Picture: REUTERS/JESSICA RINALDI
Picture: REUTERS/JESSICA RINALDI

Oil refiners are permanently closing processing plants in Asia and North America and facilities in Europe could be next because of the uncertain prospects for a recovery in fuel demand after the coronavirus pandemic cut consumption.

The pandemic initially cut global fuel demand 30% and refiners temporarily idled plants. But consumption has not returned to pre-pandemic levels and lower travel may be here to stay, leading to the possibility that plants may shut permanently.

Here are some of the companies/refineries involved.

The US

Royal Dutch Shell said it was closing its refinery in Convent, Louisiana, the largest such US facility. The shutdown will occur in November after Shell failed to find a buyer. Shell expects to sell all but six refineries and chemical plants globally and is considering closing facilities it cannot sell.

Marathon Petroleum, the largest US refiner by volume, plans to permanently halt processing at refineries in Martinez, California, and Gallup, New Mexico.

Singapore

Shell will halve crude processing capacity and cut jobs at its Pulau Bukom oil refinery in Singapore as part of an overhaul to reduce the company’s carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050.

Japan

Japan’s biggest refiner Eneos permanently shut the 115,000 barrels per day (bpd) crude distillation unit at its Osaka refinery on September 30 as planned.

Australia and New Zealand

ExxonMobil is urging the Australian government to start releasing aid to the country’s oil refineries by January2021 after a decision by BP early in November to shut the nation’s biggest refinery.

BP plans to stop producing fuel in Australia and will convert its loss-making Kwinana oil refinery, the biggest of the country’s four, into a fuel import terminal because of tough competition in Asia.

Australia has proposed offering incentives worth A$2.3bn ($1.68bn) over 10 years to keep the country’s four remaining oil refineries open and said it would invest in building fuel storage as part of a long-term fuel security plan.

Viva Energy has said that a full shutdown of its refinery in Victoria is on the cards given the dire long-term outlook for the industry.

Refining NZ said in late June that it was considering shutting New Zealand’s only oil refinery and turning it into a fuel import terminal, but first would reduce its operations to cut costs and break even into 2021.

Philippines

Shell will permanently shut its 110,000 bpd Tabangao facility in Philippines’ Batangas province, one of only two oil refineries in the country.

Europe

Gunvor Group said in June that it was considering mothballing its 110,000 bpd refinery in Antwerp as Covid-19 hurt the plant’s economic viability.

Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie put plants in the Netherlands, France, and Scotland on a list of potential closures. 

Reuters

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