The Dangote oil refinery, funded by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, is expected to turn Nigeria into a net exporter of fuels, a long-sought goal for the OPEC member that almost entirely relies on imports. The refinery, with a capacity of 650,000 barrels per day, received its first cargo of 1 million barrels of crude oil from Shell International Trading and Shipping Co (STASCO) on Friday, December 8, 2023, bringing the start of operations closer after years of delays. The cargo of 1 million barrels of crude from Agbami, a deep water field run by Chevron, was the first of 6 million barrels that would enable an initial run of the refinery.

Once fully operational, the refinery will produce diesel, aviation fuel, Liquefied Petroleum Gas, and later, Premium Motor Spirit. The next four cargoes will be supplied by the state oil firm NNPC in two to three weeks, and a final cargo will come from ExxonMobil, according to a statement from Dangote Group. NNPC has a 20% stake in the refinery and signed an agreement in November to supply the Dangote refinery with up to six cargoes of crude starting in December.

Nigeria, despite being Africa’s biggest oil producer, experiences repeated fuel shortages and spent $23.3 billion last year on petroleum product imports, consuming around 33 million litres of petrol a day. The Dangote refinery, commissioned in May 2023, is expected to significantly reduce Nigeria’s reliance on imports and boost the country’s economy.

“Our focus over the coming months is to ramp up the refinery to its full capacity,” says Dangote Group’s spokesperson. At a cost of $19 billion, the massive petrochemical complex is one of Nigeria’s single largest investments and a significant milestone for the Nigerian market.