Refining in Africa

Oil refineries convert crude oil into fuel products, lubricating oils, bitumen and chemical feedstocks.

Prior to 1954 there were no refineries in Africa. All refined products were supplied to Africa from European and American refineries. For many years, Shell and Mobil managed The WARP programme for all the marketers operating in West Africa. Under this programme, each month Shell arranged a ship from Curacao refinery, and Mobil arranged a ship from the UK. All marketers would request the quantities of each product they needed, and the ship would make a “milk run” along the coast. There was a similar arrangement in East Africa.

In the 50 years between 1954 and 2004 48 refineries were built in Africa. In 1954 the first African refineries were built in Algiers (CFP/Total) and Durban (Socony/Mobil). These were followed by the building of Luanda refinery (Petrofina) in 1958, and refineries in Kenya (Shell/BP), Ghana (ENI/Agip), and Senegal (consortium), in 1963. In the 1960’s refineries were also built in Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Tanzania, Nigeria (Port Harcourt I), and Capetown. In the 1970’s, following nationalisation of the oil industry in many countries, several state controlled refineries were built, such as Arzew in Algeria, Warri in Nigeria, CORAF in Congo, and SoNaRa in Cameroon. A final burst of refinery building took place in the 1980’s, including refineries at Warri and Port Harcourt in Nigeria. Whilst there have been a number of modernisation projects since then, the only new refineries built in the past 10 years have been Khartoum in 2001, and MIDOR in Egypt in2002.

Even whilst refineries were being built, others were already being closed. In 1966 the Zimbabwe refinery closed due to sanctions imposed during the UDI period. Between 1980 and 2003 a further 10 uneconomic refineries closed permanently.

All the refineries are basically of the topping/reforming type, except for the 4 refineries in South Africa, 2 in Egypt, 3 in Nigeria, 1 in Cote d’Ivoire, and 1 in Ghana, There are also 3 Synfuel plants (coal and gas feedstock) in South Africa. The total active distillation capacity for the continent is around 3 million b/d (15 million mt/yr), an average of 79,000 b/d per refinery.

The largest refinery in Africa is the Skikda refinery in Algeria (300mbd), the second largest the Ras Lanuf plant in Libya (220mbd). In Sub Saharan Africa the largest are the Port Harcourt refinery I and II in Nigeria (210mbd), and the Shell/BP Sapref refinery in Durban (165mbd).

Excluding some specialty plants (remote locations, bitumen) the smallest operating refinery is the 14mbd Solimar refinery in Madagascar, which operates only occasionally. There are several small 20mbd refineries including Sogara Gabon, Indeni Zambia, SAR Senegal and CORAF Congo.

The major refining centres in Africa are in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria.

South Africa has 4 refineries and 3 synfuels plants.

  • Caltex has a 5.5 million mt/yr (110,000 b/d) refinery in Cape Town.
  • Shell and BP have joint ownership of the 8.2 million mt per annum (165,000 b/d) Sapref refinery in Durban.
  • Engen has the 6 million mt/yr (125,000 b/d) Enref refinery in Durban.
  • Sasol and Total have joint ownership of the 4.2 million mt/yr (85,000 b/d) Natref refinery in Sasolburg.

All the South African refineries have undergone major expansions and upgrading since 1990.

Nigeria has three refineries, all owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC. The Nigerian government has announced its intention to sell 51% of each of the refineries in 2004.

  • Kaduna refinery in northern Nigeria was built in 1980 with a capacity of 5.5 million mt/yr (110,000 b/d). A Lube Baseoil plant was added in 1982, and an LAB plant in 1987.
  • Warri refinery in the south central region was built in 1978 with a capacity of 6.2 million mt/yr (125,000 b/d). A Carbon Black plant and a Polypropylene plant were added in 1986.
  • Port Harcourt refinery in the southeast is made up of two refineries, built in 1965 and 1989. In 1993 they were merged into one, with a total capacity of 10.500 million mt/yr (210,000 b/d). The Eleme Petrochemical plant, which was built adjacent to the Port Harcourt refinery in 1995, has an Olefin production capacity of 483,000 mt/yr, a Polypropylene capacity of 80,000 mt/yr and a Polyethylene production capacity of 250,000 mt/yr.

The Nigerian oil industry has been impacted seriously by operational problems during recent years, and production has been below 50% of capacity.

