The Federal Government has kick-started the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refineries.
Speaking yesterday at the inauguration ceremony in Port Harcourt, Dr Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director of NNPC, said the move was part of government's effort to achieve 90 per cent local refining capacity.
The first refinery in Port Harcourt was commissioned in 1965 to process 60,000 barrels of oil per stream day (bpsd), and the new plant in 1989, with capacity of 150,000 bpsd.
The refineries have a combined capacity of 210,000 barrels per stream day, making it the "biggest oil refining company in Nigeria".
Baru said the rehabilitation would be in two phases, adding that both ENI and the original builders would participate in the process.
"We appreciate the commitment of the managers of the Port Harcourt Refineries because you know how much importance NNPC attaches to the revamping of the refineries to make impact and boost local refining.
"NNPC is committed to seeing they come back on stream," he said.
He said that refineries had not undergone any Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) since 2000.
"This project is in phases. This refinery has not done TAM since 2000, so, in this particular phase, we are essentially going to open up every equipment and also review every flow system that is here.
"We also look at all the flushes, the transmissions; essentially, this is on thorough inspection and where infringement is minimal, it will be fixed and we close back the system," he said.
He noted that the corporation had made cost effective arrange in the rehabilitation, adding that "giving a figure as amount to spent, I don't think it is a fair thing to do until you open up then you place."
He said ENI, an NNPC joint venture with Agip, had agreed that they would open up their warehouses of refineries to give Nigeria required equipment for the rehabilitation.
"They will open up and take some of their equipment and we pay back later.
"That is a lot of grace instead of waiting on manufacturers. These equipment if we want to manufacture them, will take 36 months.
"They have offered not only what they will give us a lead time, but it will also be a discount because they will give us at the price they were purchased. The time value of money will also be a saving for NNPC and Nigeria as a whole," he noted
The GMD assured that the corporation had put on a very robust plan to be able to repair the refineries, adding that it would be the cheapest and most cost effective that Nigeria would pay.
Commenting on the role of the original builders of the refineries, he said they had two roles, the first role was the documentation and the intent of the refineries.
"They will come in to open up the various equipment; they know exactly what they are looking for and of course if they find that some of it is eroded and some are not as expected, then it makes it very easy to say that it is outside the design and it should be replaced.
"The second role which is also very important is that they will be able to bottleneck the refineries. By that I mean, we want 21st century refinery not the 1989 refinery they built originally.
"It is going to be some level of automation that will be introduced and latest instrumentation introduced, so that the refinery when it is up, will be easy to operate than what it was before," he said.
He further said the first phase of the rehabilitation process is expected to last six month but urged the contractor to achieve it before the projected time frame.
On the current operation capacity of the refinery, he said there were several issues on the level of utilisation.
"Several units that are fundamental are not in good shape. Like the steam unit; no refinery operates without steaming and that is a major heating element.
"This refinery is supposed to have four steam units, but it reached a point that they have only one that is working and it cannot carry the capacity of the whole refinery.
"So, obviously, their capacity is limited and that is why we call what we are starting today rehabilitation," Baru added.
Earlier in his remarks, Mr Anthonio Vella, ENI Chief Officer, Upstream, said the partnership in rehabilitating the refinery showed the longstanding relationship with Nigeria.
"In order to increase the performance of the Port Harcourt Refineries, ENI will share with NNPC knowledge and experience gained in decades of managing owned and participated refineries both in Italy and abroad," he said
Vella added that the rehabilitation would be an opportunity for professional NNPC staff recently trained in Italy to showcase their skills.
He noted that that rehab would be a significant upgrade, with equipment and machines being opened for inspection.
He urged the worker to ensure they achieve zero accident while working.
"With the commitment of all parties involved, we are sure that NNPC will be able to celebrate the revamping of the refinery, restored to its full capacity in time, on schedule and in full safety," he said.