Industry players have proffered solutions to the challenges facing the downstream operation of the petroleum sector. The experts noted that digitalization of the industry, among others, will address the problems, writes AFOLABI IDOWU.

With new refineries coming on stream and old ones billed for overhaul, experts have stressed the need for government and private players to ensure that digital technologies are deployed for improved process safety, and asset performance.

These, will, in turn, reduce unplanned shutdowns and establish predictive maintenance with condition-based implementation by merging technology and maintenance data.

While research has revealed that digitalization could be a source of positive change, there are a number of challenges that need to be overcome to realize its full potential for both downstream businesses and Nigerian society. The increase in automated processes and systems has created new risks around data privacy and security; and this has forced downstream businesses to grapple with challenges related to changing customer expectations, cultural transformation, outdated regulation and skill shortages – to name a few.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), recently revealed that daily consumption of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise called petrol, remained unknown, but experts argued that the high level of fraud committed across retail outlets, and challenges associated with haulage of products in-country, can be addressed if digital technology is deployed. Interestingly, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) recently commenced the gradual phase-out of manual measurements of fuel at petrol stations.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja, after conducting surveillance of petrol stations, Zonal Controller, Abuja Office of the DPR, Mr. Buba Abubakar, said the agency has identified three focal areas in its quest to restore sanity in the downstream petroleum industry. “We are going to look at diversion, hoarding, and under-dispensing very well because they are cheating the public in terms of under-dispensing. We are going to look at these three things,” Abubakar said.

Despite all these challenges facing the downstream petroleum industry, there are still a few emerging companies determined to improve the downstream operations sector of which one is Enyo Retail and Supply. Enyo Retail’s Chief Executive Officer, Abayomi Awobokun, revealed in Lagos that the company was determined to pioneer the digitalization of Nigeria’s downstream operations.

“Digitalisation is the future of downstream operational efficiency and most of the recent excitement in the sector would come under that heading. Smart stations are being built; the competence of employees of the station is expected to increase; while things like inventory control, management, and supplies are now being done automatically and that for me is great,” Awobokun said.

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