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FG to reduce sulphur level in diesel by July

FG to reduce sulphur level in diesel by July

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 ’Femi Asu

After failing to enforce the ban on importation of dirty fuels into the country on July 1, 2017, the Federal Government will cut the sulphur level allowed in diesel by July 1, this year, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has said.

Four West African nations including Nigeria had promised higher quality by July 2017 as part of a United Nations Environmental Programme campaign, but only Ghana met the deadline.

Nigeria imports about 900,000 tonnes of petrol every month, accounting for 60 per cent of West African imports of the fuel, meaning its choice of fuel quality is likely to impact on the entire region.

The Chief Operating Officer of Refineries and Petrochemicals, NNPC, Mr. Anibor Kragha, in a presentation to the African Refiners Association, said the country would lower the top level of sulphur in diesel to 50 parts per million from 3,000ppm, by July 1, according to Reuters.

Petrol sulphur level cuts, a cost that will be born largely by the government due to capped prices for the fuel, will start in October, moving to 300ppm from 1,000ppm.

Nigeria was targeting a cut to 150ppm by October 1, 2019, Kragha said.

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria, the body responsible for setting requirements for imported goods, published tighter quality rules last year, but another government body – the DPR – did not issue revised specifications.

Kragha told journalists in Cape Town, South Africa that the ministries of Environment, Health, Petroleum Resources and Industry and Trade were working together to finalise rules that would be distributed to importers at some point in the second quarter.

UNEP, ARA and health campaigners have been pushing West African nations to ban fuels that have been illegal in Europe and the United States for years due to what they say are significant health problems associated with sulphur emissions – particularly in dense urban areas such as Lagos.

The region is one of the last on earth where it is legal to sell fuels with sulphur levels at and above 1,000ppm, as East and North African nations and major Asian consumer countries such as China and India have already tightened rules.

Kragha, in a presentation during ARA Week in Cape Town, said that while Nigeria was committed to cleaner fuel standards, “significant costs” complicated efforts to meet the deadline.

He said that the first shift to cleaner petrol would cost $11.7m per month; and the second, $15.7m per month. The diesel reduction would cost $2.8m per month.

Because petrol prices are capped in Nigeria, and the NNPC itself has been importing the bulk of it over the past years via crude for product swaps; the government is likely to bear much of the initial costs for a cleaner specification.

Diesel prices are deregulated, meaning consumers will pay directly for the better-quality fuels.

Nigeria’s own oil refineries would have until 2021 to meet the new sulphur levels, Kragha said.

On December 1, 2016 in Abuja, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire agreed to ban the importation of Europe’s dirty fuels, limiting sulphur in fuels from 3,000ppm to 50ppm.

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