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Refinery news roundup: First 2019 works start in Europe

London — Data is starting to emerge on 2019 refinery works in Europe, with news also emerging on industrial action.

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Unionized workers at Petrogal, the operator of Portugal's two refineries owned by Galp, have been called to a series of strikes across December and January related to pay and working conditions, a spokesman for the Fiequimetal union told S&P Global Platts. For the Matosinhos (Porto) refinery and associated units, the dates were from 6 am on December 7 through to 6 am December 24 and then again from 6 am January 2 through to 6 am January 14. For the Sines refinery and associated units, the action was planned between midnight on the morning of December 17 to the end of December 23 and again from midnight on the morning of January 2 through the end of January 13.

In other news, Croatia's INA said as part of its Downstream 2023 New Course program and its 2019 business plan, it has decided to concentrate refining in Rijeka, which will also be upgraded, and to convert the smaller Sisak plant into an industrial site. "The program implementation is expected during 2019, after all necessary decisions are made," INA said.

Separately, Poland's largest refiner PKN Orlen has updated its 2019-22 strategy and now plans to raise throughput at its refineries by over 300,000 mt to 33.7 million mt in 2022.

Also recently news emerged that Syndial, the environmental services unit of Italian energy giant Eni, started operations at its waste-to-fuel pilot plant at the the Gela refinery in southern Italy. The Gela pilot plant transforms the "organic fraction of municipal solid waste" or OFMSW, into bio-oil that is then used for the production of next-generation fuels.

NEW AND REVISED ENTRIES

-- Norway's Equinor said the naphtha-producing unit, which is part of its gasoline facilities, is back in operation. It was shut earlier in December due to an LPG leak. Naphtha is a component used for gasoline.

-- The API refinery in Falconara Marittima was scheduled to start monthlong maintenance work on its Vacuum Pipe Still towers and cracking units January 1, a source close to the company said. The maintenance and upgrade works, scheduled to last until around February 4, will involve the plant's thermal cracking units and the tower internals of the refinery's VPS or crude units. It is not clear if the works will affect refinery throughput.

-- Croatia Rijeka has a scheduled maintenance in Q1. The company has informed local residents that due to the works there could be noise and flaring in the period between end December to mid-April.

-- The 35,000 b/d fluid catalytic cracker at the Sines, Portugal refinery is running again after concluding a maintenance that started in the third week of October, a spokesman for Galp Energia said. According to the company , the works lasted 54 days, and the restart was in line with schedule. The halt was used to change the catalyst in the unit but Galp also used the outage to adapt some units for the 2020 International Maritime Organization marine fuel regulations and prepare the refinery for a new cycle of other projects. During the halt the company also took the opportunity to install a Catalyst Cooler, which allows the processing of heavier raw material, thereby increasing flexibility of the refining complex.

-- UK's Fawley began in mid-December the start-up of facilities included in its turnaround, ExxonMobil said. Works at "several units" of the refinery and petrochemical site started in October, the company said previously.

-- Minor works scheduled for November and December on the catalytic reformer at Saras's Sarroch refinery in Sardinia were postponed until early 2019, when other maintenance work is set to be carried out, a source close to the company told Platts. Maintenance lasting about two months is expected to start in early January, although the refinery is set to remain operational, according to the source. Italian refinery Saras has scheduled maintenance on various units, which will be offline intermittently in the first half of 2019.

EXISTING ENTRIES

-- The EST unit at Eni's Sannazzaro in northern Italy is expected to restart in the first half of 2019. The unit has been offline following a fire in 2016.

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-- Lukoil's ISAB refinery in southern Italy started to take its North plant offline on October 15 in preparation for 53 days of planned maintenance and upgrade works at the North site, union sources said.

-- Germany's Bayernoil remains offline following an incident on September 1. The refinery was halted following an explosion in a unit at the Vohburg site and a subsequent fire in the early hours of September 1. Bayernoil consists of the Vohburg and Neustadt sites, which are interconnected. -- Italy's Augusta refinery in Sicily has scheduled a turnaround starting in January, which will see the plant intermittently remain offline over 3.5 months, union sources said. One of the units which will be upgraded and worked on is the topping plant.

FUTURE

EXISTING ENTRIES

-- Rompetrol's Petromidia refinery will have its next general maintenance in 2020.

-- The next large-scale maintenance at Italy's Milazzo will be carried out in October 2019 and will involve its FCC unit and ancillaries.

-- Repsol's CEO Josu Jon Imaz spoke to analysts on a conference call and outlined preliminary refinery maintenance plans for 2019, without elaborating further. The plans include works on FCC, VDU at A Coruna; FCC at Petronor, Bilbao; hydrotreatment unit and hydrocracker at Cartagena; cracker at Tarragona.

-- Germany's Schwedt recently received the first new column for its CDU 3 and expected to start upgrading the unit. The project is part of a major turnaround in 2019. During the turnaround, the CDU 3 will be taken out of service for four weeks during which time the new equipment will be integrated.

-- Spain's Cepsa has moved a step closer to permanent closure of its refinery on Tenerife after signing an agreement with the regional authorities of Santa Cruz, Tenerife to transform the site into a mixture of public space and realty. The complex, which has been in operation for nearly 90 years, refined its last barrel in 2014, having been previously idled in 2013 for "economic reasons."

-- Saras plans large-scale maintenance in 2020, carried out in a six-year turnaround cycle. It will also carry out maintenance and upgrade works on the 90,000 b/d FCC plant in 2020 and expand on current plans to boost its sea jetty through 2021.

-- In spring 2019, a turnaround is scheduled at Sweden's Gothenburg refinery for regeneration of the reformer unit, inspection of the ISOGHT unit, decoking of CDU1, and a change of catalyst in the DHT 3, ISOM, GHT, ISOGHT. The next major turnaround at Gothenburg will be in 2021.

