REFINERY NEWS ROUNDUP: Incidents, strikes at plants in Europe
There have been several incidents reported at European plants recently, which — along with industrial action in France — have affected operations.
A fire at Norway’s Mongstad on July 3 has been extinguished though some parts of the plant involved in production of some refined products are affected. The main plant however remains in operation. “A controlled combustion has been conducted from the leakage point,” the company said, adding that “further examinations and any repairs will be conducted before the affected part of the processing plant can be restarted.” The refinery completed scheduled maintenance, which started in late April, in the last week of June.
** Italy’s Sarroch refinery was operating normally after a fire late June 25 on equipment taking solid sulfur to silos at the complex, the company said June 27. The fire, which was quickly extinguished, was likely caused by moving mechanical parts on the line overheating, the company said.
** A unit at TotalEnergies’ Antwerp refinery has been halted following a crude oil leak, local media cited the company as saying. The leak followed a technical malfunction of the crude oil cooling system and was stopped after the unit was halted.
** ExxonMobil said its Fos-sur-Mer refinery in southern France had been restarting since July 2 after a strike — which began June 28 over pay — ended following a “constructive social dialogue”. The company, which had said last week it had started “preparations to gradually shut down” the plant, also said the plant did not completely halt operations, adding it will do everything to resume full operations and deliveries as soon as possible.
** There has been a growing level of industrial action in France over pay. On June 24, staff at TotalEnergies’ refineries in France carried out a 24-hour strike. Meanwhile, firm demand has boosted refining margins.
** Finnish refiner Neste said it expects its average refining margin to more than double in the second quarter of 2022 from the previous quarter as soaring global product cracks continue to lift refining sector earnings. The company had previously estimated its Q2 refining margin at a roughly similar level to the Q1 margin of $10.30/b.
** French road fuel deliveries in May rose 13% year on year to 4.246 billion liters, with a 9.3% year-on-year increase in diesel consumption and a 25% jump in gasoline consumption, industry group UFIP said. Compared with pre-COVID May 2019, ultra-low sulfur diesel deliveries were down 4.5% in May 2022, whereas gasoline consumption jumped 18%, once more confirming the rebalancing of car ownership toward a greater proportion of gasoline passenger cars and smaller sales of diesel passenger cars in France. Jet fuel demand climbed 122% year on year to 601 million liters in May. However, jet fuel deliveries in May 2022 were down 19% compared with May 2019. Those numbers reflect the fact that airline seat capacity has not yet fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels in France and Europe in general.
** Germany’s Schwedt refinery will continue processing crude oil after Jan. 1, 2023, local media cited a government official. “Crude oil will continue to be processed here from January 1, 2023,” Michael Kellner, a parliamentary state secretary in the economics ministry said. However the government is looking at providing alternative crude supplies as the plant currently processes Russian crude oil delivered by the Druzhba pipeline. The plant can receive seaborne crude from the Baltic ports of Rostock in Germany and Gdansk in Poland. Both ports are connected to the refinery via pipelines, though the pipeline from Rostock will need to be upgraded in order to increase its capacity, Kellner was quoted as saying. Currently it can supply 60% of Schwedt’s capacity and will be expanded to provide around 70%, though the expansion can not happen by the end of the year. However Kellner did not specify at what capacity the refinery would operate in the next few years.
** PKN Orlen, Poland’s largest refiner, expects to tie up its agreed acquisition of the country’s number two refiner, Grupa Lotos, by early August after the EU waved through an asset deal needed to secure Brussels’ backing for the takeover, PKN’s CEO Daniel Obajtek said. PKN Orlen first announced plans to take over its domestic rival Lotos in early 2018.
New and revised entries
** In the second half of 2022, Repsol is due to carry out a small turnaround at its Tarragona refinery, which will involve the isomax and hydrocracker units. The work was due to start Sept. 23 and continue to mid-November.
** An unspecified unit has been halted at France’s Donges refinery June 22 which could cause flaring. Another unit, which was halted June 15, restarted on the following day. Separately, a hydrodesulfurization unit HD2 remained offline following a fire May 28. TotalEnergies halted operations at Donges on Nov. 30, 2020, due to weak margins, and restarted in early May.
** Norway’s Mongstad planned maintenance had now been completed, the company said June 24. “The Mongstad Refinery maintenance is now completed and operation is resumed,” it said. The refinery had previously postponed works that were planned for 2020. However, there was a fire at the refinery on July 3 which affected some parts of the plant involved in production of some refined products. The main plant however remains in operation. “A controlled combustion has been conducted from the leakage point,” the company said, adding that “further examinations and any repairs will be conducted before the affected part of the processing plant can be restarted.”
