THE OUTLOOK FOR AFRICAN REFINERIES
Africa’s refineries are unable to meet the region’s increasing demand for petroleum products. Investment in this critical sector would reduce dependence on imports, ease the burden on public finances from subsidies, and create new job opportunities. This article examines the current state of African refining and the benefits of increasing capacity through private investment.
Originally published as part of the Centurion Knowledge Series on August 24, 2016
Africa is the continent with the least number of oil refineries in the world, an under-utilized 46, in a highly competitive market where a single country, the United States of America has about 140 refineries. As the world’s fastest growing oil consumer, with the IEA projecting consumption of 4.5 million barrels per day by 2018, this disadvantage in refining capacity is crippling.
Despite the fact that Africa produces 3.5 times the amount of oil that it consumes (according to an article by Evaluate Energy), the continent’s oil producers rely on fuel imports to supplement their own production, as the refinery capacity to keep up with demand is severely lacking. This discrepancy is particularly glaring because the reputation of the continent as a growing market, as well as the availability of crude oil, should be expected to create an inviting environment to develop new refineries.
Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, is the region’s dominant oil producer, with a daily output of 2.4 million barrels per day in 2015, and the fifth largest exporter of oil in the world. Only four refineries — at Kaduna, Warri and two at Port Harcourt — service the entire country. Angola produces 1.8 million barrels of oil per day and has only one full-scale refinery. Egypt, the fourth largest oil producer, with 723,000 barrels per day, has nine refineries — the most of any African country.
These statistics highlight the need to rapidly increase African refining capacity. Oil production far exceeds refinery output and while the domestic market exists, it is underserved.