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The Dangote Refinery project has taken another step toward commencing operations. The company announced on Monday that it had taken delivery of crude distillation equipment, which is said to be the largest of its kind in the world.

The equipment, referred to as an ‘atmospheric tower’, is a huge cylindrical tube, weighing 2,252 tonnes. Official estimates say it is 122 meters long and has a diameter of about 12 meters. It was built by the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec).

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It arrived at the site of the Dangote Refinery in Ibeju-Lekki, four months after setting out from Ningbo, China. The journey, which commenced in July 2019, followed the Maritime Silk Road, a sea route that connects China with ports in Africa.

The single-train crude distillation tower will form an important part of the Dangote Oil Refinery’s infrastructure. When it becomes functional, it will help process crude petroleum into various fuels, including kerosene, petrol, jet fuel, naphtha, and gas oil.

According to Captain Rajen Sachar, Head of Maritime and Ports Infrastructure at Dangote Group, the equipment will separate crude oil fed to it into various compounds, through the process of fractional distillation.

The process involves passing the crude through progressively higher temperatures, with the inlet temperature being about 157 degrees Celsius and 357 degrees Celsius at the bottom. The heat allows compounds with lower boiling points to vaporize closer to the inlet, and those with higher boiling temperatures to flow towards the base.

“When the vapor reaches the height within the column where its boiling point is equal to the temperature of the column at that height, it condenses to form a liquid,” Captain Sachar explained.

This will happen at different levels of the equipment, with the liquids separating out into fuels like petrol and kerosene.

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Sachar pointed out that the size of the atmospheric tower was fitting for the ambitions of the refinery. Upon completion, the Dangote Oil Refinery is expected to be the largest of its kind in West Africa.

According to officials at the Dangote Group, the refinery should have a production capacity of 650 bpd (barrels per day), an amount that exceeds Nigeria’s current demand for petroleum products.

Although the facility was initially expected to commence operations in 2020, an official at the company has recently said that it will now be commissioned early in 2021.

Featured image source: Wuzup NG

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This article was first published on 5th December 2019


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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