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Refinery news roundup: Some maintenance in Europe draws to a close

Some of the maintenance works in Europe have been drawing to a close.

Meanwhile, French oil major Total has started up production at its La Mede biodiesel plant in southern France, with the first batches of biofuel coming off the line, the company said. The start of production is the final step in converting the former oil refinery into a new energies complex, the company said, adding that the project was launched in 2015. La Mede stopped processing crude oil at the end of 2016 to be converted to a bio plant. It will produce 500,000 mt a year of hydrotreated vegetable oil, or HVO, “a premium biofuel”.

Italian energy group Eni’s Gela bio-refinery in Sicily is also restarting, a union source told S&P Global Platts, and should reach full operations by mid July. The plan to convert it into a biorefinery and logistics hub followed the model of Eni’s Venice green refinery which was successfully converted in 2014.

Separately, PCK Raffinerie’s Schwedt plant in Germany is now back at full capacity allowing it to “fully meet the German market requirements,” Rosneft said in a statement. In view of restricted shipments via the Druzhba pipeline, the refinery covers the shortfall through deliveries from the German port of Rostock, and despite the difficult logistics those volumes “guarantee” the refinery’s full operations. The refinery along with the German Druzhba pipeline operator Mineralolverbundleitung GmbH, or MVL, took some of the contaminated crude in order to free the pipeline and allow it to ship good quality crude, the statement added.

Exports of Russia’s Urals crude via the 1 million b/d Druzhba system were suspended in mid-April after excess levels of corrosive organic chlorides were detected in crude flowing via the northern route into Belarus.

–A unit has been offline since June 21 at the Milazzo refinery in Sicily for maintenance, labor union sources told Platts. No information was provided on when the Topping 3 plant at the refinery is scheduled to restart. The plant is scheduled to carry out some 45 days of maintenance work on its FCC unit and ancillary plants starting mid-September, though the refinery will not be offline during the work.

–ExxonMobil’s Fos-sur-Mer refinery in southern France was back to normal at the beginning of July following a short shutdown of some units due to high temperature. Most of western Europe is witnessing an ongoing heatwave.

–Sonatrach’s Augusta refinery on Sicily has returned to full operations at the end of June after a delayed restart from maintenance, a source close to the refinery told Platts. The refinery was originally due to restart at the end of May after a wide-ranging maintenance cycle that started in February. The refinery has been intermittently offline during the work.

–Varo Energy’s Cressier refinery in Switzerland is gradually restarting after its maintenance that lasted throughout June, although few days later than planned due to delays with crude deliveries. The hydrogen production unit has been restarted on June 28. The processing units were restarted from July 3 onwards with the restart expected to last around a week. Traders reported that the SPSE pipeline, that supplies Cressier and other refineries, has been undergoing tests and has been temporarily shut down but has resumed pumpings Tuesday. SPSE was not available for comment.

–Partial works at BP Rotterdam refinery are completed with the refinery coming back online, traders said. The works were seen as having caused some tightness in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp region, with increased demand for products.

–Eni’s 190,000 b/d Sannazzaro de Burgondi refinery in northern Italy is expected to restart its EST plant in September, the company said. The 23,000 b/d unit will restart in September, enabling it to produce 0.5% sulfur marine fuels in time for the lower sulfur limit for bunkers at the start of next year, Giacomo Rispoli, an executive vice president at Eni, said at the S&P Global Platts Mediterranean Refining and Petrochemical Summit in Tarragona. In a first-quarter results statement in April, the company said the unit went through an early start in March, and a full start-up would come sometime in the third quarter. The initial plan to restart the EST plant, which has been offline following a fire in 2016, at the end of 2018 had been delayed. Eni built the EST plant to convert heavy oil residues into gasoline and diesel products. The unit contributes some 10%-15% to total throughput at the refinery under normal conditions. The Sannazzaro refinery is also currently running maintenance on Line 1 of its plant, with the main focus on its vacuum and hydrocracking units in this phase of the works.

–Donges refinery in northwest France is gradually restarting units after maintenance. The maintenance, affecting part of its units, started in late April and lasted until the end of June. The remaining part of the refinery will carry out works in 2021.

