Only 10 of the 40 companies that secured licenses for modular refineries have begun the process of executing the projects with three likely to come on stream by the end of 2019, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has said.

This is coming after the Bank of Industry signed a memorandum of understanding with the Export-Import Bank of China for the provision of a $500 million facility towards the establishment of modular refineries in Nigeria. The facility would be utilised to finance the purchase of equipment and machinery from China by investors and project owners of modular refineries in Nigeria.

But Kachikwu warned that the country must gear up for the inevitability of fossil fuel losing its dominant energy resource by creating a new National Gas Policy to end the menace of gas flaring to truly incentivize the flare-out policy.

He said the federal government’s push for the increased investments in modular and conventional refineries is driven by the desire to help Nigeria benefit from its resources by providing refined products to the entire West African sub-region as one of the objectives, according to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

The objectives also include “stopping the scourge of local unconventional artisanal refineries that have led to massive oil spills that have been hard to manage for nearly a whole decade,” Kachikwu said.

The minister spoke at the three-day Biennial International Conference for Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) organised by Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in Lagos on Monday.

“Out of the 40 licenses issued, only 10 have shown progress by submitting their programmes and putting something on the ground. By end of 2019, we are assured that three private modular refineries would come on stream,’’ he said.

Kachikwu said Nigeria is faced with the challenge of stimulating “new ideas on sustainable ways of developing its oil resource in a manner that will both prolong its acceptability as an energy source and also help the nation reap optimal benefits.”

The path to the establishment of modular refineries was cleared by Prof Yemi Osinbajo as Acting President in February 2017 in Port Harcourt when he told a Niger Delta stakeholders meeting of federal government’s plans to establish modular refineries to engage youths involved in illegal oil refining in the region. This, according to Osinbajo, will discourage illegal refining that is polluting the environment in the area.

Environmental sustainability, Kachikwu said, is a key component of the Seven Big Wins initiative of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration for the oil and gas industry, adding that the policy is aimed at ensuring that all currently flared gas, including those previously considered as non-technically feasible and non-commercially viable, is gathered and utilised for various economic utilities that are financially rewarding to the producers.

He added that the collectors and interested investors converted it for power generation, petrochemicals and other beneficial uses.

“Aggressive efforts are being made within the ambits of HSE sustainability to convert more gas to LNG through new and existing investors to retain Nigeria in its currently threatened fourth position as an LNG exporter.

The Director of DPR, Mr. Modeccai Ladan, urged stakeholders to galvanize efforts at maximizing Nigeria’s production and minimize wastage.

Ladan said that the oil and gas industry seemed to be under a new threat of renewed dislike and global war against fossil fuels and the quest for renewable and cleaner energy, purely for environment considerations, including global warming.

“Over the years, the threat against fossil fuels had always been on paper, but today, it is more real than ever, based on some clear evidence I like to draw our attention to.

“Three among the biggest technology companies have made attempts at electric cars to replace gasoline and diesel engines.

“While the attempt of Apple may not have made it to production yet and that of Google was suspended after clearly successful street trials that of Tesla actually took the world by surprise.

“Not only did the first two releases of Tesla outsell sales forecasts, they were actually oversubscribed, and the demand keeps rising while new models are being added,’’ he said.

Ladan said; “As we speak, some of the big International Oil Companies (IOCs) here seated are funding gigantic researches into alternative fuels, which include the use of cheap, common algae.

“ As sweet as Nigeria’s crudes are renowned to be globally, we have recently lost our most valued customers and our gas buyers are themselves now competing with us in the same market space as suppliers.

Ladan said all these point to the fact if Nigeria is to continue to benefit from its vast petroleum resources, now than ever is the time to build sustainability into its prospecting, drilling, production, transportation and usage.

This year’s edition of the conference had “Driving Sustainability in the Oil and Gas Industry through Improved Stakeholders’ Environmental Stewardship” as theme.