23 September 2016

TOR constrained in production of low sulphur content fuel

Smoke rises from State Oil Refinery Nico Lopez in Havana, Cuba July 12, 2016.

Lack of infrastructure and funds are the constraints to Ghana’s quest to fast-track the processes to achieve low sulphur content in diesel and other petroleum products, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) has said.

According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NPA, Mr Moses Asaga, for Ghana to be able to achieve the 50ppm target as pertained in Europe, the Tema Oil Refinery’s (TOR’s) production plants would have to be reconfigured at substantial cost.

“Beyond an upgrade of the refinery, which is necessary to achieve the desired target of cleaner and more efficient fuels, Ghana will also have to court the assistance of Nigeria, which also imports products at the present 3,000ppm considered to be of a good standard for the West African market,” he said.

In an interview in Accra last Tuesday to find out the view of the NPA on the recent revelation that the diesel imported from Europe was dirty, Mr Asaga said the refinery’s production specification remained a bottleneck to fast-track the processes of reducing sulphur content in diesel and other petroleum products.

The report revealed that oil trading giants, Vitol SA and Trafigura, were importing substandard diesel onto West African markets, including Ghana.

Many have blamed the NPA for some level of laxity in its supervisory role.

While many developed countries have already set standards for sulphur levels in diesel as low as 10 parts per million (ppm), sulphur levels in some developing countries can be as high as 10,000 ppm.

“We have been supplying the mining companies that have been advocating for the 500ppm on a pilot basis and if a minimal upgrade of TOR could be done, we will be making a headway to a far lower sulphur content,” Mr Asaga said.

He stated that Kenya was able to achieve the 50ppm target owing to the closure of its refinery and the introduction of a monopoly importation policy.


He stressed that the introduction of low sulphur content fuel would also require consumers to pay more, while imported vehicles also ought to have specified age limit of between three and five years.

The NPA, he said, could not take a decision to close down TOR, as that could lead to job losses and the loss of a vital national asset.

He explained that a major constraint that had made it difficult for Ghana to move to a lower level was the fact that both Ghana and Nigeria were on the same 3,000ppm levels because both countries were supplied with finished products from similar sources in Europe.

Sleeping on the job?

Mr Asaga further explained that contrary to suggestions that the NPA might have slept on the job, leading to the importation of what had been termed as ‘dirty fuel’, the authority had, since 2005, been working towards improving the low sulphur, a situation which had seen a significant reduction from 10,000ppm to the present 3,000 in 2014.

The NPA, he said, renewed the agreement this year and a grant of $34,000 was allocated to it a fortnight ago for the phase two sensitisation programme.

Road map

Mr Asaga emphasised that the NPA had held several meetings with stakeholders, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the bulk oil distribution companies (BDCs), TOR, the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), as well as experts from Kenya, on the road map to reducing the sulphur content.

The NPA, he said, would tomorrow, Friday, September 23, 2016, make public the various sulphur grades and the accompanying prices consumers were likely to pay if Ghana would have to look for an alternative means of transport for its supply and not rely on the same vessel that supplied oil products to Ghana and Nigeria.

He said engagements would also be held with the Ministry of Transport, the Spare Parts Dealers Association and other allied bodies owing to the quality of vehicles in the system.

“It is not just a question of bringing in fuel with low sulphur; we must also look at the type of vehicles that are imported into the country,” Mr Asaga reiterated.


Source: Graphic.com.gh

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