Fairfax Africa Fund, Asia partner to build $4 billion refinery in Ethiopia

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A US-based investment firm is collaborating with partners from Asian countries to build an oil refinery in Ethiopia.

The project, worth $4 billion, is expected to serve the country and the rest of East African market. Located in the eastern Ethiopian town of Awash; some 220 kilometres from the capital Addis Ababa, the refinery will have the capacity to process 120,000 barrels per day. That is equal to six million metric tonnes of crude oil.

“Here in Ethiopia over the next ten to fifteen years there is going to be a very massive transformation in the economy from what used to be an agrarian to what is to become an industrial based economy,”  said Zemedeneh Negatu, Global Chairperson at the Fairfax Africa Fund. “That means a very significant increase in transportation which is what is what this refinery comes into. By the way, it’s not just a refinery. The refinery is just the first component…we are going to have an entire petrochemical over the next fifteen years.”

At the moment Ethiopia uses three million metric tons of fuel every year.

“The aim is to service all of East Africa. To just give you a very quick reference point …all of East Africa…which is a couple of hundred million people…has just one tiny refinery. And yet East Africa is actually the fastest growing region in Africa as a whole. And on the later of that the fact that there is a lot of urbanisation going on we figured this is a viable project. Now the 4 billion is an estimate. It could be slightly lower or it could be slightly higher.” Negatu said.

Reports suggest Ethiopia built its first oil refinery in 1967 in the Port of Assab in current Eritrea.

The then refinery built by Russian engineers had the capacity of producing 500,000MT of fuel per year only. Then it was upgraded to process 800,000MT of fuel per annum.

But the new facility will eventually have the capacity of refining 12 million metric tons of crude oil yearly. That will boost the confidence of Ethiopia’s energy security program.


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