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EU commissioner mulls refining intervention

13 Feb 2012, 5.01 pm GMT

EU Commissioner mulls refining intervention

London, 13 February (Argus) — EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger is proposing an EU-wide response to the crisis in the European refining sector, spurred by the insolvency of Switzerland-based independent refiner Petroplus.

Oettinger has written to ministers of the four EU member countries with Petroplus refiners — the UK, Belgium, Germany, and France. Petroplus has a fifth refinery in Switzerland, which is not an EU member. He intends to summon an EU ministerial level round table with the aim of “identifying the scope for a European strategy” and “identifying tools to elaborate such a strategy”.

The commissioner says the refining sector in Europe is suffering from low margins because of excess capacity and falling demand, and a mismatch between production and consumption of diesel and gasoline. So the restructuring of the industry is not a local or national issue but one that “merits attention and discussion at the EU level to assess if there is a need for a co-ordinated approach which guarantees that restructuring takes place while securing the supply of refined products in the EU”.

Petroplus declared itself insolvent last month. Of its more than 600,000 b/d of capacity, only around 60,000 b/d is still operational, at the 180,000 b/d Coryton refinery in the UK. Coryton is receiving crude on a hand-to-mouth basis as individual cargoes are bought.

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