West Africa’s oldest refinery looking to expand and modernize

Societe Africaine de Raffinage (SAR) Managing Director, Serigne Mboup, speaks to Africa Energy Series: Senegal, about its key role in Senegal’s history as a soon-to-be hydrocarbon producer.

What is the role of SAR?

SAR was built in 1961 and started operations two years later. At its birth, the refinery had a production capacity of 600,000 tons per year (tpy), which progressed to 800,000 tpy in 1983 to 1.2 million tpy today. The latest investment that was made to increase capacity is a fully digital central command room, allowing processing to be optimized throughout the lifecycle from crude oil to refined products. The role of SAR is to provide the domestic market with hydrocarbon-related products; the structure and growth of both local and regional markets have allowed us to make strategic investments such as a butane reception unit and a sea-line. SAR’s ownership is divided into three: Petrosen (46 percent), Senegalese financial institution Locafrique (34 percent) and Total (20 percent).

What are the expansions for SAR in the short- and long-term?

Looking forward, SAR would like to increase its capacity to satisfy the needs of the local market and increase its exports towards the sub-region, including Mali, which is already today a major importer of our products. We have put together an investment plan that runs from 2018 to 2020 which comprises three pillars: Increasing production capacity to 1.5 million tons per year (mt/y), which would satisfy 70 to 75 percent of domestic market needs, modernizing equipment to produce crude oil more efficiently and ‘Arret Metal’ – a temporary shutdown during which an intensive battery of tests is undergone aiming to increase safety and security.

Upon reaching those objectives in 2020, our next goal will be to reach a capacity of 2.5 to 3 mt/y. Such figures will allow us to fully satisfy the needs of the domestic market while fuelling national economic growth up to 5 percent, as well as reaffirm our position as a strategic partner for key stakeholders on the regional ground. These production capacity boosts are planned to go in hand with a strong increase of the storage capacities for both crude oil and refined products. Total investment for these goals is around $79 million.

Are you planning to expand within the current area of the refinery?

The ‘circle of the danger’ – a determined area around the refinery in which the resident population could be exposed to industrial hazards such as pollution or explosions – which has been stated multiple times in the press, is not an issue as such. No population is at risk due to the activities of the refinery within its area of activity. However, we must improve the logistics from the port to the refinery. The route goes through several highly-populated zones which can pose potential risks.

In terms of expansion, the size of our land allows us to build new infrastructure and meet the capacity goals I mentioned earlier. Additionally, our long-term plan is to comply with Afri4 and Afri5 norms. A flagship investment in that sense is to acquire a hydrocracker which will be able to treat crude with a higher concentration of sulphur, as well as produce more environmentally friendly petroleum products. This strategy is in line with the global push towards greener energy production which SAR intends to fully comply with. Appropriate design and construction works will allow SAR to reach all these ambitious goals while staying within this space.