*As South Africa’s NATREF Refineries shutdown for maintenance

Four countries, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa must prepare themselves not only a possible shortage of ULP 93 petroleum, but even deepen their pockets as the supplier, NATREF shuts down for maintenance beginning next week.

The maintenance is an important division of an oil refinery, a critical work program of regular periodic plant maintenance and repair of equipment materials and systems which can last for a few weeks up to months. Botswana Guardian has learnt that this time it is expected to last for three months. Refineries in the African continent are no longer producing ULP 93, save for NATREF, but even when operating at full throttle, NATREF are currently producing not enough of its product in the market of the above-mentioned countries, where it is most sort due to being cheaper than the ULP 95.

Calls have been made, questions asked on the consumption of the three grades of a diesel, ULP95 and ULP 93 instead of just two, diesel and ULP 50 because experts argue that it has not been easy for Botswana Oil Limited since assuming its full mandate of ensuring security supply of fuel and to encourage and grow the participation of citizens in the value chain of the oil industry.

It is said that although it is expected that before shutting down, NATREF will have stockpiled, the catch and the risk here could be the maintenance shutdown and as it has happened before, might take longer than expected.

This shutdown is not happening for the first time, but the difference is in the past, Botswana had five companies managing stock, and preparing for such shutdown. Now it is only BOL who manages strategic stocks and distribution in the country. Industry experts who spoke to Botswana Guardian on condition of anonymity anticipate constraints for the next three months. This on its own puts pressure on BOL to advocate to the regulator to phase out ULP 93 or to raise its price to the ULP 95 so that it does not make a difference to the consumers.