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Some incidents reported at European refiners

Some incidents were reported at European refiners in recent weeks.

** Austria’s OMV said June 8 that it anticipates “longer repair work” at its Schwechat refinery and is looking at new supply options. The restart of Schwechat from maintenance has been delayed following an incident at the crude distillation unit on June 3. The turnaround started April 19.
The damage occurred during a legally required water pressure test as part of the finalization of the refinery turnaround, the company said.

It added that it could not estimate “an exact duration” of the repair works, but that some areas of the refinery remain operational.

In order to secure sufficient product supply, Austria’s government decided shortly after the incident to release 112,000 mt of diesel and 56,000 mt of gasoline from its strategic stocks.

** An isolated fire at one of the units at UK’s Fawley refinery has been safely contained, the refinery said June 6. UK union Unite said June 7 that strikes at the Fawley refinery ended after the union secured a deal for around 100 workers. The workers, employed by Trant Engineering Limited, Veolia Services and Altrad Services, began strike action in April over pay. The workers, who already took three days of strike action in April and May over the pay dispute, had been planning further action throughout June. ExxonMobil has previously said that said that the strikes had not affected refinery operations or supplies to customers.

** A hydrodesulfurization unit HD2 at France’s Donges refinery remains offline following a fire on May 28, according to local media reports. The restart will be pending upon the results of a detailed analysis. The fire broke out in the early hours of May 28 and has been extinguished. TotalEnergies halted operations at Donges on Nov. 30, 2020, due to weak margins, and restarted in early May.

** Romania’s Rompetrol recently completed repairs of the diesel hydrotreating unit, or HPM, which was affected by a technical incident in July 2021. “The production unit has been completely rehabilitated, with new equipment, verified and authorized by the relevant institutions with responsibilities in the field,” it said in a statement June 10. It has around 1 million mt/year processing capacity. The repair started in July 2021 and was completed during the maintenance which took place in March and April 2022. The necessary tests and certifications have all been performed. Rompetrol said that the Petromidia refinery now “has a complete technological flow.” At the moment, Petromidia operates “at optimal capacity” and plans to process 5.6 million mt of feedstock in 2022, and produce around 2.7 million mt of diesel and A1 jet fuel, the company said.

** European refiners looking to replace Russian crude have turned to countries and grades that have seen limited flows to the continent, and are also buying more oil from sources used regularly prior to the invasion of Ukraine. Refiners have started buying crude cargoes from as far afield as Abu Dhabi and Angola as well as additional North Sea barrels, in a trend that will accelerate after EU leaders on May 30 agreed on a deal to ban Russian oil imports by sea. The EU also published details of its sixth sanctions package against Russia on June 3, including phasing out Russian crude imports in six months, and other refined products in eight months.

Europe has been pulling more sour crude from the Middle East as it worked to reduce its reliance on Russian oil, traders said.

Some refiners have been shifting their attention to the North Sea.

** Officials have said that seaborne imports via Rostock as well as Poland’s port of Gdansk could help feed the German Schwedt refinery, which typically processes Russian barrels delivered through the Druzhba pipeline. However, a decision about supplies to Schwedt, once the embargo is enforced at the end of the year, has not been taken yet.

** TotalEnergies expects Russian crude supply to be zero in 2023 at its Leuna refinery in Germany, which is also supplied via Druzhba. The company said that it has secured around 700,000 mt of capacity from the Gdansk pipeline to feed Leuna and expected to get crude from elsewhere in the world, looking mostly at the North Sea and Africa. Africa has seen increased demand from European refiners. Traders reported increased flows from Angola in the past few months as replacement for Urals.

** Slovakia’s Ministry of Economy warned that sanctions on Russian oil imports will hit the country’s main oil refining company, Slovnaft, and the market for fuels and refined products across Central Europe. Under the European Commission’s sixth package of sanctions, Slovakia will be able to import Russian oil by pipeline for eight months after the EU oil embargo takes effect. For a further 10 months Russian oil can be imported and refined for the Slovak and neighboring Czech market, and after that the imported Russian oil can only be refined for the Slovak market, according to the ministry.

** Hungary’s government has introduced a new temporary windfall tax on the oil refining sector. Oil refiners must pay 25% of the difference between the monthly average Brent crude oil price and the monthly average purchase price of crude oil bought from Russia, for each barrel of crude purchased.

The new windfall tax is aimed at Hungary’s sole oil refiner MOL, which mainly processes Russian crude oil shipped via the Druzhba pipeline.

The new tax will be valid for 2022-23, including retroactively for the first half of 2022. Unlike most EU member states, Hungary will be allowed to continue importing Russian crude oil via pipeline even after a general EU-wide ban on imports of Russian crude oil takes effect later this year.

