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REFINERY NEWS ROUNDUP: New closures loom in Europe

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REFINERY NEWS ROUNDUP: New closures loom in Europe

  • Author
  • Elza Turner
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  • Daniel Lalor
  • Commodity
  • Agriculture Coal Energy Transition Natural Gas Oil Petrochemicals

New closures loom in Europe as Shell plans to end crude processing at the Wesseling site within the Rhineland refining complex, adding to a list of permanent or temporary shutdowns.

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** Shell plans to end crude processing at the Wesseling site within the Rhineland refining complex in 2025 as the facilities are repurposed for non-fossil fuel feedstocks and renewable hydrogen production. Shell outlined plans for the facility to take a variety of new biogenic and waste feedstocks, underlining that no final investment decision had yet been taken, and crude processing would still take place at the adjoining Godorf site. The Wesseling portion of the Rhineland refinery accounts for half the overall refining capacity, or 8 million mt/year. In October the Refhyne II consortium developing a 100-MW electrolyzer to produce renewable hydrogen at the Wesseling site received a Eur32.4 million ($37.4 million) grant from the EU. The project follows on from the 10-MW Refhyne I at the refinery, Europe's largest proton exchange membrane electrolyzer, which started operations in July, producing up to 1,300 mt/year of renewable hydrogen.

** Petroineos's Grangemouth refinery in Scotland has seen its capacity reduced by 30% to around 150,000 b/d after the closures of a crude distillation unit and the fluid catalytic cracker. In January, the company concluded consultations with employees regarding its proposal to reconfigure the Grangemouth refinery. The company had previously proposed a smaller refining operation at Grangemouth and plans to mothball the CDU1 and the FCC, two units that "have been closed throughout the COVID pandemic due to significantly reduced local and international demand for fuels".

** The Livorno refinery in northwest Italy will stop refining crude and suspend all related activities by the end of 2022. The production of lubricants and ancillary activities will continue for the foreseeable future. In January, Eni said it was evaluating the conversion of Livorno into a biorefinery.

** ExxonMobil permanently shut its Slagen refinery in Norway in June to convert the site into a fuel import terminal.

** Gunvor's Rotterdam refinery shuttered its two crude processing units, one in 2019 and the other in 2020, and is developing new processes around hydrogen and the coprocessing of vegetable oil. Gunvor has also agreed to partner with petrochemical group Dow to purify pyrolysis oil feedstocks derived from plastic waste, using an existing unit at its refinery site in Rotterdam.

** Gunvor's refinery in Antwerp is being mothballed, with terminal activities continuing at the site. Future development opportunities are being assessed.

** TotalEnergies said it would convert the Grandpuits refinery into a biofuel and plastics recycling complex, ending crude refining at the site in early 2021.

** Portugal's Galp said in April the last units at its Porto refinery should be stopped at the end of the month and decommissioning will then start, to be followed by decontamination. The company had said it would discontinue refining operations at the Porto refinery from 2021 and concentrate its core refining activities and future developments at the larger Sines refinery. The site at Porto will remain a logistics hub, with the company assessing other uses.

** Finland's Neste said it had discontinued refining operations at its smaller Naantali refinery at the end of March 2021. With Naantali shut down, the company will focus the site on terminal and harbor operations.

In other news, Valero said it expected 435,000-455,000 b/d throughput at its North Atlantic refineries in Q4. Those are the 235,000 b/d Quebec City refinery and the 270,000 b/d Pembroke plant.

Meanwhile, demand for oil products has mostly been rising in Europe and margins have improved.

The volume of vehicle fuels supplied from storage facilities to the Spanish retail market in October increased 18% year on year to 3.2 million cu m (2.6 million mt), driven by strong increases in kerosene and gasoline volumes, data from national fuel distributor Exolum showed. The volume of kerosene supplied in the month was 440,000 cu m (352,000 mt), an increase of 165% year on year, as travel conditions normalized.

Italy's refined oil product demand for September rose 5.9%, or by 282,000 mt, year on year to 5 million mt, according to industry group Unione Energie per la Mobilita. Oil product demand in the month was 3.2%, or 169,000 mt, lower than September 2019 -- pre-COVID-19. Italian demand for refined oil products in the first nine months of the year rose 9.2% to 40.6 million mt, according to Unem, to be 9.8% lower than the 2019 January-September period.

Eni said Oct. 29 that throughput at its Italian refineries in the third quarter rose 23% year on year to 4.53 million mt. In the rest of the world, it achieved 14% higher throughput at 2.77 million mt. During the first nine months of the year its Italian refineries' throughput was 14% higher at 12.38 million mt, and in the rest of the world it achieved 22% higher throughput at 8.07 million mt. The company reported 83% average utilization rate in the third quarter, up from 69% last year, and 76% in January-September, up from 68%.

