NIAMEY, March 16 (Reuters) - Niger is facing difficulties stocking and exporting excess refined crude products from its newly constructed Zinder refinery due to lack of storage facilities and regulations on the sale and export of the products, officials said on Friday.
The problem has forced shutdowns of the 20,000 bpd refinery, a joint venture with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), several times since it started operating in November.
New crude-producer Niger created a national petroleum products company Sonidep responsible for marketing the West African nation’s refined products, with 7,000 bpd going to the domestic market and 13,000 bpd destined for exports.
“Because Sonidep is having difficulties lifting the entire volume agreed, we have been sometimes forced to shut down operations,” Ibrahim Belko, deputy director-general of the Zinder refinery company (Soraz), said during a meeting with Niger’s lawmakers.
“It must be said that these stoppages are leading to huge financial losses for the refinery and are also exposing us to the risks of a fire accident,” Belko said.
“Sonidep is our only client. While they have been able to lift products for domestic consumption as planned each month, something must be done about the export market, and soon,” he said.
Niger’s state television said on Thursday, citing Belko, that the refinery had lost 8 billion CFA francs ($15.94 million)in February.
Sonidep’s spokesman Ibrahim Maman Moutari, said the firm’s problems stemmed from the lack of regulations governing the sale and export of petroleum products in Niger.
“We cannot just take fuel and go sell it like that on the international market,” Moutari said.
“Export is already a new activity for us, and this requires us to adapt to the environment, and therefore regulations around it,” he said, adding that authorities were currently drafting regulations needed to be able carry out exports.
Niger, already a top uranium producer, became one of Africa’s newest oil producers in November with the inauguration of the Soraz refinery, a $5 billion joint venture with CNPC near Zinder, some 900 km (560 miles) east of the capital Niamey.
The 20,000 barrel-per-day capacity refinery, 60 percent-owned by CNPC and 40 percent by Niger, is fed entirely by oil from the newly-launched Agadem oilfield a further 700 km east. ($1 = 501.8610 CFA francs) (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Writing by Bate Felix)