Egypt has 9 refineries mostly concentrated in the northeast (Cairo, Alexandria, Suez). Egyptian General Petroleum Corp (EGPC) operates all but one of the refineries. The exception is the MIDOR Refinery in Alexandria.

  • El Mex refinery in Alexandria is operated by the Alexandria Petroleum Company. It has a capacity of 100,000 b/d, and 22,500 b/d of vacuum distillation capacity. In addition it has a Lube Baseoil manufacturing plant and a Bitumen unit.
  • Cairo Petroleum Refining Company in Mostorod, near Cairo. This refinery has a capacity of 145,000b/d.
  • The El-Nasr Petroleum Company near Suez has a capacity of 99,300 b/d. It has a 35,000 b/d Hydrocracker and a Bitumen unit.
  • The Amiriyah Petroleum Refining Company in Alexandria has a capacity of 78,000 b/d, and a 15,000 b/d vacuum distillation unit. It has a 9,000 b/d Alkylation unit, and a 2,000 b/d lube baseoil manufacturing unit.
  • The Suez Petroleum Processing Company near Suez has a capacity of 66,400 b/d, and a 9,500 b/d vacuum distillation unit. It has a 16,400 b/d Delayed Coker, and a 1,000 b/d Lube Baseoil unit.
  • The Asyut Petroleum Refining Company near the center of Egypt has a capacity of 47,000 b/d. This simple refinery has a small Naphtha Reformer, and is designed to supply product to the central and southern regions.
  • The Tanta refinery near Port Said is operated by the Cairo Petroleum Refining Company. It has a capacity of 35,000 b/d. Other than a small Hydrotreating unit it has no upgrading capacity.
  • The El-Nasr Petroleum Company operates the small Wadi Feran refinery on the Red Sea in the Gulf of Suez. It has capacity of 7,000 b/d, and was designed to service operations related to the Suez Canal.
  • The Middle East Oil Refinery (MIDOR) was completed in 2002 in the Amiriyah Free Zone, Alexandria. It has a capacity of 100,000 b/d, and has a 35,000 b/d Hydrocracker, a 22,800 b/d Coker, and a 10,700 b/d Isomerisation unit. This is the only privately owned refinery in Egypt. It was originally a joint Egyptian/Israeli venture, but the Israeli shareholders sold out to the Egyptian National Bank in 2001.

Algeria is another major refining centre with 4 refineries.

  • Algiers refinery, built in 1964, has a capacity of 60,000 b/d. It was built by CFP/Total to supply the main market. It has no cracking capacity, and no special units.
  • Arzew refinery, built in 1973, has a capacity of 60,000 b/d. It was built by Sonatrach as an export refinery. It has no cracking facilities, but has Lube Baseoil (1984 built), and Bitumen units.
  • Skikda refinery, built in 1980 (expanded in 1993), has a capacity of 300,000 b/d. It was built by Sonatrach as an export refinery and petrochemical complex. It has no cracking facilities, but has an Aromatics unit (BTX) and a Bitumen plant.
  • Hassi Messaoud, a small refinery in southern Algeria, built in 1960, and expanded in 1979, has a capacity of 30,000 b/d.

The 6,000 b/d refinery in In Amenas was shutdown in 1986.

Many African refineries have been forced to close a result of low worldwide refining margins, small local markets, high operating cost (due to small size), and poor yields. Following the World Bank/IMF insistence on market liberalisation in the early 1980’s, many of the remaining refineries have faced significant challenges.

