Oil & Gas

Nigeria, other West African countries deter on sulphur-heavy fuels


September 20, 2017 | 12:21 am
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Nigeria, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Republic of Benin promised in late 2016 to ban the use of fuel packed with sulphur that is a major air pollutant but that plan may have taken a back seat as they are not expected to implement rules banning imports of sulphur-heavy fuels until December 1 at the earliest after missing the July deadlines.

Nigeria, the region’s biggest fuel consumer, missed a July 1 deadline and instead launched a task force to examine the issue. Nigeria produces oil but lacks refining capacity so has to import most oil products.

A Nigerian Environment Ministry official told Reuters the task force aimed to advise the government on a new standard by late September, with new rules possible by December 1.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which has joined health campaigners pressing for change, said smaller nations Togo and Republic of Benin were waiting for Nigeria to act, while Cote d’Ivoire had not progressed at all.

The five nations had promised cleaner fuel rules under pressure from campaign group Public Eye, which criticized them and international trade houses for allowing cars, trucks and households to burn fuels banned in much of the rest of the world.

Alongside the introduction of the new standards, the West African group has agreed to upgrade the operations of their national refineries, both public and privately owned, to produce fuels of the same standards by 2020.

The move would have dramatically reduced vehicle emissions and help more than 250 million people breath safer, cleaner air.

Ghana is the only regional state that has delivered on a pledge and codified rules preventing the import or transport of high sulphur gasoline or diesel. Ghana followed up by slashing sulphur content to 50 ppm for imported gasoline and diesel, from 1,000 ppm and 3,000 ppm.

Nigeria’s Standards Organisation, which writes import rules, proposed caps of 50 ppm for diesel and 150 ppm for gasoline. State oil firm NNPC included prices for them in contracts to swap oil for products – at a cost of at least $25 a tonne more.

But Nigeria did not codify the standards in law, or issue new specifications to importers.

NNPC contracts showed 150 ppm gasoline would cost anywhere from $20-$30 per tonne more than fuel with higher sulphur, while lower sulphur diesel would add just $10-$15 a tonne, analysts say.

Nigerian gasoline prices are capped, the government would have to raise prices for consumers or shoulder the extra cost. Given the higher cost of cleaner gasoline, campaigners said Nigeria might only introduce stricter rules for diesel.

High-sulphur fuels are major contributors to respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma.

In 2016, Swiss commodity traders were accused in a report published by Swiss NGO, Public Eye, of exporting fuels to West Africa with sulphur levels that are sometimes hundreds of times higher than European levels. The report accused oil companies of “regulatory arbitrage”, allowing traders and companies to exploit weak standards to export cheap, dirty fuels in a process that Public Eye said was maximising profits at the expense of African’s health.

UN Environment has been supporting countries in West Africa to develop policies and standards to stop the practice of importing fuel with dangerously high sulphur levels and introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles. Reducing the emissions of the global fleet is essential for reducing urban air pollution and climate emissions. A combination of low sulfur fuels with advanced vehicles standards can reduce harmful emissions of vehicles by as much as 90 per cent.



September 20, 2017 | 12:21 am
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