Africa’s biggest oil refinery has been opened in Nigeria, where it is hoped it will alleviate chronic fuel shortages.

Dangote Industries is opening its new Lagos State oil refinery today on 22 May. The 650,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) facility is the world’s largest single-train refinery by production.

The Dangote refinery is the largest oil refinery in Africa. Built over 2,635 hectares, it is also the world’s largest single train refinery by area.

Dangote Refinery was built with the aid of investment from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), which purchased a 20% stake in the refinery for $2.7bn (N1.25trn).

 The refinery has 1,100km of pipeline infrastructure, with a transport capacity of three billion cubic feet of gas per day. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, managing director of Dangote, stated his belief that the facility will be able to produce 100% of Nigeria’s required refined fuels, with export surplus.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) has stated that it views the refinery’s impact on the Nigerian economy as “significant”. The LCCI stated that the refinery “will save and generate foreign exchange”, adding that “the Chamber expects the Refinery to fuel further growth and development across its value chain, including cosmetics, plastics, textiles, etc”.

The plant’s supposed 650,000bpd capacity may be under threat due to numerous crude oil production issues that have hampered the country’s oil industry of late. In September 2022, rampant oil theft saw Nigerian oil exports drop to their lowest level in a quarter of a century. In April of this year, Exxon workers in Nigeria went on strike, causing Exxon to declare force majeure on their Nigerian operations and dropping output for the month by 20%.

Oil theft is a major drain on the economy of Nigeria, reducing exports as well as domestic production. While still nominally Africa’s biggest oil producer, infrastructure issues and theft saw Nigeria fall behind Angola multiple times in 2022. The NNPC has aimed to combat this in recent months by expanding its liquified natural gas industry.

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