Aliko Dangote is building a USD 12 Bn refinery on a swampland located on the outskirts of Lagos. It will be the largest in the world once fully operational.
Sitting on a 2,500-hectare swampland on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria, is a project so audacious, it could just as well pass for a monument that can be mentioned in the same breath as the Taj Mahal or the leaning tower of Pisa. Okay, that’s just taking it too far but then you get the idea.
But for its sheer size, for the fact that it is backed by a ‘war chest’ unlike any other, and for the very fact that it is the brainchild of Africa’s richest man, perhaps it’s not that much of an exaggeration.
Aliko Dangote has committed USD 12 Bn — more than two-thirds his current fortune — into what he calls a “crazy” project. And if he does pull it off, he would have earned his place in an exclusive group featuring the likes of John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and that’s it — it’s a very short list.
Dangote is building a refinery that is unlike anything ever seen anywhere in the world. The single-train petroleum refinery with a targeted production capacity of about 650,000 barrels per day will be the largest in the world.
When fully operational — if it gets to the level the billionaire wants it to reach — the refinery will be single handedly churning out a third of every drop of petroleum products Nigeria currently produces and 1 percent of global production. This will make it the biggest oil refinery of its type in the world.
But that’s not all. The plant will also house Africa’s largest urea plant with a capacity of 3 million tons of fertiliser per annum, as well as 1,100 kilometres of sub sea pipeline infrastructure to handle 3 billion SCF of gas per day, and another plant that will churn out all the plastic needed by Nigeria’s nearly 200 million inhabitants.
If all goes according to plan, the USD 12 Bn Dangote Oil Refinery will be 40 percent larger than the largest refinery in the world which currently has a capacity of 450,000 barrels per day.
And this is where things get even crazier. To set the whole thing up, Dangote had to settle for a swamp as location; one that comes with very little tax, no less. And to make the whole thing come together, at least 120,000 piles of average length 25 metres will have to be sunk. More so, a distillation tower the height of a 30-storey building will have to be set up too.
The sheer size of these equipment puts it outside the capacity of all Nigerian ports, so it’s virtually impossible to have them shipped into the country. And even if the ports did take delivery of those, the weight of the equipment will ruin most Nigerian roads.
To get around this, Dangote is taking the only viable option — building the whole thing from the ground up in his own backyard. The billionaire has had to build the distillation tower and the piles, including a jetty for which he has dredged the seabed for 65 million cubic metres of sand. All these encapsulate the sheer audacity of the project.
To make things even more interesting, Dangote has had to build his own industrial gas plant because there isn’t enough gas in the whole country to do all the welding needed to piece the mammoth refinery together. Because there aren’t enough trucks to do all the moving, he’s entered a joint venture with a Chinese company to have thousands of those produced.
And that’s not all. The plant will need 480 megawatts of power, about one-tenth of the total output power-starved Nigeria manages to produce currently. Well, it’s anyone’s guess at this point –. Dangote is building his own power plant too. Now you know why even the forward-thinking billionaire calls the project crazy.
Oddly, for many years, Nigeria has had to export all its oil as crude due to the poor state of the government-controlled refineries and then reimported refined petroleum, such as petrol and benzene — shortchanging itself in the process. The biggest winners from all of this have been the middlemen who scheme over import contracts and who cook up ways to take advantage of a system blurred by uncertainties around subsidies.
These and many other perils of Nigeria’s oil business has kept Dangote away from the industry for many years, with the billionaire, instead, choosing to build his fortune around consumer goods and cement. But it appears Dangote is finally ready to call time on his time on the sidelines, and in his usual way, he’s chosen to go big with a bold project that will not only rid Nigeria’s oil sector of its demons but also affect things on the global front.
Located in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, the ongoing project occupies a piece of land about six times the size of Victoria Island, Nigeria’s sprawling cosmopolitan town with the highest concentration of high-net-worth individuals in the country.
On the whole, Dangote’s endeavours are expected to create about 250,000 jobs, provide foreign exchange earnings, and generate savings of up to USD 15 Bn. On its own, the refinery will create an estimated 60,000 jobs with 20,000 of them onsite. Sure sounds like a big deal.
And when it all comes together, maybe he can finally reward himself with one of his more leisurely pursuits — the purchase of English Premiership side, Arsenal!
Featured Image Courtesy: time.com