LOCATION REFINERY NAME TYPE OWNER/OPERATOR Capacity (MB/D)
ALGERIA Algiers Refinery Simple Sonatrach 60
Arzew Refinery Simple Sonatrach 60
Hassi Messaoud Refinery Simple Sonatrach 30
Skikda Refinery Simple Sonatrach 300
ANGOLA Total Fina Petroleos de Angola Simple TOTAL, Fina Petroleos de Angola S.A.R.L., SONANGOL 45
CAMEROON SoNaRa (Société Nationale de Raffinage) Simple Total, ExxonMobil, Shell, Government of Cameroon, Burkina Govt 45
CONGO Coraf Refinery Simple Government of Congo 21
COTE D’IVOIRE SIR Refinery Complex Total, Shell, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, PETROCI 60
Société Multinationale des Bitumes (SMB) Bitumen Shell,Société Ivoirienne de Raffinage,Bourse des Valeurs d’Abidjan 9
EGYPT Amerya Refinery Simple Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation 47
Asyut Oil Refinery Simple Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation 78
Cairo Refinery Co – Mostrod Simple Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation 145
Cairo Refinery Co – Tanta Simple Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation 35
El Mex Refinery Simple Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation 100
El Suez Refinery Complex Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation 99.3
Suez Petroleum Processing Co Ref Simple Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation 66.4
MIDOR Refinery Complex Middle East Oil Refinery Company, Alexandria 100
Wadi Feran Refinery Simple Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation 7
GABON Sogara Refinery – Gabon Simple TOTAL, ExxonMobil, Shell, Agip, Government of Gabon 21
GHANA Tema Refinery Complex Ghana National Petroleum Corporation 43
KENYA Kenya Petroleum Refinery Ltd Simple Government of Kenya, Shell International, Caltex Corporation, BP 65
LIBYA Azzawiya Simple Government of Libya 115
Ras Lanuf Simple Government of Libya 220
Sirte Oil Co Simple Government of Libya 8
MADAGASCAR Solima Refinery Simple Government of Madagascar/ Galana 14
MOROCCO Samir Refinery Simple Saudi Corral 125
Sidi Kacem Refinery Simple Société Cherifienne des Petroles 30
NIGERIA Kaduna Refinery Complex Nigerian National Petroleum Company 110
Port Harcourt I & II Complex Nigerian National Petroleum Company 210
Warri Refinery Complex Nigerian National Petroleum Company 125
SOUTH AFRICA Calref Complex Chevron – Texaco 110
Engen Refinery Complex Petronas, Worldwide African Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd 105
Natref Complex Sasol Ltd, TOTAL South Africa (Pty) Ltd 109
Sapref Complex Shell and BP South African Petroleum Refineries (Pty) Ltd 165
SUDAN Sudan Khartoum Refinery Co Ltd Complex Government of Sudan, China National Petroleum & Gas Corp. 50
SENEGAL Société Africaine de Raffinage (SAR) Simple Total, Shell, ExxonMobil, Government of Senegal 23
TUNISIA Bizerte Refinery Complex Société Tunisienne des Industries du Raffinage 34
ZAMBIA Indeni Refinery Simple Government of Zambia, TOTAL 23
TOTAL = 3012.7
LOCATION REFINERY NAME TYPE OWNER/OPERATOR DATE
ZIMBABWE Simple 1966
TOGO Simple Société Togolaise de Stockage (STSL)- Shell 1981
LIBERIA LPRC Simple Government of Liberia 1983
MOZAMBIQUE Simple 1983
SIERRA LEONE SLRC Simple Sierra Leone Petroleum Refining Co Ltd 1990
SOMALIA Simple 1990
D.R. CONGO SOCIR Simple Xoil, Government of D.R. Congo 1998
ERITRA Assab Refinery Simple Ethiopian Petroleum Corp, Government of Eritrea 1998
TANZANIA Tiper Refinery Simple Oryx Tanzania 2000
SUDAN Port Sudan Refinery Simple Government of Sudan 2000
MAURITANIA SOMIR Simple Government of Mauritania, Sonatrach 2001

For more information on African oil refineries, buy the only comprehensive report ever prepared on this subject: Oil Refining in Subsaharan Africa – a study by Citac Africa LLP the ‘African Energy Specialists’ who have special knowledge of refining and petroleum products marketing in West and Central Africa.

Organisations (107)

Aldabri Trade, D1 Oils Africa (Pty) Ltd, Engen Ghana, Intercat, National Petroleum Refiners of South Africa (Pty) Ltd, Olit, SA Oil Refiners, SA Oil Refiners, Zinc Corporation of SA Ltd, Abood Seed Oil Industries Ltd, Alexandria Mineral Oils Company, Amanita Premier Oils Ltd, Bibiti Oil Ltd, Birchand Oil Mills , Capital Products, ChevronTexaco Cameroon, China National Petroleum Corporation, CJSC Nizhnekamsk Refinery, Coastal Oil Industries Ltd , Continental Oil Mills

Facilities (1,069)

7 November Field, Ablette Field – Gabon, Ablette Marin – Gabon, Abo Field – Nigeria, Abu el Gharadiq, Abu El Gharadiq N, Abu El Gharadiq NE, Abu Ghabra Field, Abu Rudais, Accra-Keta Block – Ghana, Adar Field, Addax Petroleum Development Company Ltd, Agadem Block – Niger, Agali Block – Gabon, Agbami Field – Nigeria, Aghar, Aghigo Field, AGIP NIGERIA, Ain, Ait Kheir Field