-- The next major turnaround at Sweden's Lysekil will be in autumn 2019. After 2019, the company plans to run the major turnarounds every six years but with a total refinery shutdown every three years to perform catalyst change-outs and cleaning/decoking of necessary units.

-- The next major maintenance at France's Gonfreville is planned for 2019.

-- The next major maintenance at the Netherlands' Zeeland will be in 2020.

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

UPGRADES

NEW AND REVISED ENTRIES

-- Croatia's INA will concentrate its refining in Rijeka, which will also be upgraded, and convert the smaller Sisak facility into an industrial site as part of its Downstream 2023 New Course program and 2019 business plan, the Croatian company said. The company plans to invest more than HRK 4 billion ($615.3 million) in a delayed coker project at Rijeka, a new port with closed petcoke storage and increased overall complexity that will make Rijeka "a top level European refinery." A final investment decision on the delayed coker project will be taken in 2019, with commissioning earmarked for 2023 "given that all the prerequisites that will assure return on investment will be met."

EXISTING ENTRIES

-- ExxonMobil is to start the new hydrocracker at its Rotterdam refinery after commencing in early November the restart of refinery units that had been undergoing maintenance since August, it said. The whole start-up of the hydrocracker "is a complex process and may take several months," the company said. Construction of the new hydrocracker started in 2016.

-- Germany's Schwedt recently received the first new column for its CDU 3 and expected to start upgrading the unit. The project is part of a major turnaround in 2019. During the turnaround, the CDU 3 will be taken out of service for four weeks during which time the new equipment will be integrated. -- Poland's second-largest refiner Grupa Lotos said the delayed coker unit at its Gdansk refinery should reach ready-for-startup date by May 31. The announcement of the deadline follows the conclusion of negotiations with the general contractor, Kinetics Technology. Earlier, Lotos announced that commissioning work was underway at the hydrogen generation unit (HGU) and the hydro wax vacuum distillation unit, or HVDU, at its Gdansk refinery, two of the three main components of its EFRA modernization program, which is now 96.3% complete.

-- The delayed coker at the Pancevo refinery, currently under construction, will be launched in Q3 2019, Kirill Tyurdenev, the managing director of NIS, said in Gazprom Neft's in-house magazine. As a result the depth of processing will reach 99.2% and the refinery will produce 500,000 mt more light products. The Nelson index will in crease to 9.6. The light products yield would increase to 85% from 75%. Gazprom Neft has previously said the delayed coker will have 2,000 mt/day capacity.

-- Cepsa said it will carry out upgrades to its aromax, hydrocracker and FCC units at Huelva in 2019. It is also carrying out an aromatics optimization project at the refinery.

-- Cepsa is to revamp Isomax, fluid catalytic cracker, alkylation units and construct a methylene unit (Sorbex II) at San Roque, which will double production capacity, investing as much as Eur1 billion ($1.14 billion) through to the end of 2019 as it aims to boost conversion rate and improve technology and sustainability.

-- ExxonMobil said it was considering "significant upgrades" at its Fawley plant aimed to meet UK demand for high quality fuels. A final decision was not expected until the second quarter of 2019 and, if approved, the investment would reduce the need for diesel imports into the UK, the company said. The project involves construction of a new hydrotreater and a new hydrogen plant.

-- The Netherlands' Zeeland started work in June 2018 on an expansion of the hydrocracker, by adding a third reactor, due for completion in mid-2020 after which the new reactor will be put in operation.

-- Total is considering building intermediate feedstock desulfurization units and a hydrogen unit at France's Donges, but the investment depends on rerouting a railroad track that currently crosses the refinery.

-- Poland's Plock refinery aims to complete a new visbreaker unit by the end of 2020.

-- Israel's Haifa District Court has rejected an appeal by Haifa Municipality along with six other neighboring communities and environmental groups against the proposed expansion of the Bazan refinery.

-- Swedish refiner Preem said it planned two new units to start up at its refineries in 2019, ahead of the new IMO sulfur regulations. A new vacuum distillation will start up at Lysekil in Q1, 2019, and at its Gothenburg refinery, it plans to start up a new hydrogen unit, also in Q1, 2019.

LAUNCHES

NEW AND REVISED ENTRIES

-- Azerbaijani state oil company Socar's Star refinery in Turkey will release its first products to the market in January, Turkey's state news agency Anatolia reported. Anatolia quoted Star general manager Mesut Ilter as confirming that the refinery had begun production and would be releasing its first products for sale in January. It is expected to reach full production capacity early in the New Year.

EXISTING ENTRIES

-- Dutch Hestya Energy said it has decided to operate one of the available units at the currently closed Wilhelmshaven refinery in Germany under a tolling agreement. The company declined to provide details of the agreement "in the interest of our customer." According to traders, the vacuum distillation unit was likely to be restarted in 2019 and used for producing low sulfur fuel oil ahead of the 2020 low sulfur IMO requirement for bunker fuel.

-- Azeri state oil company Socar is considering the development of a second refinery in Turkey, in addition to its existing 214,000 b/d Star refinery at Aliaga on Turkey's central Aegean coast. Development of a second refinery would be necessary if the company decides to go ahead with plans for a second petrochemical plant as its existing Petkim facility. A final investment decision is expected in March.

-- Turkey's Ersan Petrol plans to start construction of its 1.4 million mt/year Nazli refinery at Kahramanmaras in southeast Turkey by the end of 2018, with the plant expected to begin operations by the end of 2022.

--Elza Turner, elza.turner@spglobal.com

--Edited by Ikhhlaq Singh Aujla, ikhhlaq.singh.aujla@spglobal.com