–Total’s Grandpuits refinery near Paris, which has been shut since late February due to a leak on the crude oil pipeline from Le Havre, is likely to restart around mid-July, according to company documents, after the pipeline repair is completed. Total is carrying out repairs on the pipeline and cleanup of the area.

–Russian Lukoil’s ISAB refinery in southern Italy is conducting maintenance on the plant’s IGCC unit, sources close to the refinery told S&P Global Platts. The maintenance works started in May and will be completed toward the end of June, the sources said.

–Spain’s Petronor Bilbao refinery started scheduled maintenance at its 7 million mt/year crude unit 1 — its largest unit — in late May, bringing forward the work from June, the company said. The work is scheduled to last until the first half of July and the main work will include the installation of an air heater in the refinery furnace, with the aim of increasing efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions. The refinery completed minor work on its fluid catalytic cracker unit earlier in May and carried out general maintenance of the conversion area in April, including the FCC, visbreaker and hydrodesulfurization units.

–Slovnaft was not severely affected by the cut in Druzhba supplies because of general maintenance works at the Bratislava refinery, which began at the start of May and are expected to last until the second half of June. The work has closed most of the refinery, with Slovnaft able to continue reduced operations using stocks on site. Meanwhile, Russian crude oil deliveries to Slovnaft’s Bratislava refinery in Slovakia via the southern branch of the Druzhba pipeline resumed in late May.

–Italy’s Sarroch forecasts refinery runs at 26 million-27 million barrels for both the second and third quarter, while it expects runs to drop slightly in the fourth quarter to 25 million-26 million barrels. For the full year, Sarroch forecasts runs of 96 million-99 million barrels. In Q4, the refinery is scheduled to carry out maintenance on its north plants, its visbreaking unit, its RT2 topping unit and V1 vacuum unit, according to a company presentation on its Q1 results. The refinery will also carry out work on its petrochemicals plant. –Germany’s Bayernoil, which was taken offline following an incident last September, began its restart in May. It began with the test for the steam boiler followed by the restart of the first crude processing unit. The remaining units will be coming on stream over the course of the summer.

–Hungary’s MOL said it was planning a turnaround at its Danube refinery in the third quarter, as well as steam cracker maintenance at its Hungarian and Slovakian petrochemical sites in the second half of the year.

–Galp Energia CEO Carlos Gomes da Silva said the company will carry out planned maintenance on the atmospheric distillation unit at Portugal’s Sines that will last 40-50 days in the third quarter, having previously slated the work for H2 2019. The company will use the halt to increase efficiency and conversion ability of the refinery and it will also carry out data driven projects during the year to increase the refining margin of the refinery. The conversion units at the refinery will continue to work at full capacity during the outage, Gomes da Silva said.

–Poland’s largest refiner PKN Orlen plans maintenance shutdowns on the hydrodesulfurization HOG unit, the hydrogen recovery and PVC units in Plock and the visbreaking and DRW units in Unipetrol in the second half of 2019.

–Repsol 2019 maintenance plans include hydro-treatment unit and hydrocracker at Cartagena in September; partial works at Puertollano in October and November, as the company is carrying out an extensive digitalization upgrade at the plant this year and will carry out turnarounds at the cracker and chemical derivative plants at the end of 2020; and petrochemical works at Tarragona in Q4. The cracker at Tarragona would undergo maintenance in Q4 2019, pushed back from Q3. At A Coruna, the company concluded major works on the coker in Q2, with the FCC and VDU set to undergo maintenance this year. In Q1 2020, the refinery is due to install a unit to reduce particle emission in the conversion process.

–Finland’s Neste said that it has scheduled a four-week decoking maintenance at Production Line 4 at Porvoo in September-October. It expects high utilization rates in Q2, “except for normal unit maintenance.” In 2017 Neste completed the integration of the Porvoo and Naantali refineries.

–Total’s Gonfreville refinery in France is due to carry out maintenance in the second half of 2019, the company said. Last year there was a major maintenance at the petrochemical plant at the refining and petrochemical complex.

–The Milazzo refinery, located on the Italian island of Sicily, is scheduled to carry out around 45 days of maintenance work on its FCC unit and ancillary plants starting mid-September. The refinery will not be offline in the period the works are carried out. Earlier reports in January indicated the refinery would carry out the next wide-scale maintenance works involving its FCC unit and ancillaries starting in October.

