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Why Jet fuel, petroleum products crisis may persist in Africa

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja
09 October 2022   |   4:13 am
Africa’s import dependent aviation fuel market and the drastic reduction in capacity utilisation across refineries on the continent may compound the Jet-A1 crisis in Africa.

[FILES] A plane injected with aviation fuel

•ARDA, Stakeholders Canvass Strict Regulations, Standards Amid Growing Demand
•Eight Refineries Project To Boost Africa’s Jet-A1 Supply By 95% 

Africa’s import dependent aviation fuel market and the drastic reduction in capacity utilisation across refineries on the continent may compound the Jet-A1 crisis in Africa.

Stakeholders at the African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARDA) are also worried about cleaner fuels in the sector, insisting that the gross inadequacy of refineries across the continent posed serious bottlenecks to the implementation of cleaner fuel specifications.

While the aviation sector was grounded due to COVID-19 induced challenges, ongoing recoveries are being met with challenges as energy crises rock the global economy in an unprecedented manner thereby leaving Jet Fuel prices in Nigeria and other Africa countries at historic highs.

Speaking at an ARDA Storage/Distribution & Jet fuel Forum in Dakar, Senegal, monitored virtually, Executive Secretary, ARDA, Anibor Kragha said the continent’s growing population would continue to increase demand for fuels, adding that local refineries must be a priority to mitigate challenges.

According to him, improving local refining capacity within Africa would not only reduce supply chain shocks but enable the continent to enforce harmonised standards.

Speaking on ‘Demand, Production, Exports and Imports of Jet Fuel in Africa,’ Executive Director at CITAC Africa, James McCullagh said three North African countries – Algeria, Egypt and Libya, have accounted for almost all export of excess Jet-A1 production in Africa, noting that while African Jet demand grew by 3.2mn mt (49 per cent) between 2006 and 2019, it slumped by 4.7mn mt (48 per cent) in 2020 owing to COVID-19.

McCullagh said steady growth is now being driven by expanding population but the 2019 demand levels may not be reached until 2024-2025, as steady growth is expected to now be driven by regional routes and population growth.

By 2040, CITAC forecasts demand of around 14mn mt (more than double 2021 levels), stressing further that while there were 16 African countries with operating refineries as of 2021, 12 had domestic Jet-A1 production.

However, the continent’s Jet-A1 production has since fallen by 48 per cent since it peaked at 8.7mn mt in 2013 but has now declined to stand at 4.5mn mt in 2021.

“North African production peaked at 5.2mn mt in 2013, it is now down by 41.2 per cent to 3.0mn mt in 2021. While Sub-Saharan Africa production peaked at 3.7mn mt in 2016, it is down 59 per cent to 1.5mn mt in 2021,” McCullagh said.

According to him, a key reason for declining production is the number of refineries that either closed permanently or went into long-term shutdown between January 2012 and December 2021.

In total this has reduced Africa’s operating refinery capacity by over one million barrels per day.

“North Africa dominates production. In 2021 total African production of Jet-A1 amounted to 4.5mn mt. North Africa dominated production with a total of 3.0mn mt. Egypt was the biggest producer in the region with a total output of 1.8mn mt. Algeria followed with 0.8mn mt. Total production in Sub-Saharan Africa amounted to 1.5mn mt. South Africa dominated regional output with 1.1mn mt,” McCullagh said.

He noted however that for Africa’s Jet-A1 output to rise 95 per cent to 8.8mn metric year by 2025 on the background of upcoming refineries projects; MIDOR expansion (Egypt), Assiut hydrocracker (Egypt), Hassi Messaoud refinery (Algeria), Astron restart (South Africa), Cabinda refinery (Angola), Sentuo refinery (Tema, Ghana) and Dangote refinery (Nigeria).

Speaking on ‘Frequent Issues Impacting The Primary Logistic System: Refinery to Intermediate Terminals,’ Senior JIG Inspector at Vivo Energy, Abdou Diop disclosed that 70 per cent of jet fuel on the continent are imported leading to some logistics constraints.

Diop noted that the situation in West African countries like Nigeria has been exacerbated by vessel suitability berths availability, which continues to trigger vessel turnarounds alongside limited oil jetties in Port areas, vessel discharge Manifold flow/Pressure and shore pipeline limited capability, demurrage claimd, multi-Product pipelined and availability, laboratory discrepancies and product quality amidst other challenges.

He insisted that there are needs for a complementary process to ensure formal audits, standards and regulations, business understanding of aviation fuel supply and a need for continually updating to reflect changes in the supply chain.

Worried about possible lax standards, the General Manager of Joint Inspection Group (JIG), Mark Newstead said product contaminations could result in airport or in- flight incidents with consequences that could include loss of aircraft.

Stressing the need for operating standards, Newstead noted that the standards offer Operators and end-Users the best assurance that the product they are using still conforms to the specification while describing seawater contamination, Metallic contamination (thermal stability) and microbiological growth as worrisome in the sector.

Newstead said: “Critical parts of the Standards that must be followed include: “Cleaning of ships / trains / trucks, product sampling, segregation and separation of tanks, ensuring that “dedicated” systems really aredevoted to the designated products.”

He noted that overall performance on standards is improving, but more work is needed as there are general deficits in areas that require understanding and knowledge of these standards.

Newstead noted that until the entire supply chain is at the same level, “we will continue to run a daily risk of product contamination and potential issue with an aircraft,” adding that the sector could improve if everyone works together in the same way.

Stressing the need for quality assurance in jet fuel, Head of Good Practice, Fuels & Fuel Handling at the Energy Institute (EI), Martin Hunnybun said the EI/JIG Standard 1530 (second edition – 2019) provides the industry benchmark for aviation fuel quality assurance.

Hunnybun also noted that the changes introduced by the second edition was based on widespread use to facilitate global uptake.
He further disclosed that a supplement on sustainable aviation fuel would be issued in October 2022, adding that the sector is gathering technical feedback for consideration in development of the third edition of 1530.

While the EI/JIG 1530 standard refers to quality assurance requirements for the manufacture, storage and distribution of aviation fuel to airports, stakeholders at the Bureau Veritas at the event noted that countries in Nigeria and others in Africa need dedicated pipeline systems for jet fuel to avoid any risk of contamination. They however lamented that the development may not be possible and not common especially with fungible / multi-product pipeline systems in use.

In such cases product interface management requirements are important during the operations (e.g. management of the transmix material). The following products shall not be used as leading or trailing parcels in pipelines that will transport the Jet Fuel: Chemical Oxygenates (including alcohols, organic acids), Surface active products/components, Chemical products that could impact (reduce/downgrade) Thermal Stability of the Jet Fuel (e.g.peroxides, trace levels of metals (copper, zinc, nickel, iron) and Gasoline blended with ethanol.

Director, Inspections, Monitoring and HSE at Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Esther Anku that there are indications of increasing demand for jet fuel, especially with the ease in restriction on travels.

Stressing on the need for quality assurance and infrastructure, Anku said Ghana anticipated that players in the industry would improve their efficiency to take advantage of the expected increase in demand.

She noted that key areas frequently inspected and audited for compliance in the country included operations and equipment integrity management systems and processes; quality control systems, personnel competencies and training to handle daily checks for water as well as conductivity tests.

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