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Nigeria’s 650 kbpd Dangote Refinery being commissioned; largest single-train refinery in world

Outgoing Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is commissioning the 650,000 BPD Dangote Petroleum Refinery and Petrochemicals plant today. The Dangote Petroleum Refinery, which covers an area of approximately 2,635 hectares—about the six times the size of Victoria Island in Lagos, Nigeria—is expected to be Africa’s largest oil refinery and the world’s largest single-train facility.

A single-train refinery utilizes a single integrated processing unit to perform all refining operations such as distillation, cracking and purification. The Dangote complex also will integrate refining with petrochemical production, producing not only various petroleum products but also petrochemicals such as polypropylene and polyethylene.

Everything in this plant by way of size is the first. It is the largest single-train refinery in the world. There is no single column which can process 650,000 barrels per day anywhere else.

—Sanjay Gupta, CEO

China’s Sinopec built the atmospheric tower—the world’s largest—for Dagote.


Sinopec-built atmospheric tower on its way to Dagote in 2019.

The refinery pipeline infrastructure is also the largest in the world, with 1,100 kilometers to handle 3 billion standard cubic feet of gas per day. The refinery alone has a 435MW power plant.

The refinery will meet 100% of the Nigerian requirement of all refined products and also have a surplus of each of these products for export. Dangote Petroleum Refinery is a multi-billion dollar project that will create a market for $21 billion per annum of Nigerian crude. It is designed to process Nigerian crude with the ability to also process other crudes.

Nigerian crude oil typically has a gravity ranging from light to medium, with API gravity typically between 28 and 42. Lighter crudes are easier to refine as they contain fewer impurities and require less energy for processing.

Nigerian crude oil is also generally known for its low sulfur content, which makes it desirable for refining. Low sulfur content reduces the emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) during combustion, helping refineries comply with environmental regulations. Nigerian crude oil is also rich in paraffins. Paraffinic crudes generally yield higher quantities of lighter products such as gasoline and diesel during the refining process.

(However, high paraffinic content can lead to the formation of waxes during the refining process. Refineries need to employ strategies to manage wax formation.)

Despite having a refinery nameplate capacity that can meet nearly all of its domestic demand, Nigeria, which is the largest oil producer in Africa, is fully reliant on imported petroleum products to meet domestic demand because its state-owned refineries have been shut in for long-term maintenance or rehabilitation since 2020, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The Nigerian government planned to construct smaller modular refineries, but the lack of financing caused delays and the current status of those refineries is unclear. The Dangote Refinery, which suffered multiple delays, was scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2022.


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