more expensive in Africa than in the rest of the world.

“Africa is not a rich continent,” Kuuchi said. “And we ask, why must we be paying the most?”

Dangote’s production capacity will bring relief to both Nigeria’s commercial and state-owned sectors, with the elimination of high importing costs. The refinery’s production of 92,000 barrels of jet fuel per day is expected to boost the country’s aviation industry, which has been plagues by the lack of a national airline. Nigerians must travel on airlines owned by smaller African countries and other foreign airlines, like Emirates, which operates two daily outbound and inbound Lagos flights.

In 2018, at the International Air Show in London, the Nigerian government announced it intended to establish Nigeria Air, a new national airline, in a third attempt to replace Nigeria Airways, the country’s former national airline, which collapsed in 2003. However, the 2018 effort was also abandoned.

In addition to the increased jet fuel production capacity and the money saved on importing fuel, there is already a real estate boom in the area around the refinery, and this is expected to be a catalyst for local development plans, including a new international airport, according to local news reports.

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