Eyes glued to screens and flashing lights in the control room, 32-year-old Mohamed Said Amer, an operations field engineer at the Egyptian Refining Company (ERC), reflects on the path that led him to achieve his professional and personal goals.
“I have witnessed this impressive industrial project being built from the ground up. I have seen the ERC come to life and I’ve been fortunate enough to hold positions with Petrojet, the subcontractor for the project, Korea’s GS Engineering & Construction Corporation, the construction company on the project, and finally with EPROM, the operating company that runs the refinery,” he said.
Amer has done all this since graduating from Assiut University’s Faculty of Engineering in 2012.
ERC, which is a greenfield petroleum refinery company and a subsidiary of Qalaa Holdings, runs a refinery that stands on 350,000 sqm in Mostorod, in Qaliubyia governorate. The refinery, which is located 40km outside central Cairo, operates 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
The ERC was born from a desire to ease Egypt’s reliance on imports and to produce cleaner fuels, a cornerstone of the country’s energy security policy. Today it is one of the largest industrial units of its kind in Africa.
“I can truly say that every day at ERC, I have learned something new. The knowledge transfer that we received working alongside Dutch, Korean, French, Serbian and American engineers and technicians during the different phases of the project lifecycle has helped me to learn and translate my academic skills into practical knowledge, and I in turn have passed those skills on to others,” said Amer, who sees no need to emigrate in order to achieve his dreams.
With nearly $222m in funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the project meets Egypt’s growing demand for refined petroleum products.
“From the outset, we knew that we would need to call not just on our own financial resources, but on a deep network of international investors, banks and guarantors to transform a $4.4bn megaproject into a reality,” said Ahmed Heikal, Chairperson and founder of Qalaa Holdings, adding, “From day one they were able to see that this project, which has been 12 years in the making, was going to have a transformative effect on Egypt’s economy.”
The ERC today enables the conversion of the lowest-value fuel into medium and light distillates that meet domestic consumption needs. It also eliminates 186,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide and 96,000 tonnes of sulphur annually, whilst also improving the quality of Egypt’s petrol supply. It has created more than 15,000 jobs at peak construction, and 1,000 permanent local job opportunities.
The ERC also provides social development programmes, including Takaful, a partnership with local community associations that has benefited many local residents. Ahmed Mahmoud, who is deaf, is one of them.
“I not only perform in local theatre productions with my peers, I am also creating and producing my own shows for the community,” Mahmoud said.
Takaful has sponsored three childcare centres, serving more than 2,000 children, and provided assistance to over 5,400 individuals with special needs.
The refinery also works to boost the local economy. Through Tamkeen, a women’s economic empowerment programme financed by the ERC, young entrepreneur Amal Mohsen has launched her own business.
Tamkeen has sponsored hundreds of small projects for local women, and set up four employment centres to link 30,000 local youths to the job market.
“Tamkeen helped me to open my own beauty salon, and as a result I have been able to financially support myself and my family,” said Amal, who has since married and had children. Her business now employs two people.
From the start, the project has made a difference, said Aliaa Heikal, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the ERC.
“We have been planning, working, and talking about the transformative nature of this project for years,” Heikal said, “Since the start of operations in early 2019, the ERC has effectively reduced imports, made a positive environmental impact and created thousands of jobs.”
She added, “We are also proud that our initiatives in education, economic empowerment, youth capacity building and special needs programmes have been making a positive social impact on the surrounding community in Mostorod.”