German refiners are facing a 'major challenge' to replace imports of Russian crude by the year end after Europe's biggest economy and world's second largest buyer of Russian oil revealed plans to phase out almost all Russian supplies by the end of this year.
Receive daily email alerts, subscriber notes & personalize your experience.Register Now
Speaking March 25, Germany's economy minister Robert Habeck said Russian oil imports to Germany will be halved by mid-year and almost phased out by the end of this year as part of efforts to cut Germany's reliance on Russian energy due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
"Our members have already stopped signing new contracts for Russian crude oil imports. However, ongoing contractual obligations, which often run until the end of the year, must be met," a spokesperson for the Berlin-based German Fuels & Energy Association (en2x) said in a statement.
No further details on how the phase-out of Germany's Russian oil imports will be achieved have been provided by the economy and climate ministry, a spokesperson said.
"A large-scale exit from Russian oil by the end of the year is a major challenge. Together with our mineral oil companies and the ministry, we are intensively examining the fastest possible replacement of Russian oil with other imports. This also means considerable demands on logistics, both for global product flows and for Germany."
The economy ministry said alternative oil supplies will need to come from its Rostock port on the Baltic Sea or Poland's Gdansk port in addition to being supplied from the west by truck and railway.
Germany, Europe's biggest refiner and most exposed to Russian crude imports, buys Russia's Urals crude via the northern branch of Druzhba, or "Friendship", pipeline system which moves around 1 million b/d of crude from Russian fields to central Europe. PCK refinery at Schwedt and TotalEnergies' Leuna refinery are both supplied via Druzhba, although they could also get alternative supplies via the Baltic Sea ports.
Meanwhile, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said March 30 the country planned to stop using Russian oil and gas by the end of this year and called on the European Commission to introduce a tax on Russian hydrocarbons.
"We have prepared ourselves and that is why we are presenting the most radical plan to abandon [Russian] hydrocarbons in Europe," he said.
In terms of oil, Poland's largest refiner PKN Orlen sources about 50% of the crude feedstock for its Plock refinery under contracts with Russian suppliers.
The company has been diversifying away from Russian oil, buying non-Russian oil on the spot market as well as signing a supply deal with Saudi Aramco. As recently as 2013, Russian crude covered 95% of Plock's needs.
Slovakia will be able to meet its crude oil needs through increased use of the Adria pipeline if Russian supplies through the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline are cut, the Slovak economy ministry said in a statement March 31.
"In the case that Russian supplies are cut, Minister of Economy, Richard Sulik, has a written promise from the Slovnaft company that the necessary oil will be delivered using the Adria pipeline," the economy ministry said in the statement.
Slovnaft, which is 100% owned by Hungarian-based oil giant MOL, is Slovakia's sole oil refining company. Most of Slovakia's and Slovnaft's crude oil supplies are shipped from Russia by the southern arm of the Druzhba pipeline, which runs through Belarus and Ukraine and continues after Slovakia to the Czech Republic.
Separately, the JANAF pipeline could halt crude supplies to Serbia's Pancevo refinery from May 15 for an unidentified period, it said on its website. The pipeline, which moves seaborne crude from the Croatian terminal of Omisalj, said it was acting following the EU decision from March 15 for restrictive measures with regards to Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
The refinery has a contract for receiving up to 3.2 million mt of crude via the pipeline this year. It is majority owned by Gazprom Neft. The JANAF-Adria pipeline can supply crude to refineries in six countries in Southeast and Central Europe.
In other news, Italian demand for refined oil products in February rose 12.6% to 4.3 million mt from the same month last year, data from industry group Unione Energie per la Mobilita showed. Gasoline and diesel demand gained 9.9% and 17.9% respectively, of which 539,000 mt was made up of gasoline and 1.9 million mt of diesel, while jet fuel demand jumped 129.5% to 179,500 mt.
Italy's demand for refined oil products rose 11.3% year on year to 8.6 million mt in the first two months of 2022.
NEW AND ONGOING MAINTENANCE
New and revised maintenance
** The restart of France's Donges refinery has paused due to a strike, according to local media reports. France's Donges refinery commenced a restart March 16 which was due to continue for around two weeks, the refinery has said. The planned restart follows maintenance work on 60% of the refinery units between November 2021 and February 2022. During the maintenance work Donges was also building a new desulfurization unit. TotalEnergies halted operations at Donges on Nov. 30, 2020, due to weak margins. Meanwhile, a new railway to bypass the Donges plant, meaning other rail traffic will not have to pass through the site, is set to start operations in October. Work on the railway, which has been a condition for modernizing the refinery, started in 2020. The French government, local authorities, railway operator SNCF and TotalEnergies signed a memorandum of intent in 2016 to build the railway bypassing the refinery. TotalEnergies has said previously that, following the bypass agreement, it would proceed with the planned upgrade. The bypass was due to be ready in 2022.
** The gasoline units of the Milazzo refinery have been fully restarted after the plant was forced offline following an incident March 28, according to information provided by a source close to the refinery at the start of April. It's not clear when the rest of the refinery will be fully operational, though the other units are currently in the process of being restarted, the source said. The incident was caused by a drop in the electricity supply which triggered a security mechanism as well as a large flame in one of its furnaces. The refinery was forced to take some units offline.