Austria-based OMV reported utilization of 86% at its European refineries in the first nine months of the year, down from 87% last year. Its refineries in Europe ran at 91% utilization in the third quarter, up from 90% in the year-ago quarter. The company expects its 2021 utilization at European refineries to be above the 2020 level of 86%. Previously it expected the same utilization rate as last year. "In 2021, there is no major turnaround planned for our refineries in Europe," it said.

OMV Petrom said its Petrobrazi refinery operated at 95% utilization in January-September 2021, compared with 90% in the year-ago period. Its Q3 utilization was 100%, compared with 86% in Q3 2020, "significantly above the European average." The 2021 utilization rate is expected above 95% compared with 92% in 2020.

France's TotalEnergies reported higher refinery throughput in Q3 amid improved margins. Throughput at its French refineries was up 3% on the quarter at 274,000 b/d but remained 46% down compared with 2019. Overall, its throughput in Q3 was 1% up on the year at 1.225 million b/d, but 29% down from 2019. Throughput at all its refineries was 1.147 million b/d in Jan-Sept, 12% down on the year. Its Donges refinery remains offline for economic reasons, whereas Grandpuits stopped refining in Q1 and will be converted to a zero-oil platform. In Q2, 2021 it sold the Lindsey refinery in the UK, whereas its Leuna refinery in Germany carried out a large scale maintenance in Q2.

Poland's largest refiner PKN Orlen said Oct. 28 that higher domestic fuel demand and an improved macroeconomic environment saw it raise throughput in the third quarter by 1% year on year to 8.319 million mt, boosting sales by 5% to 6.7 million mt. Utilization of the company's refineries increased 1 percentage point to 94%, the company said in a Q3 results report. Throughput at Plock fell 2% to 4.139 million mt and utilization dropped 2 percentage points to 101% thanks to throughput optimization of heavy refining fractions. Throughput at Orlen Lietuva in Lithuania rose 6% to 2.185 million mt and utilization was up 4 percentage points to 85% on the improved macro environment. Throughput at the Czech Unipetrol refineries rose 1% to 1.935 million mt and utilization was flat at 88%.

Polish refiner Grupa Lotos increased throughput in the third quarter by 5.8% year on year to 2.699 million mt as a rebounding economy saw demand for both diesel and gasoline rise, the company said Oct 29. Utilization of the Gdansk refinery was up slightly year on year to 102%.

Turkish refiner Tupras said its total refinery output in the first nine months of 2021 was 18.0 million mt, up 4.0% year on year, with Q3 production up 9.0% from Q2 to 6.9 million mt, which was up 7.8% year on year. Tupras attributed the continuing quarterly and annual rises in production to ongoing improvement in distillate demand and normalizing inventories. Tupras said that due to the recovery in demand its capacity utilization rate for Q3 had risen to 96% from 91% in Q2, and for the nine months to 84.1% up from 80.9% over the same period in 2020.

However, Finland's Neste on Oct. 27 reported a large fall in its oil product sales and production in the first nine months of the year, hit by a major turnaround at the Porvoo refinery in the second quarter. The refinery started the turnaround in early April, scheduled to last for about 12 weeks. On June 24 it said it had completed the turnaround and production had restarted. Reporting third-quarter results on Oct. 27, Neste said refinery production in the quarter came in at 2.828 million mt, down from 3.302 million mt for the same period a year ago. Production in January-September came in at 6.544 million mt, down from 9.861 million mt in the same period last year.

In other news, Phillips 66 said its UK refinery in Humber is "the most efficient refinery we have in the fleet" in terms of energy costs and does not need to buy "a lot of natural gas to run the refinery". The high natural gas prices are "a headwind but it's not a large headwind by any means, for Humber," the company said during a conference call, adding that the Humber refinery has a "pretty large" catalytic cracker and three cokers which "are fuel gas generating units." "A lot of refineries have the ability to fuel propane and a little bit of butane," the company said during the conference call adding that another way to produce more gas is by "turning up the severity" on the catcracker. High natural gas prices recently had resulted in high hydrogen costs and have been putting pressure on refinery economics in Europe forcing some plants to halt units, such as hydrocrackers.

The hydrocracker at TotalEnergies' Antwerp refinery is offline, according to market sources. The halt has been attributed to high hydrogen costs.


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Near-term maintenance

New and revised entries

** Croatia's Rijeka refinery started a planned temporary shutdown Oct. 28 for a catalyst replacement and will use the time for works on other units, while product deliveries to the market will be ensured during the shutdown.

** Spain's Bilbao halted its G4 diesel desulfurization unit at plant 1 Oct. 27 a diesel desulfurization unit without saying how long it will be offline. The refinery restarted the H4 hydrogen unit in plant 1, that was halted Oct. 26 for a day, it said.

** Galp will carry out a 20-day maintenance on the hydrocracker at Sines starting from the last week of October. The crude distillation unit at the refinery, halted around Oct. 11 due to an unplanned outage at one of its furnaces, has been operating below normal rates as the furnace has been halted for repairs. The company expects the work to be concluded this quarter, and the refinery operating fully by year-end. Overall throughput in the fourth quarter could be 30% lower than Q3 at 15 million mt.