–The next major turnaround at Preem’s Lysekil refinery in Sweden will be in autumn this year. The company plans to run major turnarounds every six years but with a total refinery shutdown every three years to perform catalyst changes and cleaning/decoking of necessary units.

–Finland’s Neste is preparing for a major turnaround at Porvoo in 2020, it said.

–Total will invest EUR150 million ($166.5 million) at its Leuna refinery in Germany. The investment into an upgrade project aims to reduce the production of heavy products, demand for which decreases, and increase the production of methanol, which is an important feedstock for the chemical industry. This will deepen the integration of the refinery and the petrochemical operations and increase the competitiveness of the plant. The methanol production will increase as a result of increased output from the visbreaker unit and an upgrade of the POX/Methanol plant. Work will continue until 2021, with the major part done in the 2020 major shutdown of the refinery where another Eur150 million will be invested.

–The next major turnaround at Preem’s Gothenburg refinery in Sweden will be in 2021.

–Saras will carry out maintenance and upgrade works on the 90,000 b/d FCC unit at its Sarroch refinery in 2020. It will carry out a full maintenance shutdown, conducted every 10 years, in 2021.

–Sarpom’s refinery in Trecate, Italy, is scheduled to undergo a large-scale, two-month general maintenance cycle in 2020 — of the type carried out at the plant every three to four years — a source close to the refinery said.

–A shutdown may be carried out at Portugal’s Porto at the end of 2019 or early 2020 for under three weeks for the atmospheric distillation unit, where it needs to install heat exchangers.

–Rompetrol’s Petromidia refinery will have its next general maintenance in 2020.

–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 real estate. The complex, which has been in operation for nearly 90 years, refined its last oil in 2014, having been previously idled in 2013 for “economic reasons.”

–The next major maintenance at the Netherlands’ Zeeland will be in 2020.

–Romania’s Petrobrazi will undergo its next big turnaround in 2022.

–Germany’s Rhineland has started the construction of a new hydrogen production plant, using electrolysis, at its Wesseling site. The Eur16 million ($18.08 million) investment project, due for completion in 2020, will generate hydrogen from electricity rather than natural gas, and thus also contribute to reduced CO2 emissions. It will produce up to 1,300 mt/year hydrogen when operating at peak rates. “Oil products will continue to play an important role in the decades ahead, and this project means we will be able to make more and cleaner fuels, bitumen and base chemicals,” said Frans Dumoulin, director of the Shell Rheinland Refinery in a statement. “At the same time, we want to contribute to accelerating the use of hydrogen in transport and other sectors.” The 327,000 b/d refinery consists of the Wesseling (south) and Godorf (north) sites. Separately, a unit at Wesseling underwent scheduled maintenance and cleaning between May 26 and June 9, the refinery said on its website.

–Poland’s second-largest refiner Grupa Lotos said construction of the coking complex — a key element of its EFRA modernization program — was complete and it was ready for startup. Lotos said the coking complex, comprising a delayed coking unit, a coker naphtha hydrotreating unit, and coke storage and logistics facility would allow the refinery to stop producing heavy fuel oil. It will concentrate production on high-margin fuels such as diesel and jet fuel, with the share of refining output increasing to more than 89% from 77% in 2012. The refinery developments will allow it to meet changing marine fuel demand driven by the new International Maritime Organization rules that come into force from January 2020, Lotos CEO Mateusz A. Bonca said in a statement. The commissioning of the coking complex has been delayed more than once to allow for additional technical checks.

–A Spanish press report citing the Andalucia region’s chief officer for finance, industry and energy, Juan Bravo, said that Cepsa’s Eur1 billion “bottom of the barrel” project at its San Roque refinery may be delayed. The report in ABC de Sevilla said the project is being held up by an unspecified administrative procedure delaying the start of work. A Cepsa spokesman declined to comment. The report says the project may be held up a year and start in 2020, instead of 2019 as planned. The project entails a new hydrocracker at the site to adapt it to producing lighter products by increasing the conversion factor and also to increase the output of gasoline blending components. The upgrades are currently expected to be concluded by 2022, adding $1.4/b to its refining margin and increasing refining capacity by 36,000 b/d. The output of diesel should increase from 40% to 55% once the project is concluded. Cepsa is also to revamp the Isomax unit, fluid catalytic cracker and alkylation units and construct a methylene unit (Sorbex II) at San Roque, which will double production capacity, investing Eur1 billion ($1.14 billion) through to the end of 2019 as it aims to boost conversion rates and improve technology and sustainability. Cepsa said it raised non-aromatic solvents output by 30,000 mt/year in 2018 and started work on a fixed bed alkylation plant, which is expected to start up in 2020.

