The Executive Secretary, Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Dr Bello Aliyu Gusau has charged a Working Group on the commercialization of zeolite to ensure Nigeria becomes an exporter of the product in the next few years.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Zeolites are any of a large group of minerals consisting of hydrated aluminosilicates of sodium, potassium, calcium, and barium.

They are widely used as ion-exchange beds in domestic and commercial water purification, softening and other applications.

Gusau who gave the charge on Tuesday at the PTDF headquarters in Abuja, while inaugurating the Zeolite Working Group said the initiative would save the country so much money.

“This is yet another meeting dedicated to a particular purpose, aimed at ensuring production of homegrown Zeolite catalyst for the Nigerian refining industry.

“If you recall, we met last time here on Sept. 10 and we agreed as a way forward to set up a working group that will among other things pursue the effort to see this initiative to fusion.

“The idea of this particular initiative is that the amount of money this country spends to export subsequent catalyst, if we are able to make serious headway in this, it will be a thing of the past.

“So, that is why we are bringing all the necessary stakeholders to chat a way forward including the NNPC, DPR, Nigerian Content Management and Development Board, the refineries including Dangote refinery.

“The Nigerian fuel industry is increasingly shifting towards the downstream and by the time we start refining just 50 per cent of what we produce, the demand for such catalyst will be huge; so, we think it is time we do something about it before we get to that point,” Gusau said.

Mr. Olajide Adebulehin, General Manager, Strategic Planning, PTDF said the ultimate objective of the working group would be to localise the production of zeolite for refineries and petro chemical industries in Nigeria.

Zeolite sample
He explained that the committee’s term of reference would include ensuring standardization of existing zeolite laboratories and pilot plant.

“The committee will also access existing zeolite standardization measures and facilities in the country and liaise with relevant agencies.

“Secure and market Intellectual Property (IP) and patents where necessary; carry out local and international bench-marking on zeolite products.

“Develop public awareness and enlightenment strategy on usage of locally produced zeolite in the country,” Adebulehin said.

Prof. Baba El-Yakubu, PTDF – Chair Professor, Ahmed Bello University (ABU), Zaria, said the country has the capacity to convert raw material to zeolite.

El-Yakubu who is a professor in the Chemical Engineering Department, ABU, explained that they had been able to use locally available clay material “choline” to convert clay to zeolite.

He said plans were in the pipeline to establish a zeolite plant in the country.

The University don said: “We have registered patent between ABU and PTDF; now this zeolite working group will help to commercialise that process.

“All the chemistry and detail regulations have been done, now the objective as stated earlier is to commercialise the process looking at overall capacity requirement in terms of tonnage of zeolite in Nigeria and stakeholders to be involved in buying the initial product.

“We will also look at how we can be exporting to other neighbouring countries because I can’t imagine Nigeria importing zeolite which is like clay.

“Clay is not a high-tech material and our target in the next few years is to produce zeolite locally.

“In the last 10 years, companies in Europe dominated the market, now you have companies in Japan, China, India, and Brazil producing zeolite.

“So, our objective is to produce our own zeolite and I can assure you that from the support we get from PTDF, in the next few years, there will be a plant in Nigeria producing zeolite in large amount locally, and from zeolite, we can go into other products.