Nigeria, others push to clean up toxic fuel hits problems

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According to importers, traders and other oil industry insiders, a west African drive to clean up toxic fuels that campaigners say pose a health hazard to millions has run into difficulties less than two months after it was announced, Reuters reports.

Late last year, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast unveiled a plan to reduce the amount of poisonous sulphur they would allow in fuel. But the announcement, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme, did not give full details of the changes or when they would come into force. That has caused uncertainty, particularly in Nigeria which is a major consumer of fuel in the region.

Nigeria is still drafting its own rules. The aim is to publish draft changes in March, although this year’s tenders to swap imported fuel for crude oil were set to close on Feb. 2. In the meantime, officials at government ministries and the NNPC would not confirm the new sulphur levels and fuel suppliers who bid for 2017 contracts do not know the quality of fuel they will have to import.

The proposals will also heap costs on West African oil refineries. For Nigeria in particular, none of NNPC’s facilities currently produce enough of the high-quality fuels needed. However, NNPC spokesman, Ndu Ughamadu said upgrades were underway at the Port Harcourt refinery, and planned at Kaduna and Warri, where installing equipment to cut sulphur levels could cost millions.