Urgent financing is needed to upgrade oil refineries and associated storage and distribution infrastructure to help avoid the numbers of premature deaths caused by air pollution in developing economies, the African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARA) has said.
Anibor Kragha, new Executive Secretary of ARA said: “Whether through product imports or refinery investment, Africa needs both project and trade financing for improved port and storage logistics to meet petroleum products shortfalls. But what’s often forgotten is that Africa needs to embrace the improvements to our vehicle maintenance and controls required to assure that the clean fuels supplied deliver the desired objective of cleaner air – with all the well-documented consequent benefits to public health and economic development”.
He said this ahead of the ARA WEEK 2020 conference that was postponed due to constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally held annually in Cape Town during March, it came off virtually between October 5-7.
According to the World Health Organisation, each year air-pollution causes 7 million premature deaths – of which 600,000 are children, and Mr, Kragha says the challenges are clear: “Not only do we need cleaner fuels but also cleaner vehicles to achieve the cleaner air that will prevent the premature deaths other developing economies around the world have experienced.
“To achieve this, we need to urgently attract the requisite financing needed to upgrade our refineries and complementary pipelines, depots and terminals, with rigorous analysis of the socio-economic and supply security benefits of each of these investments, which may often compete with each other.
“With reference to the contention by environmental lobbyists that Africa must leapfrog technology improvements to embrace alternative, less carbon-intensive solutions rather than invest in hydrocarbon fuels, the ARA argues that such an approach fails to understand the complexities of African fuel and energy supply chains, and could actually make the problem worse by delaying necessary investments to supply cleaner fuels across the continent.”
To lend credence to the urgent need for transitioning to cleaner energy, ARA has prioritised a two-step path to the future: first, clean fuels; second, climate-change mitigation policies.
Mr. Kragha applauded the policies of his predecessor, Joël Dervain, in laying out the policies needed by the downstream – supply, refining, storage, distribution and marketing – sector of the oil industry.
Ultimately, he said, an economic, efficient, safe, secure and sustainable supply chain for clean fuels is essential to address public health concerns, avoid energy poverty and drive industrial expansion and trade across Africa.
“The key is to define ‘sustainable’, he says. “Only then can we secure the financing for projects required to upgrade our refineries and infrastructure and deliver efficient supply chains for clean fuels to let Africa catch up with the rest of the world on the climate-change agenda.”
ARA was formed in 2006 in order to provide a pan-African voice for the African oil supply, refining and distribution industry. The ARA represents not only refiners but also many product importers, storage companies, marketers and government regulators.