Business Hilights
Tracking Nigeria's Headline Business News Online

(Special Report) Nigeria may remain world capital for dirty fuel for longer

…As imported PMS contains 86 times higher sulphur level than Nigerian, EU limits

Fresh research supported by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), has revealed lot of ills coming from the endless importation and consumption of high sulphur laden premium motor spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol or fuel in Nigeria.
Whereas the report noted that petrol shipped into Nigeria from abroad contains sulphur levels that is 86 times higher than the European limit and far above the limit set by Nigerian regulatory authorities, tests conducted in laboratories during the study revealed comparatively that gasoline imported into Nigeria has one of the highest sulphur contents among those shipped to other African countries.
Otherwise, not a single drop of the gasoline sold in Nigeria could legally be sold in some parts of Africa, let alone in Europe, from where most of the gasoline is imported.
According to the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), the chemical called sulphur is a common impurity in both gasoline and diesel, which causes undesirable emissions of sulphur dioxide and trioxide (a poisonous gas with a characteristic rotten egg smell).
Higher sulphur limits in cars causes ozone depletion from emission and wears down new engines faster than expected and that is why the OICA, which is the world’s authoritative forum on automotive issues, stated on its website that sulphur could lead to higher emissions and fuel consumption, and could permanently damage the device.
Besides, Sulphur, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a natural component in crude oil that is present in gasoline and diesel, unless removed.
The Asian Clean Fuels Association (ACFA), in one of its monthly publications, stated that high sulphur in gasoline damages cars’ emission control systems and contributes to air pollution.
Business Hilights recalls that on December 1, 2016, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire agreed to ban Europe’s dirty fuels, limiting sulphur in fuels from 3,000ppm to 50ppm. The then Minister of Environment for Nigeria, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, said Nigeria and other African nations had decided that the sulphur in fuels imported should be reduced from 3000ppm to 50ppm, starting from July 1, 2017.
“Everybody knows that this is going to take some efforts, which is why we gave the six-month notice,” the Minister said then.
Also, in April 2017, the SON, the body responsible for setting standards for imported goods, released new specification for petroleum products imports in Nigeria. After consultations with stakeholders, the agency announced that it had reduced the maximum allowed levels of sulphur in petroleum fuels imported into Nigeria, in line with the world trend. It said that from July 1, 2017, diesel fuel should have maximum sulphur levels of 50 ppm while gasoline should have maximum sulphur levels of 150 ppm.
But that was not to be because the government failed to enforce the ban on importation of high sulphur fuels after the July deadline.
However, the Federal Government, through the NNPC, announced again that it would cut the sulphur allowed in diesel by July 1 and petrol by October 2018 respectively.
NNPC’s chief operating officer, Refineries and Petrochemicals, Mr. Anibor Kragha, was quoted by Reuters in March 2018 to have said in a presentation to the African Refiners Association (ARA), that the country would lower sulphur in diesel to 50ppm from 3000ppm by the 1st of July while petrol sulphur level cuts would start in October, moving to 300ppm from 1, 000 ppm. He said Nigeria was targeting a cut to 150ppm by October 1, 2019.
This may not happen considering the official interferences working against the new clean PMS initiative in Nigeria.
Recall that the spokesman for the NNPC, Ndu Ughamadu, said the status quo had remained because, “the revised SON specifications are not in effect yet because they have not been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). As such, the current SON standard of 1000ppm still prevails.” He said the primary consideration for the FEC was the impact on the pump price that would result from the importation of the lower sulphur PMS.
Ughamadu added that the incremental cost of the lower sulphur PMS is not the issue but capacity of international suppliers to meet demand.
Besides, analysts are much more worried as to the ability of Nigerians to pay for the new pump price which will come with phasing out dirty fuels as the government may not be able to foot the subsidy bills that will come with sulphur-free PMS.
This may be the reason behind the weak position of the Standard organization of Nigeria (SON) in the matter.
SON had argued that “Implementation is directed by government. What we have done on our part is to coordinate the development of the standard,” the spokesman for the agency, Bola Fashina, said.
According to him, “We have coordinated the stakeholders to develop the standard in line with international best practice. That is where our own job lies. The implementation is above the SON, it is the government that will declare it as mandatory and give power to us for regulation.