The nation's pioneer crude oil refining plant, Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company (WRPC), has again been shut down.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the plant was shut down last Friday following some operational challenges, especially at some of its strategic units.
It was learnt that hitches with some major units, particularly Fluid Cracking Catalyst (FCC), regarded as heart of refining operation, Topping and Reforming units, made the shutdown of the plant inevitable.
Findings showed, for instance, that Catalyst, a feedstock of FCC unit, was in short supply while there was a haulage crisis at Topping Unit (TU), whose fate was said to have impacted the Reforming Unit (RU).
The latest development coincided with the vandalisation of the pipeline which conveys crude oil from the various fields of Chevron Nigeria Ltd (CNL) in Escravos to Warri and Kaduna refineries.
The pipeline, known as System 2C, is reported to have been ruptured by oil thieves at many locations from Escravos to Warri, spanning about 67 kilometres.
The attack on the pipeline further compounds the woes of WRPC as crude oil supply had been cut off to the plant.
Manager, Public Affairs, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of NNPC, Mr Nasir Imodagbe, confirmed the fate of the pipeline in a telephone interview yesterday. He, however, gave the assurance that the repairs will be completed in the next few hours, adding that the pipeline would resume operations today.
However, LEADERSHIP gathered that the new fate of WRPC effectively halted production of all categories of petroleum products, particularly Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly known as petrol, diesel and kerosene.
Consequently, Friday's development irked fears that acute shortage of petroleum products, especially petrol, being experienced nationwide, may worsen. It was gathered that the PPMC had embarked on rationing of petrol in stock to the areas being serviced by WRPC in the southern and northern parts of the country.
Reliable sources at the PPMC told LEADERSHIP that there was no diesel and kerosene in stock before the closure of the plant.
Managing director of WRPC, Mr Paul Obelley, could not be reached for comment but a senior public affairs personnel in the plant confirmed the report.
Meanwhile, the embattled national president of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Aminu Abdulkadir, has allegedly stepped down and handed over to his former deputy, Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo, who is now acting president of the association, LEADERSHIP has learnt.
Okoronkwo who previously was the vice president of the association has taken over while efforts are on to call for a congress to elect new leadership, LEADERSHIP learnt.Meanwhile, the fate of NIPCO Plc, a subsidiary of IPMAN which was shut last week by the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) over the crises remains unknown as the depot is still incapacitated as at press time yesterday.