** Major maintenance at Austria's Schwechat will start April 20 and will last approximately seven weeks. According to local media report the works are expected to last until June 4. OMV has previously said that it was planning a turnaround at Schwechat in Q2. A major turnaround is due every six years. The maintenance this year affects only the fuels part of the refinery. Another turnaround on the petrochemical units at the site is planned for 2023, the company said.
** Croatia's Rijeka refinery is in the process of restarting in late March after maintenance, according to market sources. The refinery, which started a planned temporary shutdown for a catalyst replacement at the end of October, is currently ramping up production. According to media reports, the maintenance work also involved modification of the hydrodesulfurization reactor at the hydrocracker.
** Israel's Ashdod refinery is planning full maintenance, scheduled to begin in May, the company confirmed. Market sources had previously said it is planning maintenance between May and June.
** Eni's Sannazzaro de Burgondi refinery will delay its maintenance cycle originally planned for May until after the summer. Last year the refinery carried out maintenance on the plant's slurry technology (EST) unit, which was taken offline following a fire in 2016, as well as on the refinery's hydrocracking unit, the visbreaking plant and the gas depuration unit, among others. Eni's EST plant had originally been scheduled to restart in past years but has been kept offline so far amid the nationwide slump in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
** Romania's Petromidia and Vega refineries have successfully completed their turnaround, the company said April 4. The procedure for restarting the production units has been initiated. The units "will gradually enter the technological flows and will reach capacities in about a week," the company said. The maintenance was planned to last between March 11-April 3. During the maintenance, Petromidia completed "the rehabilitation of the Petroleum Diesel Hydrotreater (HPM) unit, affected by last year's technical incident. The installation is currently being tested and will re-enter the operational stream in the next period." The refinery expects to increase its diesel output by around 10%. Petromidia aims to process 5.66 million mt of raw materials in 2022 and produce 1.2 million mt of gasoline and 2.7 million mt of diesel. The company has "sufficient stocks of raw materials to restart and achieve optimal processing capabilities as soon as possible," it said, adding that Petromidia processes crude from Kazakhstan. It has previously said it is not expecting to be impacted by the outage of the CPC terminal on the Black Sea. The Vega facility, "which operates with finished and semi-finished materials from Petromidia," had also carried out works and resumed operations.
** A unit at France's Port Jerome-Gravenchon refinery will restart after works during the afternoon of April 7, the company said. The gradual restart commenced April 6 and could cause flaring for approximately one week, ExxonMobil, operator of the refinery, said on the Allo Industrie website. The refinery had been undergoing partial maintenance since Feb. 23, of the type that is carried out every six-to-seven years and involved the main parts of the refinery, such as the alkylation unit, FCC and a gofiner.
** Spain's Bilbao refinery is restarting two more halted units as it concludes a major turnaround that started in mid February, it said April 11. The H3 hydrogen units, offline since March 1, and the P2 platforming unit, offline since March 3 were due back online April 11. Those follow the restart of the fluid catalytic cracker and desulfurization units April 8. During the halt, several large units were halted including the coker, VDU and fuel reduction units. The refinery halted its AK3 alkylation unit Feb. 17 and its vacuum unit V3 Feb. 18. It halted on March 3 the P2 platforming unit and N1 naphtha desulfurization unit. On March 1 it halted the G4 diesel desulfurization unit, H3 hydrogen production unit and cogeneration CG6 units. The larger crude distillation unit 2, VDU and coker were taken offline Feb. 15. The CDU was restarted April 4. The furnace of the conversion plant 3 restarted April 1 and the alkylation unit March 28.
** Israel's Bazan is expected to complete works on its FCC units around mid-April, according to market sources. The company has said previously that it is currently carrying out maintenance of the FCC alongside maintenance at all the Carmel Olefin facilities which has been planned for the first quarter of 2022. Bazan previously said it had delayed scheduled maintenance of the FCC at Haifa from Q2 2021 to the first half of 2022 when there would also be maintenance at all the Carmel Olefin facilities.
** Denmark's Crossbridge Energy Fredericia refinery restarted some units between April 8-10, with the process expected to cause flaring. On April 5 a fire broke out on a pipe carrying oil products, which resulted in halting the unit where it occurred. Meanwhile, its maintenance was completed at the beginning of April. The units which were part of the maintenance restarted April 2-3. The planned maintenance on some of the units commenced Feb. 26. The refinery was expected to run at reduced capacity during the shutdown. The refinery was renamed to Crossbridge Energy Fredericia after its acquisition by US-based Postlane Partners from Shell in January 2021.
** Greece's Elefsis (Elefsina) refinery, which started maintenance in early February, was expected back in early April, according to trading sources. The maintenance at Elefsina was brought forward by an incident at the end of January and was due to last until the end of March for half of the refinery and the flexicoker would be back a few weeks later.
