Akeredolu Breaks Bitumen Jinx in Ondo State
By Gracious Akintayo
The Southern part of Ondo state carries in its belly one of the largest reserves of bitumen in the world. The natural gift is estimated to be about 42 billion barrels. It is said to have been discovered in the year 1904.
For decades, exploitation of the bitumen deposits appeared to be a hard nut to crack. The jinx, however, is finally broken by the Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu government. This feat is a function of steely commitment with sincerity of purpose.
In a release signed by Ojo Oyewamide, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Akeredolu on Media and Publicity, an indigenous company, the South West Bitumen Exploration Limited (SWB), will commence modular exploitation of the bitumen deposits regarded to be the largest in Africa.
SWB has secured a 25-Year renewable Operational Mining License. The firm has its operational base at Lamidifa in Irele Local Government Area of the state, and has moved its equipment to the operational base.
The target of the company is a monthly output of 20,000 tonnes of bitumen and plans to raise the output to 50,000 tonnes after achieving stabilisation.
He further stated, “The journey of the bitumen dream to reality was long and painful. Hope of the take-off of the the bitumen project was raised in February 2001 when Nigeria signed a joint venture agreement with Venezuela.
In March 2001, the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, assured a delegation led by the then Regent of Akure, Princess Adeyinka Adesida, that bitumen exploitation would begin in Ondo state by April 2002, but nothing came out of the Nigeria-Venezuela agreement and the assurance remained unsure.
The administration of late Chief Adebayo Adefarati also made efforts to realise the dream. The administration secured approval for the exploitation of the mineral deposits and floated the Bitumen Exploration and Exploitation Company Nigeria Limited (BEECON) to drive it.
The government brought the then president, Chief Obasanjo, to the bitumen site in Irele to launch the excavation of the natural gift. The late governor and some officials of his administration transversed the world in search of investors for the the project. But all the efforts yielded no fruits before Chief Adefarati left the government.
The Olusegun Mimiko administration also tried its best. In May 2015, the administration succeeded in securing four Bitumen Exploration Licenses and signed a Joint Operating Agreement with an American firm, Liquefied Resources in 2016. The agreement stated that bitumen exploitation would take off immediately.
The company was expected to commence with 10,000 barrels per day and later raise the output to 25,000. The American firm was said to be ready to invest One hundred and Fifty Million Dollars in the project. President of the firm, Thomas Cooley, promised to do everything necessary to make the project a dream come true. But the Mimiko’s administration efforts also failed to bear any fruit. Maybe it was not a cool business for Mr. Cooley.
Considering where the journey started from, Arakunrin Akeredolu administration deserves commendation for transforming the bitumen dream to reality.
He added, this is obvious and not denying the fact that, some little minds induced and blindness by partisan bitterness and hatred may not see this reality.
They exhibit ignorance on social media without understanding that there are different types of bitumen and the processes of exploiting them are also different.
Throwing more light and giving true picture on the bitumen project, the representative of the company handling the project, Engr. Adeiya Oluwatominiyi, said, “The processing equipment are German-made and done with the exact requirement for the exploitation of the particular type of bitumen in the state. We have brought the earth moving equipment like the bulldozers, escavators and the wheel loaders”.
“We use bulldozer for the clearing of the identified outcrop after which we take the escavator to extract the tar sand and stockpile them in the yard for processing. The type of bitumen we have is tar sand. After we must have deployed the bulldozer, the escalator will load the tipper and bring it here for processing. This is where we will be doing the processing.
“This is a pilot case. It is modular exploitation. What we have in Nigeria is tar sand bitumen. Not like in Petroleum when you are tapping from it to get bitumen. We are not getting it from the cracking of anything. What we need to do is to heat it with the required technology.”
According to insinuation from some quarters that, the commencement of the bitumen exploitation in the state is meant to secure votes for the incumbent governor. And this was outrightly denied by the state government, who stated that Governor Akeredolu does not play politics with issues affecting the state development and growth.
According to Oyewamide, instead of commending and applauding this breakthrough, for political reasons, some people are suggesting that the project should be stopped because of the coming gubernatorial election”.
Noting that, the journey to this breakthrough did not start overnight. It started in February 2017 when SWB expressed interest in working with the state government to realise the age-long bitumen project and break the Jinx.
This is a project that will fundamentally transform the socio-economic situation of the state. Creates employment and job opportunities to thousands youths and citizens of the state, also will include the state as a member of the league of industrialised states in Nigeria, he stated.
“With the bitumen project, the industrial hub in Ore and the Deep Sea Port, the sun cannot shine better than this”.