Hungary also wants EU funding to boost the capacity of the Adria oil pipeline from the Croatian coast and to upgrade and reconfigure its refinery so it can process alternatives to Russian Urals.

** Bulgaria has been granted a temporary derogation until the end of 2024 to continue buying Russian crude oil and petroleum products by sea. Croatia will be allowed to import Russian vacuum gas oil until the end of 2023.

** The Italian government may consider nationalizing or selling the ISAB refinery in Sicily, which is owned by Russian energy group Lukoil, Italian newspaper Il Foglio reported, citing comments made by Roberto Cingolani, Italy’s ecological transition minister.

The introduction of a ban on Russian crude imports by the EU is expected to affect the refinery.

European refiners also reported higher utilization on good margins and demand.

** Israel’s Bazan reported 94% utilization at its Haifa refinery in the first quarter of 2022, up from 79% in the year-ago quarter. The increase “stemmed mainly from the adjustment made to production in response to the increase in demand to distillates and the increase in refining margins,” it said in its Q1 report. It attributed the higher domestic consumption of distillates. The refinery processed 2.342 million mt of feedstock over January-March, including crude and heavy vacuum diesel, up from 2.198 million mt in the 2021 quarter. Its lower processing of heavy gasoil — 59,000 mt compared with 280,000 mt — was attributed to the FCC maintenance.

Bazan said that during Q1 it carried out maintenance on the FCC unit and at Carmel Olefins. The maintenance was completed in April.

** France’s Feyzin was gradually restarting its petrochemical plant after maintenance. During the restart, which commenced June 2, and should last around 10 days, flaring was possible, according to media reports citing TotalEnergies. The maintenance, which started March 23, was due to last for around nine weeks.

** Greece’s Motor Oil Hellas increased throughput at its Corinth refinery to 3.371 million mt in Q1 2022, up by 2.5% from 3.289 million mt in the year-ago quarter, it said during a conference call June 7. The refining segment achieved “very strong operating results” driven by improved margins.

The increased energy costs were “fully diluted” by the record middle distillate cracks, said Petros Tzannetakis, deputy managing director and CFO.

Q2 utilization remains at high levels with the crude diet also “more or less” similar to Q1, Tzannetakis said.

** The volume of vehicle fuels supplied by Spain’s national fuel distributor Exolum to the Spanish market in May increased 21% year on year to 3.3 million cubic meters (2.6 million mt) driven by recovering kerosene volumes and record gasoline, data published June 9 by national fuel distributor Exolum showed.

** In other news, France’s CGT labor union has called a one-day strike at TotalEnergies refineries June 24. The industrial action will be over a higher pay and is expected to result in reduced operations as well as blocked fuel deliveries by trucks, trains and pipelines over 24 hours.

Near-term maintenance
New and revised entries
** Austria’s Schwechat refinery is maximizing the “distillation capacities of a smaller available crude oil distillation unit” following “significant” damage to its main CDU before restart after maintenance. The damage occurred following a mechanical incident on June 3 “during the legally required water pressure test” which was part of the final work of the turnaround, OMV said. Schwechat has been undergoing a turnaround since April 19. The company also said that at present “it is not yet possible to estimate the duration of the repair phase.”

** 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.

** Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam — formerly known as the Pernis refinery — which has been in a rolling maintenance since late January, is gradually restarting, market sources said. The refinery was planning to halt units in a staggered manner in order to ensure continuity of the plant’s operations during the works, which are due to last until the end of June, S&P Global Commodity Insights has reported.

Existing entries
** 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.”

** Germany’s Heide is carrying out maintenance between May 4-June 11. The refinery will continue operations during the maintenance and cleaning works, although they will be reduced. Production facilities not involved in the maintenance will continue operations so that the supply of products during the turnaround will be guaranteed. Heide carried out partial works earlier this year in March.

** 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.

** Planned maintenance is expected to start on May 8 at France’s Lavera and last around two months, according to market sources.

** 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.

** Lithuania’s Orlen Lietuva refinery has started its planned maintenance, a company spokesperson was quoted as saying in a local news report. “The work is proceeding to schedule,” Kristina Gendvile was quoted as saying by Polish state news agency PAP. Gendvile said the maintenance would 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. The refinery has previously said it planned to suspend operations in May for major maintenance, which would last from May 22 to June 14.

** Israel’s Ashdod refinery is planning full maintenance, scheduled to begin in May, the company said. Market sources said the company 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. 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.

** Norway’s Mongstad will undergo planned maintenance in Q2, the company said. The works were set to start April 23 and last around six weeks. The refinery had previously postponed works that were planned for 2020.

** In the second half of 2022, Repsol is to 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 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.

** 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.
Source: Platts

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