** France's Feyzin has restarted its CDU after an outage since early October. The unit was halted following a fire, and only the FCC unit remained online. The company declined to comment. It had said at the time of the fire that the refinery had to adapt operations at certain units. The fire, in the early hours of Oct. 4, was put out quickly with no casualties, the company said, adding it was ensuring supply to its service stations and customers.

** Maintenance continued at MOL's Danube refinery in the first part of the fourth quarter, following smaller works throughout the second and third quarters, the company said in its third-quarter earnings presentation Nov. 5. MOL said earlier it was executing a more intense maintenance schedule this year, after planned works were postponed in 2020 to control costs.

** Turkish refiner Tupras said that the periodic maintenance of the vacuum unit and lube complex at its Izmir refinery, both of which were scheduled to take six weeks during Q4, had been postponed to 2022. All other maintenance scheduled for its Batman, Izmir and Izmit refineries during 2021 was reported as completed except for the revamp of the FCC unit at its 227,000 b/d Izmit refinery which started in Q1. In its H1 report, Tupras said the work was scheduled to take 30 weeks but gave no anticipated completion date. According to its nine-month report, the work was ongoing and now slated to take 41 weeks, but again with no completion date mentioned. The periodic maintenance of the crude unit at Izmit, scheduled to take two weeks during Q4 was reported as completed. No maintenance was scheduled for Tupras's Kirikkale refinery during 2021.

Existing entries

** Lukoil's Neftochim refinery in Burgas, Bulgaria and in Ploiesti Romania, are expected back after works in late November, according to market sources. Burgas has postponed major works scheduled for 2021. The refinery typically carries out works in February and March but has deferred them to later in 2021.

** Sweden's Gothenburg refinery is currently undergoing maintenance, which was planned for Q4 2021.

** Spain's Repsol said Sept. 30 it will invest Eur75 million ($87 million) in a planned halt, which includes a full turnaround of its conversion and hydrotreatment units at Cartagena including the coker -- Europe's largest. The work, the largest and most expensive in the refinery's history, was planned to start the weekend of Oct. 2 and last 50 days. Besides the simultaneous work on all the conversion units, Repsol will carry out energy efficiency projects, which will result in a CO2 emission reduction of 68,000 mt/y. These include a new compressor in one of the flaring stacks, a new pre-heating unit in the topping unit's furnace and a new tower in that same location, the company said.

** Italy's Sannazzaro de Burgondi refinery has been taken partially offline for large-scale maintenance works. Maintenance and upgrade works are being carried out on the slurry technology (EST) unit, which was taken offline following a fire in 2016, as well as on the refinery's hydrocracking unit and the visbreaking plant. All units were expected to be kept offline for some 18 months. Eni's EST plant had originally been scheduled to restart in 2020.

** The Canary Islands' only refinery on Tenerife will be permanently closed in the long term. There has been no production since 2014. Cepsa will install some logistics and storage facilities at the site, amid a wider regeneration project.


Existing entries

** OMV is planning a turnaround at its Burghausen refinery in Germany during the third quarter of 2022. The entire refinery will be at a standstill, including the butadiene plant.

** Israel's Bazan has delayed scheduled maintenance of the FCC at Haifa from Q2 2021 to the first half of 2022 when there will be also maintenance at all the Carmel Olefin facilities.

** Gunvor Group said that its Ingolstadt refinery in Germany will undertake projects focused on heating systems and exchangers "to continue improving its energy efficiency and reduce its emissions." A planned turnaround in 2023 will allow additional reductions, by carrying out projects on the FCC.

** Poland's second-largest refiner Grupa Lotos will carry the second part of the maintenance at its Gdansk refinery in the spring of 2022.

** Czech Unipetrol said that following the turnaround at its Litvinov plant in Q2'20 the refinery has prepared production for a new four-year cycle. Thus, the next turnaround is due in 2024.

** Two months of maintenance at the Sarpom refinery in Trecate, Italy, originally scheduled for October 2019 have been pushed back to 2021. Details on which units at the refinery will be upgraded as part of the maintenance -- of the kind needed every 3-4 years -- had yet to emerge.

** The Holborn refinery near Hamburg, northern Germany, plans its next turnaround in 2023. Its previous maintenance was in the autumn of 2018. The refinery carries out major works every five years.

** Romania's Petrobrazi will undergo its next big turnaround in 2022.

** With its 2020 maintenance, Romania's Petromidia and the petrochemical division "will align with the new operating strategy, with a general turnaround scheduled for four years and technological shutdowns scheduled for two years," the company said.

** Total's Feyzin is considering mothballing a visbreaker unit around 2021 as demand for heavy fuel is gradually declining and the unit works on average no more than three days a month.