Sulphur-heavy Fuels Flow as Nigeria, Others Defer Ban

  • Sulphur-heavy Fuels Flow as Nigeria, Others Defer Ban

Nigeria and several other West African states are not expected to implement rules banning imports of sulphur-heavy fuels until December 1 at the earliest after missing summer deadlines, drawing the ire of health campaigners pushing for cleaner air.

Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast and Benin promised in late 2016 to ban the use of fuel packed with sulphur that is a major air pollutant, particularly in cities.

Such fuel has long been illegal in Western nations and is increasingly outlawed in the developing world. But deadlines for bans in the four West African states keep being pushed back.

Ghana is the only regional state that has delivered on a pledge and codified rules preventing the import or transport of high sulphur gasoline or diesel.

“The clean fuels lobby declared victory a bit too soon,” Reuters quoted Energy Aspects analyst, James McCullagh, as saying, adding, “This is ultimately a complicated and sensitive decision about politics, the gasoline pump price cap, subsidies and investment in public health.”

Nigeria, the region’s biggest fuel consumer, missed a July 1 deadline and instead launched a task force to examine the issue. The country produces oil but lacks refining capacity so has to import most oil products.

An official of Nigeria’s Environment Ministry told Reuters that the task force aimed to advise the government on a new standard by late September, with new rules possible by December 1.

The United Nations Environment Programme, which has joined health campaigners pressing for change, said smaller nations, Togo and Benin, were waiting for Nigeria to act, while Ivory Coast had not progressed at all.

The five nations had promised cleaner fuel rules under pressure from campaign group, Public Eye, which criticised them and international trade houses for allowing cars, trucks and households to burn fuels banned in much of the rest of the world.

Ghana followed up by slashing sulphur content to 50 parts per million for imported petrol and diesel, from 1,000ppm and 3,000ppm.

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria, which writes import rules, proposed caps of 50ppm for diesel and 150ppm for petrol. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation included prices for them in contracts to swap oil for products – at a cost of at least $25 a tonne more.

But Nigeria did not codify the standards in law, or issue new specifications to importers.

“As it stands, the status quo remains,” one Nigerian fuel importer said, adding “nothing at all” had come from government.

Campaigners are struggling to keep the issue on the public agenda. David Ugolor, a Nigeria-based campaigner who worked with Public Eye, said the cause lacked “someone with a strong political position” to implement the rules. He said the group was looking for ways to put pressure on suppliers.

The NNPC contracts showed 150ppm gasoline would cost anywhere from $20-$30 per tonne more than fuel with higher sulphur, while lower sulphur diesel would add just $10-$15 a tonne, McCullagh said. Because Nigerian gasoline prices are capped, the government would have to raise prices for consumers or shoulder the extra cost.

Given the higher cost of cleaner gasoline, campaigners said Nigeria might only introduce stricter rules for diesel.

“Gasoline (petrol) is the most consumed product, so that wouldn’t necessarily solve the pollution problem,” said David Bleasdale, executive director of consultancy firm, CITAC, saying Nigerian gasoline consumption was about 323,055 barrels per day in 2016 compared with 71,657bpd of distillates, such as diesel.

About the Author

Samed Olukoya
Samed Olukoya is the CEO/Founder of, a digital business media, with over 10 years' experience as a foreign exchange research analyst and trader. A graduate of University of East London, U.K. and a vivid financial markets analyst.

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