A piece of equipment that will process crude oil for Nigeria’s Dangote refinery set sail on Monday from China, oil company Sinopec said in a tweet.
The 650,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery near Lagos is set to be Africa’s largest, and could transform the country from a fuels importer to a net exporter.
“On July 29, the world’s largest atmospheric tower built by Sinopec slowly left a wharf in Ningbo,” the Sinopec tweet said. “Following the Maritime #SilkRoad, it will travel to #Nigeria and be installed at the world’s biggest single-train facility – Nigeria’s Dangote Refinery.”
For the type of refinery the company is building, the atmospheric tower is the primary unit processing crude oil into fuels, Citac analyst Jeremy Parker told Reuters. It will likely take at least a month to reach Lagos.
Billionaire Aliko Dangote, who built his fortune on cement, said last year that he planned to finish building the $12-14 billion refinery in 2019 and to start production in early 2020.
Most analysts and observers said the ambitious project would take longer in order to begin pumping out fuels such as diesel and gasoline.
“This is a major milestone, but there is still much work to be done, both in terms of sourcing the other units and in terms of interconnection at the site,” Parker said of the atmospheric tower shipment.
Citac expects the refinery to start producing fuels in 2023.
Sources told Reuters last year that it was unlikely to start production until at least 2022, two years later than the target date.
Dangote Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.