This Day (Lagos)

20 September 2012

Nigeria: Chemical Engineers Advocate a Vibrant Petrochemical Sector

The Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers (NSChE) has intensified calls for a vibrant petrochemical sector, stressing the need to pay attention to the rather neglected sector.

The National President of the society, Dr. John Erinne, stated this at the recent International Petrochemical Workshop organised by the Nigerian NSChE in Lagos.

Lamenting the depreciation of the petrochemical sector, he called on the government to pick up the gauntlet in the reversal of de-industrialisation of the sector, if any economic growth is to be witnessed.

Adding that such recession portends a negative trend for Nigeria's economy, Erinne urged the government to pay attention to the sector and revamp it. He said the workshop sought to draw attention to the rather neglected but potentially hugely prosperous sub-sector of the economy.

He said, "Evidently, the potentials of the petrochemicals industry in a nascent economy gifted with enormous oil and gas resources such as ours can be readily expressed in terms of gainful resource utilisation.

"It also adds value, creates wealth, jobs and know-how acquisition. The NSChE is the key professional driver of the petrochemical industry and it therefore spells our deep concern about the apparent lack of progress in the sub-sector," he added.

He said the lacuna gap has thrust a profound sense of burden on the body to help chart a way out of the challenges.

The Group Executive Director (GED), Refining and Petrochemicals of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Tony Ogbuigwe, also reiterated government's commitment to rehabilitate the sector.

While pledging government's effort to rehabilitate the refineries in Kaduna and Warri, he maintained that the petrochemical sector has great potentials for the country.

He said, "We are yet to add significant value to the natural resources we have and the petrochemical industry has a great potential to affect our development because true development can only occur when value is added.

"America's petrochemical industry has $3.7 trillion annual output so we need to do more. NNPC is therefore pursuing vigorously plans to rehabilitate the Warri and Kaduna refineries."

Although he disclosed that plans for the Kaduna refinery were in the pipeline, he added that a meeting would soon be held with the licensors and previous managers on how to rehabilitate the Warri refinery.

In his address, the Former Group Managing Director (GMD), NNPC and current President, NSChE Foundation, Dr. John Thomas, said the petrochemical industry has extensive multiplier effects.

He said, "The industry is capable of catalysing the development of most other industrial sectors leading to the achievement of high level of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and standard of living."

Thomas also lamented the deplorable situation of the industry, adding that it took a well articulated and intelligently designed plan in the early 1980s for Nigeria to join the prestigious club of petrochemical producers in 1988.

He said, "We manufactured, consumed locally and even exported carbon black, polypropylene, benzene and linear Alkyl benzene. One year, earlier we had made the dramatic switch from a naptha based petrochemical industry to our associated gas rather than burn it in high flare stacks.

"In order to add value to our oil and gas sector, we must deploy the principles and processes of the beautiful branch of engineering called chemical engineering. It is my hope that a framework for evolving strategies to fast-track a resuscitation of the sector will be adopted," he added.

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