Warri Fire Outbreak: GMD Queries Refinery Boss


Heads may roll at the ailing Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company (WRPC) over a fire incident which ravaged the refining complex yesterday.

Already, Leadership learnt that the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Andrew Yakubu, has summoned the managing director of one of the NNPC’s strategic business units, Mr Paul Obelley, to its corporate headquarters in Abuja, over the fire incident.

Yakubu, a former managing director of the WRPC, had issued  a query to Obelley over the fire which erupted from the Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) unit of the plant. The unit is regarded in the oil industry as the heart of refining operation.

Leadership also learnt that the management of the WRPC was asked to provide a detailed explanation about the cause of the fire. Reliable sources at the WRPC told our correspondent yesterday that the NNPC headquarters was disturbed about the fire incident which had led to the suspension of operation by the plant.

One of our sources in the plant said the NNPC was worried that the management of the WRPC led by Obelley could not put the plant in the line of steady operation. Fire had razed the complex twice within one year. The official residence of the managing director in Warri was also ravaged by fire da few months ago.

Another source who pleaded anonymity, said, “The corporate headquarters of NNPC has summoned our managing director, Mr Paul Obelley, to Abuja over the fire outbreak of last week. The NNPC management was apparently not pleased that we are always having issues at the Warri Refinery since the present management came on board.

“They are demanding a detailed report about the fire incident from our managing director because the ugly trend in Warri Refinery is becoming unbearable. The refinery can’t operate uninterruptedly for one week without having an issue and the corporate headquarters in Abuja is seeking explanation from our management in that regard.”

The fire ravaged the FCC unit and its sister component, the Topping Unit (TU). The fate of the FCC and TU led to the suspension of production of the automative gas oil (AGO), popularly known as diesel, and dual purpose kerosene (DPK), popularly known as kerosene. Only the Reforming Unit (RU) survived the fire outbreak but the RU is still running after the incident Leadership learnt.

The latest fate of the WRPC spiked fears of fresh acute shortage of petroleum products nationwide.

Obelley, could not be reached for comment but a senior public affairs personnel in the plant confirmed the report. The official, who also pleaded anonymity, further confirmed that Yakubu had ordered investigation into the fire outbreak.

The WRPC, the first government-owned refinery was inaugurated in 1978 to process 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day. However, it was redesigned in 1987 to process 125,000 barrels of crude oil per day. But the plant had operated epileptically since inception due to poor maintenance of its strategic component units.

The authorities had consistently failed to carry out mandatory Turn-Around Maintenance (TAM), which is expected to be done every four years.This development had forced the plant to operate at less than 60 per cent of its installed capacity. The last TAM carried out in the plant in 1994 ended in controversial circumstances as the exercise was marred by corruption and led to the setting up of the probe panel headed by the late GMD of the NNPC, Aret Adams.


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