Dangote commissions integrated refining complex in Nigeria

July 3, 2023
Dangote Oil Refining Co. has formally commissioned its long-planned grassroots integrated refining and petrochemical complex in southwestern Nigeria’s Lekki Free Trade Zone, in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos.

Nigerian conglomerate Dangote Industries Ltd. (Dangote Group) subsidiary Dangote Oil Refining Co. (DORC) has formally commissioned its long-planned grassroots integrated refining and petrochemical complex in southwestern Nigeria’s Lekki Free Trade Zone, in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos.

Now housing the world’s largest single-train refinery (650,000 b/d), the complex is scheduled to progressively start remaining units to reach its full crude oil processing and production capacities by yearend 2023.

This article presents an updated overview of units, available capacities, and process technologies included at DORC’s newly operational Lekki integrated complex as revealed in the days leading up to and during the site’s official commissioning.

Formal startup

After experiencing an unidentified delay from its previously projected startup scheduled for March 2023, the Lekki integrated complex began officially operating on May 22, 2023, Dangote Group and the Nigerian government confirmed via a series of posts to their official social media accounts.

First announced in 2013 as a solely private investment project, the integrated complex—in which Nigeria’s state-owned NNPC Ltd. (formerly Nigerian National Petroleum Co.) now holds 20% equity—will continue ramping up through 2023.

Estimated at a final total capital investment of more than $18.5 billion, the new complex comes as part a joint initiative by DORC and Nigeria’s federal government to help the country meet domestic demand for finished petroleum products, create surplus products and chemicals for export, and eliminate the need for costly imports from abroad, said Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, in opening remarks at the May 22 commissioning ceremony.

In addition to Nigerian Bonny Light crude and other African crudes, the Lekki complex will be able to process some crudes from the Middle East and US light tight oil, according to Emefiele.

With startup of the project, Emefiele said Nigeria will cease importing finished petroleum, fertilizer, and petrochemical products that, during 2022 alone, cost the country more than $26 billion.

Process units, technologies

Equipped to produce finished products complying with Euro 5-quality specifications, the Lekki integrated complex houses the main refinery, a polypropylene plant, and a 3-million tpy urea plant (Fig. 1).

While early project documents specified the polypropylene plant would have a production capacity of 3.6 million tpy, Dangote Group revised that capacity to 900,000 tpy in an updated project description posted to its official Twitter account.

Connected to a single-point mooring terminal for crude oil and product handling, the complex also includes gas processing installations to accommodate 3 bcfd of natural gas that will be transported through the 1,100-km East-West Offshore Gas Gathering System (EWOGGS) subsea pipeline. EWOGGS, also being developed by DORC, will consist of twin 38-in. OD, 550-km pipes running from OML 72/71 offshore Bonny Island to the new complex, with interconnects at six platforms along the route.

In a series of mid-May 2023 posts to Dangote Group’s official social media accounts, Sanjay Gupta, DORC’s chief executive officer, confirmed the completed refinery is equipped with the following processing capabilities for production of gasoline and diesel:

  • Combined crude-vacuum distillation; 650,000 b/d.
  • Residue fluid catalytic cracking (RFCC); 10 million tpy.
  • Mild hydrocracking; upwards of 7 million tpy.
  • Alkylation.
  • Naphtha hydrofining.
  • Continuous catalytic reforming (CCR).

Directly linked to a 435-Mw captive power plant and equipped with dedicated steam-and-power generation capability to guarantee uninterrupted power supply, the refinery also houses its own wastewater treatment system that includes separate plants for effluent treatment, reverse osmosis, demineralization, and condensed polishing, as well as raw-water intake and treatment.

While DORC has yet to make available a complete disclosure of process technologies and unit capacities implemented at the Lekki complex, service providers have confirmed contract awards for multiple installations.

Honeywell UOP LLC delivered technology licensing, design services, and critical equipment for several processing units, including its proprietary:

  • UOP RFCC process for producing transportation fuels and propylene.
  • CCR Platforming process for producing high-octane gasoline blending components.
  • Unicracking process for diesel production.
  • Penex process for producing high-octane gasoline.

Alongside proprietary catalyst regeneration and dryer regeneration control systems, high-performance column trays, and heat exchanger tubes, UOP’s equipment delivery included a modular CCR unit, catalyst coolers, a third-stage separator system for the RFCC unit, and two pressure-swing adsorption units.