** There is currently “a period of maintenance” underway at UK’s Lindsey refinery, the company said June 20. Prax Group completed an acquisition of the Lindsey refinery and its associated logistic assets in the UK from TotalEnergies in March 2021.
** Germany’s Heide has completed partial maintenance on some units on schedule, the refinery said June 14. It planned works between May 4 and June 11. Production facilities not involved in the maintenance continued operations so that supply of products during the turnaround was guaranteed.
** Austria’s Schwechat refinery is expected to be fully operational and fully utilized in the second half of Q3 2022, OMV said. “Repair work began immediately after the incident and includes dismantling, ordering materials, and prefabrication,” OMV said. “As the damage occurred in the lower section of the distillation column, the damage site is difficult to access,” OMV also said. The refinery had some damage to its main CDU before restarting after maintenance. “During the legally required water pressure test, damage occurred to the outer shell of one of the columns of the crude oil distillation unit,” the company said. The damage occurred on June 3. Schwechat has been undergoing a turnaround since April 19. OMV also said that for the duration of the repairs it has established a new supply system to supply the markets served by Schwechat and would also use the refinery’s smaller CDU. The measures taken allow the refinery to operate at around 20% of capacity
** Planned maintenance at France’s Lavera has been completed and the refinery is back with products in the market, according to market sources July 4. Separately, local media reported that the refinery has been restarting units since late June following the maintenance which could result in flaring. The refinery started maintenance May 8, with the process set to last around two months, S&P Global Commodity Insights has reported.
** Most of the maintenance at Lithuania’s Orlen Lietuva refinery has been completed, a PKN spokesperson said June 15. The turnaround was scheduled to finish at the end of June. Planned maintenance started in early May. The maintenance was due to last two months and include the modernization of the catalytic cracker unit. General refinery maintenance takes place every four years, with the last round carried out in 2018.
** Israel’s Ashdod is currently carrying out works that started in early June, the company said June 14. The maintenance, which was originally planned to start in May, has been slightly delayed.
** OMV has started the shutdown of units at the Burghausen refinery for planned general maintenance. The units were due to be halted between June 17-27. It has previously said the maintenance would last between June 22 and Aug. 7. 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 addition, expansion work will be carried out to increase ethylene and propylene production. The expansion is expected to increase ethylene and propylene production by around 50,000 mt/year.
** Germany’s Lingen refinery will carry out a major maintenance in April 2023. Preparations for the turnaround, which takes place usually once every five years, are underway. During the maintenance, a vacuum column will be replaced.
** Slovakia’s Bratislava refinery started maintenance May 19 to last until July 20. The turnaround will involve 21 units and will take place in two time blocks. “During two months of intensive maintenance work, Slovnaft will shut down, clean, modernize and restart 21 production units in both the refining and petrochemical sections,” it said in the statement. The start-up of the last group of production units is scheduled for the second half of July. Among the units involved are distillation, hydrocracker and key petrochemical units such as the LDPE4 plastics production unit, “which is one of the most advanced in Europe,” the company said. During the maintenance work the refinery will replace the distillation furnace and pumps at the circulation centers and will also replace the distillation column with a new extension, “enabling a more efficient distillation process.”
** Eni’s Livorno refinery will restart its lubricants activities in the third quarter of 2022 after completing maintenance, restoration and upgrade works at the unit following the November fire that damaged it, a company spokesperson said. Livorno restarted its gasoline and diesel refining units in the first week of April after wide-scale maintenance and upgrade works that had started in January were completed.
** Turkey’s Tupras plans maintenance work at Batman’s crude oil and vacuum unit lasting four weeks during Q4; at Izmir — revamping the crude, CCR & isomerization, and desulfurizer units, lasting nine weeks during Q4 and of the HYC unit lasting four weeks, also during Q4; at Izmit — periodic maintenance of the crude oil and vacuum and HYC units lasting six weeks at the end of Q3.
** Italy’s ISAB refinery in Sicily is running a series of routine maintenance and upgrade works on pumps, compressors, pipelines, jetties, desulfurization units and conversion units both at its north and south refinery plants. ISAB is made up of two refineries connected by a pipeline.
** Eni’s Sannazzaro de Burgondi refinery will delay its maintenance cycle, originally planned for May, until after the summer. 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.
** 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.
** 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.
** The 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 2020, the refinery has prepared production for a new four-year cycle. Thus, the next turnaround is due in 2024.
** 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.