–Total will invest Eur150 million ($166.5 million) at its Leuna refinery in Germany. The investment into an upgrade project aims to reduce the production of heavy products, demand for which decreases, and increase the production of methanol, which is an important feedstock for the chemical industry. This will deepen the integration of the refinery and the petrochemical operations and increase the competitiveness of the plant. The methanol production will increase as a result of increased output from the visbreaker unit and an upgrade of the POX/Methanol plant. Work will continue until 2021, with the major part done in the 2020 major shutdown of the refinery where another EUR150 million will be invested.

–ExxonMobil said it has “made a final investment decision to expand” the Fawley refinery in the UK to increase production of ULSD by 45% or 38,000 b/d. The more than $1 billion investment includes a hydrotreater to remove sulfur from diesel, supported by a hydrogen plant. The investment “will help reduce the need to import diesel into the United Kingdom, which imported about half of its supply in 2017,” the company said. The construction, which is subject to a local planning approval, is set to begin in late 2019 with start-up expected in 2021.

–McDermott International has been awarded a contract for engineering, procurement and construction management services for the upgrade of the hydrocracker at Czech Litvinov refinery. McDermott had previously completed the feasibility study and basic engineering design. The completion is expected for Q2 of 2020. Work on the project will begin immediately.

–Russian Lukoil plans to invest in its ISAB refinery in southern Italy and has also dropped plans announced in 2017 to sell the plant having not received suitable offers, the company and union sources told S&P Global Platts. Lukoil will invest $60 million in upgrades, including two hydrodesulfurization units, which will allow the refinery to fully move to the production of Euro 5 diesel and halt output of Euro 3 and Euro 4 product.

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

–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 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 this year, with commissioning earmarked for 2023 “given that all the prerequisites that will assure return on investment will be met.”

–The delayed coker at the Pancevo refinery, currently under construction, will be launched in third quarter of 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 increase 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.

–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.

–Turkey’s Ersan Petrol plans to start construction of its 1.4 million mt/year Nazli refinery at Kahramanmaras in southeast Turkey in mid-2020, with the plant expected to begin operations in less than four years, company owner Ecvet Sayer told Platts. “We expect to reach financial closure for the project this summer and after that start the FEED studies which will take about nine months,” he said. Sayer did not comment on reasons for the delay to the project, which had previously been expected to start construction by the end of 2018, but the past 18 months have seen Turkey pass through a major economic crisis that caused the Lira to fall by 47% against the dollar. The refinery is expected to produce diesel, jet, fuel oil, gasoil and LPGs.

–Azerbaijani state-owned oil company Socar’s new Star refinery in Turkey is operating at up to 85%-90% capacity, albeit not continuously, Hasan Tan, head of Socar Turkey’s supply and marketing group, told Platts in late April. Tan said that sales of diesel, jet and LPG to the domestic Turkish market have started and that the refinery is also supplying naphtha to Socar’s Turkish petrochemical subsidiary Petkim. Tan said that Socar’s aim is to sell all the products from the Star refinery into the Turkish market, and will export anything it can’t sell. A Socar spokesman said production at Star has recently been affected by power cuts caused by seasonal storms and which had affected the Aliaga region in general, including Socar’s petrochemical subsidiary Petkim.

–Dutch Hes International (former Hestya Energy) aims to start operations at a unit of the currently closed Wilhelmshaven refinery in Germany “later this year,” it said in early January. The Netherlands-based company had previously said it would operate the unit, which it declined to name, under a tolling agreement. According to traders, it is the VDU that is likely to be restarted in 2019 and used for producing low sulfur fuel oil ahead of the 2020 IMO requirement for low sulfur bunker fuel.

–Azerbaijani 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 at its existing Petkim facility. A final investment decision is expected in March.

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