By John Ikani
The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) is gearing up for a comprehensive closure of its six-train, 22 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) plant in Finima, Bonny Island, Rivers State.
The planned maintenance operation, set to kick off around February or March 2024, could exacerbate the ongoing shortages of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), commonly known as cooking gas, in Nigeria.
Simultaneously, it may contribute to the existing insufficient supply of LNG to European markets, a predicament stemming from the Russia-Ukraine War.
In addition, strategic shutdown could impact the government’s efforts to fortify foreign currency liquidity and enhance foreign exchange (FX) by securitizing around $7 billion of Nigeria’s NLNG dividends.
Recent investigations reveal that NLNG is currently undergoing a mini-shutdown, where the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor is conducting essential maintenance on the plant.
NLNG, recognized as a successful Nigerian company with government ownership, has grappled with under-capacity production due to feed gas supply challenges arising from prevalent oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta.
The dilemma not only affects gas delivery to domestic and international markets but also hampers revenue generation, as evidenced by a reported Year-to-Date $7 billion loss in July last year due to under-capacity production.
Moreover, the scheduled maintenance shutdown could further impede NLNG’s plan to commence domestic LNG supply to the Nigerian market, initially targeting 1.1 million tonnes per annum from July 2022.
Operating at approximately 50 per cent capacity for several months, NLNG expressed concerns about gas supply availability for its Train-7 project, currently 52 per cent complete.
The liquefaction firm also hinted at potential hindrances to its planned expansion to Train-8 and beyond. According to an anonymous source, NLNG’s plant is undergoing a “mini-shutdown” to facilitate a “Catalyst change-out.”
NLNG, a significant supplier of LPG to the Nigerian market, commits 100 per cent of its LPG production, constituting 40 per cent of the total cooking gas consumed annually by Nigerians.
Despite delivering approximately 380,000 metric tonnes of LPG this year, out of the 1.3 million tonnes per annum national consumption figure, there have been persistent complaints from marketers and LPG plant owners about supply deficits, leading to retail price hikes.
Similarly, Nigeria, through NLNG, ranks among Europe’s top LNG suppliers, exporting 9.4 billion cubic meters (bcm) of LNG to Europe in 2022, according to the European Union (EU).
During a recent visit to NLNG in Bonny, an EU delegation emphasized the need to strengthen diplomatic ties with reliable LNG partners like Nigeria to address the gas supply gap resulting from the Russia-Ukraine War.
While NLNG declined to comment on the impending 2024 operation shutdown, it remains crucial to monitor developments as they unfold.