Mr. Chekezie Nwosu, Managing Director Waltersmith Petroman Oil Limited
Waltersmith Petroman Oil Limited is one the indigenous oil companies in Nigeria. The company bought the Ibigwe marginal field which is being used to develop a 50,000-capacity refinery that is near completion and will be commissioned in May. Apart from the modular refinery, Waltersmith is also building an industrial complex and its vision is to create jobs across the energy value chain. This will also metamorphosed into a commercial and industrial hub in its area of operation.
At the sideline of Nigeria International Petroleum Summit (NIPS), OGODO DOUGLAS FELIX, Editor, Energy Focus Report Magazine, spoke with Mr. Chikezie Nwosu, Managing Director of Waltersmith Petroman Oil Limited on the company’s objectives towards the building of refinery in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.
Nwosu also made it known that the company wishes to help African continent to grow economical and meeting its energy aspirations through partnership.
Waltersmith is one the companies in the front burner of building refinery in Nigeria to solve the downstream and midstream challenges of the country. Can you tell us more about this feat of the company that will soon come onstream?
Waltersmith is one of the indigenous companies or independent that bought a marginal field licence which is the Ibigwe field. Waltersmith has efficiently managed this field from the initial production level when it started with over 500 barrels of oil per day to a peak of around 7000 barrels of oil per day and sustain production of between 5000 and 6000.
Giving that that is not the biggest production that you have from independents to even the International Oil Companies (IOCs). You must agree with me that it is amazing what Waltersmith has done with this asset. The Ibigwe asset has been used to develop refinery. The first phase of the refinery which is 5000 barrels per day is near completion. In actual fact, the pre-commissioning is starting in last week of February and this is well ahead of schedule of pre-commissioning that would have been in May, so, we are going to finally commission this facility in May and do the first product testing.
Waltersmith vision is to increase the refining capacity to take in feedstock of about 50,000 barrels of oil per day starting with second phase of 25,000 and third phase of 20,000. Though it is modular in nature but one of the truly first modular refineries in Nigeria. To explain why it is modular, the ISBL which is the brain of the refinery plug and plain, manufactured abroad, dissembled, shipped down, assembled in-country and just plugged in. It was plugged in world record time. The previous record held by the company that did the Engineering Procurement and Construction Commissioning (EPC) spent 4 days to install the ISBL in the refinery. But for Waltersmith, it was done 13 days. Again, it is about effective delivery, with this we manage to keep the cost within control. There are areas where we expect that cost will be overrun but whatever has happened you are managing diligently with EPC contractors.
It worked very well for us working with these contractors, we got a very great partnership with them and therefore, we are able to go into a second phase. While we are commissioning the first phase of 5000, we will be doing the ground breaking for the second phase of 25,000.
This is not the only thing in the vision around this area, Waltersmith wants to set a standard of delivering an industrial complex where we would build all the infrastructure, gas, roads, power and all that is needed in such a way that we will attract industry of different types. There will be Petrol-chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, still rolling mills among others. Once we can provide the basic needs of manufacturers which is around energy, we expect them to be attracted to these areas and we expect that to begin to create commercial hub around the Ibigwe area where the inherent entrepreneurship of the people of that area will be given the juices for them to grow and so, you will see small and medium enterprises growing along with the larger industrial manufacturers.
Is Waltersmith moving from exploration to midstream?
We are moving everywhere and when you talk about midstream, we are moving midstream, downstream, industrial park, renewal energy and everything about energy across the value chain.
What Waltersmith believes is that energy has to be delivered to Africa to enable the consumption of that energy. As I said earlier in my initial speech that there is a direct correlation between GDP growth and energy consumption. Therefore, what Waltersmith strategy is, to deliver that energy need. You can imagine that if around areas where we operate, we can deliver energy to build an industrial complex. Think about what the other independents can do in conjunction with the IOCs which is 5000 barrels of oil per day and think about what 3000 barrels of oil per day can do in different communities. So, you don’t really have to wait for government to mandate an industrial park. Industrial park can be built on the back of the marginal field licenses that have been granted by government.
Is Waltersmith thinking in the direction of Seplat an indigenous oil company that is listed in London and moves out of the shores of Nigeria?
We have already moved out of the shores of Nigeria. This is not our first attempt, but this is our first successful attempt. If you have been listening to the news since late last year in Equatorial Guinea, we were awarded one of the most lucrative discovered blocs, bloc EG 23 and we are waiting to sign the Production Sharing Contract (PSC). When you say international, our international strategy is Africa first. We have gone in there and Waltersmith is one company that partners. We are partnering with Equatorial Guinea government and even our refinery, we are partnering with Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to deliver the energy need of whatever country we want to go.
We are going international and carrying ethos, model with strategy. The Minister of Mines and Power of Equatorial Guinea has already said that Waltersmith should bring the model how modular refinery is being built to that country. This is not just talk. We have started having engagements with entities in Equatorial Guinea who are asking us to show them what we did, come and teach us how to do it. If we can do it in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and other African countries then we start to play in the African region that delivers the energy needs for this continent to consume and grow its GDP.
Any challenges in your endeavours to put things in order?
Every challenge that Waltersmith encounters is treated as an opportunity to partner. We have never made any effort and believe that there was not going to be any challenge but when you go with the mind set that the challenge you meet is an opportunity to partner. I can explain without going into detail. Because you are open to partnerships if there is an issue with government, we ask government what issue? What’s the value expectation you have? Come and partner with us to deliver that value expectation to you. By treating it in this manner we have overcome any of these challenges that are you have stated.
The other challenge is that a lot of people have mentioned going into midstream and downstream is the so-called ability to pay. Waltersmith has a paradigm shift. The ability to pay conversion is about delivering power, you don’t deliver power because the end users don’t have the ability to pay. Why don’t you create that ability to pay through a couple of steps? The first step is creating the environment for customers who can pay which is the industrial complex.
There is need to create an industrial complex where manufacturing companies who can pay for the energy because it is cheaper for them and who you can provide with access to ports. For instance, Port Harcourt is near us, Onitsha is near us including the Port Harcourt and other airports within our jurisdiction. There are exit routes to export anything that you want to do. This should be created for the manufacturers, bring them because they have the ability to pay.
In terms of upscaling of power needs trickling in a modular factory, you will find out that the initial cost of delivering a 300 mega power plants are not proportional to when you want to add to an additional 50 mega watts it becomes a lot cheaper to add subsequent models. Therefore, get the models for those who can pay first and the additional cost to get the models for those who cannot pay but who will be able to pay in future when you can deliver cheaper energy for them. It is better to think about small and medium enterprises including the locals around the areas who need this power to start running their businesses. If you can deliver power to them and not to focus too much on their ability to pay because your own main customers in industrial park can pay. You will empower them to grow their businesses and as they grow their businesses what happens? They get the ability to pay and once they can pay you have another customer base, so, it is a paradigm shift. Don’t let the ability to pay hampering you from delivering energy means that the African continent has.
What Waltersmith is doing is enormous, does the company gets support from the government?
Absolutely, the Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, the Executive Secretary of the NCDMB are all supportive. NCDMB is a partner in the refinery, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and everywhere we look, we see people who are ready to support us and partner with us and it is because we are approaching it the right way. Our focus is on partnership that will help us to achieve what we expect as value to us and our shareholders as well.