02 November 2014, Warri – Activities of operators of illegal refineries have been blamed for the drastic drop in crude oil production. Illegal refining and crude theft have grown beyond the Niger Delta. To stop the trend, several billions of Naira has been expended to secure pipelines and fight oil bunkerers.
There are various schools of thought on how to curb the problem. While some opt for use of military might, others call for legalizing the process with licences given to operators. One of the illegal refinery operators, Chief Titi Governor, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, called for the legalizing of the operation, insisting that this will end oil theft, generate employment and boost the economy.
Governor, who invented the electric refining oven with the capacity to refine over 50, 000 litres of products in one trip, insisted that illegal refining cannot be stopped by the destruction of illegal refineries but the process can be improved upon.
“This is electric method of refining introduced by me; it works using high electrical heating procedure. God gave me this revelation after the militancy crisis; you know that necessity is the mother of invention.
A thought came one day that if I could construct a refinery using electric heaters, it will work and refine better than the fire wood heating employed by others. That was how I started the process. Refining has semblance to alcohol refining whereby palm wine is heated to become local gin (Ogogoro). That is the experiment and it works for me,” he stated. He continued:
How I came about the technology
“I am a seaman who had travelled far and wide. While travelling round the world, I studied the white man refining over there. I adopted his method because it does not flare gas to pollute the environment.
It has a method of harnessing the gas during the refining process through a special pipe provision and conversion method. Unlike our local refiners who pollute the environment, my method is sophisticated and efficient. I use 350KVA heater in the oven. I installed two of such powered by two big plants, each for one heater.
My refining capacity
“I can produce 50,000 litres per trip while my oven can produce about four trips in 24 hours, which is about 200, 000 litres in a day. I started with two heaters because the system requires a lot of voltage. I intended to install eight heaters before the military Joint Task Force came to destroy the place.
I had a gigantic crude storage tank which I constructed with about N8million; it has the capacity to store eight trucks, which is about 264,000 litres. The idea was conceived after discovering that Geepee tanks usually catch fire and, because we are safety conscious and don’t want any form of industrial accident, we opted for steel plate tanks.
When crude boat comes, we offload them into the storage tank from where we start operation- so that the boat can go and bring another consignment of crude.
My method is unique
“My method refines quality petrol, kerosene, diesel and gas. The quality of my product is better than what they produce in government refineries because we took samples of the products to laboratory for test. We actually did the sample test before we started mass production, though production never lasted for over two weeks before the military came to destroy all my efforts.
How we get crude
“We have many sources where we get crude. We get from anywhere. Getting the crude is not difficult. We know that it is from illegal source but it is our area where the crude is being extracted and we know the method of getting it.
Cost of oven
“I spent a lot of money to construct the electric oven (kiln). I bought the plates in Warri, transported them to the location. I paid tips along the water ways before the welder’s charges. The oven cost over N11million to construct.
Government needs to licence our operation
“The business is a very profitable one; I can pay staff even better than Chevron and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, if given licence to operate. We will create jobs and can stop sea pirates as a lot of youths will be gainfully engaged in the refining business.
I believe strongly that kidnapping, prostitution and armed robbery will also become a thing of the past. Our business has the ability to engage both skilled and unskilled persons, no one will risk his life when there is genuine means of livelihood. We pay per drum refined and it is daily payment. Before the destruction, we made good money.
Business feasible not because crude is free
“The business is very profitable. We pay for the crude. But if government gives us licence, the cost of crude will be a bit higher but this also means our price for finished products will increase a little. So anyhow it goes, it is a very lucrative business.
We can stop importation of refined products
“We can meet the regulatory standard if our operation is licenced. And if government approves our operation, we can stop importation of refined products, grow the economy as we will have all the required professionals too. It is a win-win situation, the standard will even be higher because we will have power and encouragement to improve on the refining method we have adopted. We assure the price of petrol will be reduced from the present N97 per litre and there will never be fuel scarcity in the country. We will even grow the economy faster as we will begin to export refined products.
We can build modular refineries
“For now we can’t build modular refineries, but if government assists us we can do it. The important issue is that our operation be legalized by giving us licence.
My decision to speak out is borne out of the fact that the daily destruction of these local refineries is not the solution; so doing can only push the operators into stealing. Since we have the ability to refine and build the national economy and create jobs, we have to cry out . This is brain development by the Ijaw people, it cannot die, it should be developed. Destruction of illegal refineries does more harm and pollution than the refiners, the Federal Government has to do something about it.
I had over 25 workers. But since the destruction of my camp, they have all been thrown into hunger. Government should look into this issue. I feed and accommodate my staff and they are happy. I pay N1, 000 to the workers per drum; if two workers produce 40 drums over night, they have N40, 000. So you can imagine if they produce 100 drums for 24 hours.
“We have safety personnel in our operation I worked as a safety officer at sea, so we don’t compromise safety. We didn’t recorded any accident during our brief operation. We regulate our oven fire very well since it is electrical; we ensure every standard of safety is maintained.
I have three years experience
“I started refining business three years ago using the local technique. So the money I made I used it to improve the method. But just after investing heavily in this new method, my camp was destroyed and I lost everything. We don’t collaborate with the military in our activities, they obstruct our operation. We are fishermen and God gave us this technology, so government should see reason and support us; it is like our own way of farming.
*Akpokona Omafuaire – Sunday Vanguard