The Republic of the Congo launched the construction of a $600-million oil refinery near the port city of Pointe-Noire on Sunday. The ground-breaking ceremony was attended by President Denis Sassou Nguesso and represented as a pivotal moment for the nation’s hydrocarbon sector, which seeks to increase domestic refining capacity and offset chronic fuel shortages.
With a capacity of 2.5 million tons per annum (mtpa), the Atlantic Petrochemical Refinery serves to diversify national exports away from crude oil. While Congo-Brazzaville is currently the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, it has only one refinery that meets a small percentage of regional demand for petroleum by-products. Neighboring countries including Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon and Angola are also net importers of refined oil products, creating a substantial market to meet both domestic and regional fuel needs.
The refinery will be constructed in two phases. Phase 1 incorporates the engineering and procurement stage, as well as the construction, commissioning and start-up of core refining units, which carry a minimum capacity of 65,000 barrels per day (bpd). This phase focuses on fulfilling domestic demand and is designed to run fully on Djeno light crudes.
Commencing in Q4 2022, Phase 2 incorporates additional units for full conversion ability, in which the refinery aims to maximize unit capacity and operate at 110,000 bpd. Additional production will allow for regional export and the refinery will be designed to run heavy to medium grade crudes.
“The refinery will produce automotive and aviation gasoline, liquified petroleum gas, diesel, lubricants, bitumen, kerosene and other products,” said Congolese Minister of Hydrocarbons Jean-Marc Thystère Tchicaya, during the ceremony. “The new refinery is, therefore, an important link in the diversification the economy in the hydrocarbons sector.”
Congo-Brazzaville has a 1.2-mtpa demand for refined oil products, yet its only refinery – Congolaise de raffinage, which is owned and operated by state-owned SNPC – has a capacity of one million tons per year, and only processes about 60% of that capacity. With no additional refining capacity available in the region, the Republic of the Congo is re-directing its focus on regional energy growth through the development of the Point-Noire facility.
The value of the Atlantic Petrochemical Refinery lies in its regional competitiveness. By taking advantage of its location – a high-growth region with substantial underserved demand – the Pointe-Noire project aims to maximize the value of Congolese crudes, eliminate oil product supply risks and reduce the outflow of foreign currency.
Additionally, the new facility is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs during its construction phase, increasing local living standards, skill sets and infrastructure while facilitating economic growth. With governmental backing. coupled with supportive legislation that demonstrates a commitment to the project timeline, the new refinery is expected to transform the national economy and grant the Republic of the Congo regional exporter status.