DuPont Clean Technologies supplied its proprietary technology licensing, design, and equipment for a 27,000-b/sd STRATCO alkylation unit and 260-tonne/day MECS sulfuric acid regeneration unit, both of which enable the refinery to produce high-octane, low-sulfur, low-RVP, zero-olefins alkylate. DuPont also provided licensing, design, and equipment for its proprietary MECS DynaWave tail-gas scrubbing and BELCO EDV stack-scrubbing units to help the refinery meet gasoline-pool octane and emissions requirements. Designed to meet global standards for particulate matter and SOx emissions, the DynaWave wet-gas scrubber ensures full-time compliance with emissions regulations on both of the refinery’s 115-tonne/day sulfur recovery units. The BELCO EDV also provides purge treatment to condition the scrubber effluent.

Air Liquide SA supplied two hydrogen production steam methane reformer units for the refinery’s hydrogen-generation complex, which produces 200,000 normal cu m/hr of hydrogen and high-quality steam for the refining plant.

Schneider Electric Industries SAS supplied DORC with a suite of four of its process automation systems and software. Schneider Electric’s delivery included the following proprietary systems and software:

  • EcoStruxure Foxboro distributed control system, an IoT-enabled, open-and-interoperable system architecture and platform enabling scalable design and operation of the refinery’s connected systems with cybersecurity built in across connected products, edge control and apps, analytics, and services.
  • Triconex process safety systems and solutions, including emergency shutdown systems.
  • PIONIR analytical fuels-blending systems, including process analyzers, to improve process optimization, asset protection, and compliance with environmental regulations by providing real-time measurement of hydrocarbon streams.
  • SimSci and Wonderware software, including supply chain management and operations management software, to unify planning and scheduling, as well as improve real-time data collection and analysis for further optimizing operations and product blending.

After using Aspen Technology Inc.’s Aspen PIMS-AO software to help select configuration, critical design, and expansion studies for the refinery during the planning phase, DORC will again use PIMS-AO following the refinery’s full startup to manage feedstock selection, product-slate optimization, and production planning, as well as to report refining economics and determine ongoing product-slate and feedstock selection.

Federal investment

The federal government’s $2.76-billion acquisition of 20% interest in DORC is one of a series of ongoing projects being conducted by the Nigerian government to modernize and expand capacities of NNPC’s aging four main refineries under a broader national program that seeks to meet Nigeria’s domestic demand for refined products and eliminate its reliance on foreign imports (OGJ, Jan. 4, 2021, p. 51).

The government’s rationale for investing in DORC stemmed from the refinery being under no obligation to purchase Nigerian crude as feedstock. Securing ownership interest in the refinery allows NNPC to have a voice in where the refinery sources its feedstock, as well as ensuring the state-owned oil company has a ready outlet for its own production.

Formal acquisition of interest in DORC in August 2021 followed the federal government’s 2019 commitment to support the refinery via supply of crude feedstock and other necessary but unidentified feeds (OGJ Online, Nov. 6, 2019).

In a May 2023 statement following the complex’s commissioning, Mele Kyari, NNPC’s chief executive officer, reiterated the site’s importance to ensuring Nigeria’s energy security. “NNPC will continue to support investment in domestic refining to satisfy the growing demands for refined petroleum products in both local and regional markets as against simply exporting unprocessed [Nigerian] crude to diminishing markets overseas,” Kyari said.

On multiple occasions, the government has said it expects startup of DORC’s complex combined with NNPC’s continued investments in rehabilitating its own refineries and construction of smaller, privately owned modular refineries will not only satisfy domestic product demand but provide surplus production to transform the currently import-dependent West African nation into a major exporter of products to other destinations within and beyond the African continent.

According to the latest government releases, DORC’s refinery will be able to produce 33 million tpy of petroleum products, including up to about 10.5 million tpy combined of Euro 5-quality gasoline and diesel, 4 million tpy of Jet A-1 aviation fuel, as well as kerosine, LPG, and petrochemicals such as polypropylene (Fig. 2).

Upon reaching full capacity, the complex—which employs more than 30,000 local and contracted employees—will more than double Nigeria’s total production capacity from NNPC’s yet-to-be-fully-rehabilitated refineries, allowing the country to save an estimated $30 billion/year on importing oil products from abroad amid rebounding demand following the global pandemic, the government said.