An analysis of official and unofficial petroleum products in the Niger Delta


This report compares differences in the standards of, and emissions from, official fuels in licensed filling stations, and unofficial fuels produced by artisanal oil refineries across Bayelsa and Rivers states.

The analysis aims to improve upon current levels of evidence and understanding around some of the impacts of consuming these fuels on air pollution, health, and damage to engines and generators. Field researchers collected 91 unofficial and official fuel samples to establish the quality of fuel produced by artisanal refiners, in comparison to fuel available at filling stations and international standards. Samples of official and unofficial fuel were obtained in Bayelsa and Rivers states, and control samples of official fuels were collected in Lagos. The average official diesels sampled were 2,044ppm (parts per million) for sulphur—over 204x the limits the European Union (EU) sets as safe, compared to 1,523ppm in the average unofficial diesels sampled, still over 152x the EU’s limit.

We hope that this analysis motivates governments, commodity institutions, and the oil industry to regulate fuel content, emissions, and the use of carcinogenic and toxic compounds across the petroleum sector in Nigeria.

Policy recommendations:

  1. At a minimum, the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) should be vested with the powers and partners required to implement the planned Nigerian fuel sulphur standards across official supply channels to mitigate particulate emissions; 50 ppm (diesel), 150 ppm (petrol) and 150 ppm (kerosene). This level for sulphur would still undermine emission reduction technologies, and so further reductions in these limits to align with EU or similar standards should be considered.
  2. Commission a formal joint investigation by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Federal Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Environment, and the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) to identify the levels of sulphur within official fuel supplies across the Niger Delta, and the rest of Nigeria. Should unacceptable levels be found, hold the relevant international and/or national companies, importers, and institutions to account.
  3. Commission a study into other sources of particulate emissions in the Port Harcourt area. This should be a collaboration between experts from the University of Port Harcourt, state Commissioner for Environment, Federal Ministry of Environment, international oil and gas companies, and civil society organisations. The study would need to gather data on air quality levels in different locations, and model sources and other important factors that can help policy-makers to mitigate the notorious soot.
  4. Request that all available data on air pollution in Port Harcourt is publicly released by international oil companies (and any others that are collecting data), and monitored to assess potential health impacts and the impact of any changes due to measures taken to improve fuel quality, the prevalence of artisanal refineries, and other sources of particulate emissions.
  5. Support the Rural Electrification Agency to work with private partners to develop renewable energy infrastructure across the Niger Delta to reduce demand for unofficial and official fuel, and pollutant emissions.
  6. The Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Petroleum Technology Development Fund should consider engaging artisanal oil refiners in plans for domestic refining, given they are often producing fuels with better characteristics than official fuel supplied to Nigeria.

Published: 20.05.2020

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