** The ISAB refinery in Sicily is currently running a series of maintenance and upgrade works on pumps, compressors, pipelines, jetties, desulfurization and conversion units, both at its north and south refinery plants. The maintenance had started earlier in March.
** Norway's Mongstad will undergo planned maintenance in Q2, the company said. The works will start April 23 and last around six weeks. The refinery had previously postponed works that were planned for 2020.
** ExxonMobil's Antwerp refinery is currently carrying out maintenance works, according to market sources. The works, whose extent has not been confirmed, are likely to last until the end of March.
** Italy's Eni is considering converting its Livorno refinery into a biorefinery that will produce hydrogenated biofuel, according to local media reports.
Livorno can also produce biojet as well as lubricants. The plan has been discussed at a meeting with the authorities and labor unions organized by the ministry of economic development. The company however has asked for the sector to be supported by the government and a further discussion will follow.. Last year, the company unveiled plans to stop refining crude and suspend all related activities at the Livorno refinery by end 2022, according to information provided by labor unions.
** Spain's A Coruna has started planned work on four conversion units, Repsol said March 11. The company will invest Eur10 million in the work, which started March 10 and is expected to last 33 days. During the work, Repsol will carry out work on the hydrotreatment unit that will boost biofuel output. The work will allow it to process vegetable oils alongside used cooking oil to produce 5,500 mt/year in 2022, with the volume rising to 10,500 mt/year by 2024. The remainder of the work, which will generally target sulfur reduction units, will aid the overall transformation of the refinery to produce more biofuels and other low-carbon fuels.
** Poland's second largest refiner Grupa Lotos said that it will start the shutdown of refinery units for maintenance at its Gdansk refinery on March 9. The partial turnaround will shut down 50 of the refinery's 65 installations and is expected to last until April 16. The bulk of the maintenance will be carried out in March and individual units will be restarted in early April. The last stage of the project will involve the renovation of the hydrogen generation unit between April 17 and May 14. This is the second part of the planned overhaul, with the first stage taking place between February and May last year. Lotos said it estimates that "the maximum throughput reduction attributable directly to the shutdown will be approximately 7% on an annual basis" but that it is implementing "operational measures" to minimize this.
** TotalEnergies' Antwerp refinery is due to carry out maintenance this spring, according to traders. The works will most likely take place in April.
** Turkey's Tupras reported an extensive maintenance schedule for 2022. For its Izmit refinery, periodic maintenance of the isomerization unit lasting five weeks was reported to be ongoing. Periodic maintenance of the vacuum and desulfurizer units were reported as planned for Q1, each lasting three weeks, with periodic maintenance of the crude oil and vacuum unit and the HYC unit both planned for the end of Q3 and both lasting six weeks. For its Izmir refinery, periodic maintenance of the vacuum unit and lubes complex were reported as ongoing during Q1, both lasting six weeks. The company said that in Q4 at Izmir it plans to revamp the crude unit, CCR & isomerization unit and desulfurizer -- all lasting nine weeks -- and the HYC unit, expected to last four weeks. Seasonal maintenance of the crude oil and vacuum unit at Tupras' Batman plant was reported as ongoing for 13 weeks during Q1 with further work on the same unit planned for four weeks in Q4.
** In the second half of 2022, Repsol will carry out a smaller turnaround at its Tarragona refinery, which will involve the isomax and hydrocracker units.
** Greece's Hellenic Petroleum plans full turnaround at Thessaloniki in the second half of the year. The maintenance at Thessaloniki will last between six and eight weeks.
** MOL will schedule the bulk of its 2022 maintenance activities in the first half of the year, including works at MOL Petrochemicals, as well as at the distillation and conversion units of its Danube and Slovnaft refineries.
** OMV plans a general maintenance at the Burghausen refinery between June 22-Aug. 7. It has previously said the turnaround would be in Q3. The turnaround will include also the Borealis polyolefin production site. The last turnaround took place in 2014, followed by a partial shutdown of the refinery in May 2018. "In order to continue to ensure safe, environmentally friendly operation and the efficiency of the plants, all plants will be shut down during the turnaround, cleaned and inspected," the company said. In addition, expansion work will be carried out to increase ethylene and propylene production. The turnaround will be used to expand and modernize the steam cracker and subsequently increase the capacities for ethylene and propylene production, S&P Global Platts has reported previously. The expansion is expected to facilitate increased annual ethylene and propylene production by around 50,000 mt/year.
** 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.
** Lithuania's Orlen Lietuva plans to suspend operations for a major maintenance in May. The works will last from May 22 to June 14.
** Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam -- formerly known as the Pernis refinery -- which will undergo major maintenance between end January-end June, will ensure continuity of the plant's operations during the works so that while one installation is shut down, another will continue production, the company said. Therefore no total shutdown will be involved, and the refinery will stock "enough product to ensure continuity of supply for the time an installation is down for maintenance." The maintenance aims to further improve the safety, reliability and efficiency of the refinery's installations as well as to carry out "legally required inspections and repairs," the refinery also said.
** 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.
** 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. 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.
** Total's Feyzin is considering mothballing a visbreaker unit as demand for heavy fuel is gradually declining and the unit works on average no more than three days a month.