French union eyes strike over Exxon's petchem closure

  • : Crude oil, Oil products, Petrochemicals
  • 24/04/12

ExxonMobil's plan to close its Gravenchon petrochemical plant in Normandy has raised the possibility of more strike action in France's downstream oil sector.

The CGT trade union has called on all ExxonMobil workers in France to down tools and for the "immediate shutdown of installations". The situation is fluid and it is not immediately clear whether workers will vote on strikes today or if ExxonMobil's operations in France will be stopped.

"We are preparing our plan of action. We will be announcing it very soon," a union official told Argus.

ExxonMobil said on 11 April that the Gravenchon plant has made more than €500mn ($540mn) in losses since 2018 and that it cannot afford to continue operating at such a loss. The firm expects the site to fully close, including the steam cracker and related derivatives units, at some point this year with the loss of 677 jobs.

"The configuration of the steam cracker, its small size compared to newer units, high operating costs in Europe and higher energy prices make it uncompetitive," it said.

The announcement coincided with news that a consortium comprising trading firm Trafigura and energy infrastructure company Entara is in talks to buy ExxonMobil's 133,000 b/d Fos refinery on the French Mediterranean coast.

As well as the direct job losses at Gravenchon, the CGT said there would be an additional loss of work for around 3,000 indirect positions and sub-contractors. The local prefecture of Seine Maritime said the decision will have a "very serious impact on employment and the local economy".

The CGT said upgrades costing around €200mn are needed at Gravenchon, which is "around 0.5pc" of ExxonMobil's total profit in 2023.

ExxonMobil said the decision to close the plant will not impact operations at its adjacent 236,000 b/d Port Jerome refinery. "In current market conditions, the refinery will continue to operate and supply France with fuels, lubricants, basestocks and asphalt," the firm said.

ExxonMobil has reduced its exposure to Europe's downstream sector in recent years, selling the 198,000 b/d refinery at Augusta in Italy to Algerian state-owned Sonatrach in 2018 and divesting its stake in the 126,500 b/d Trecate refinery in northern Italy to local refiner API last year.


Related news posts

Argus illuminates the markets by putting a lens on the areas that matter most to you. The market news and commentary we publish reveals vital insights that enable you to make stronger, well-informed decisions. Explore a selection of news stories related to this one.

24/06/17

Rains return to Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state

Rains return to Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state

Sao Paulo, 17 June (Argus) — Rainfall returned to Brazil's flood-hit Rio Grande do Sul state over the weekend and is likely to remain until Wednesday, according to meteorological firm Climatempo. Downpours started in late April brought havoc to the state, flooding rivers and lakes and hampering several logistics points. Several state and national highways are still damaged and the state's main airport is likely to remain closed until the end of the year. The weather had eased in the last few weeks, with lake and river levels dropping below flood levels since at least 9 June. But two new cold fronts brought rains to the state once again on 15 June, Climatempo said. Rains are likely to reach an accumulated 200-300mm (7.9-11.8in) from 15-19 June in the state's central-northern and northwestern regions, Climatempo said. Other areas will receive 80-150mm in the same span. Showers in the central-northern region of the state hit 50-60mm on 16 June alone, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Cai and Jacui rivers have reached above-flood levels once again, according to the state's civil defense. The Taquari River's levels are "above caution quotas," reaching 17m (55.7ft). Levels need to be below 5m to be considered normal. Civil defense authorities have also issued a flood warning for those that live close to the Sinos River, asking them to evacuate risky areas. Rio Grande do Sul is one of Brazil's main agricultural states. The US Department of Agriculture has cut the state's 2023-24 soybean production estimate because of the floods. The extreme weather has left at least 176 dead and over 422,000 people displaced, according to the civil defense's latest report published on 14 June. By Lucas Parolin Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

UK launches anti-dumping investigation: Base Oils


24/06/17
24/06/17

UK launches anti-dumping investigation: Base Oils

London, 17 June (Argus) — The UK Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) is investigating alleged dumping of lubricants in the UK market at unfair prices. The TRA will investigate whether imports of engine oils and hydraulic fluids from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Lithuania are being dumped in the UK and whether they are causing injury to the UK's lubricant blending industry. The investigation was spurred by an anti-dumping application by UK lubricants manufacturer Aztec Oils. "For too long, UK lubricant manufacturers have faced unfair competition from dumped products sold at unsustainable prices, which has had a severe impact on our industry", Aztec managing director Mark Lord told Argus today. "By ensuring fair trading practices, we can safeguard jobs, maintain high standards of product quality, and secure the long-term prosperity of the UK lubricant industry", Lord added. If the TRA determines a trade remedy is necessary, an Economic Interest Test (EIT) will be conducted to assess whether the implementation of a trade remedy is in the UK's economic interest, TRA said. UK imports of engine oils and hydraulic fluids from the UAE and Lithuania have increased over the past two years. Imports in February totalled 2,219t — standing 2,157t higher than in February 2022, according to Global Trade Tracker. European buyers have recently looked more towards importing Group I base oils, despite traditionally being a net exporter , as a result of refinery maintenance and shutdowns , curbing available supply. More limited availability has pushed European fob Group I domestic and export spot prices up, incentivising a move towards more competitively priced material. The Argus- assessed Group I SN 150 fob domestic and export spot price currently stands at parity ($1,110/t) with prices rising by 13pc and 31pc, respectively, since the start of the year. By Christian Hotten Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Iran rebukes G7 over nuclear warning: Update


24/06/17
24/06/17

Iran rebukes G7 over nuclear warning: Update

Adds quotes from IAEA director general Dubai, 17 June (Argus) — Iran's foreign ministry has called on the G7 to distance itself from "destructive policies of the past" after the group issued a statement condemning Tehran's recent nuclear programme escalation. "Unfortunately, some countries, driven by political motives and by resorting to baseless and unproven claims, attempt to continue their failed and ineffective policy of imposing and maintaining sanctions against the Iranian nation," the foreign ministry's spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on 16 June. Kanaani advised the G7 "to learn from past experiences and distance itself from destructive past policies". His comments were in response to a joint statement from G7 leaders on 14 June warning Iran against advancing its nuclear enrichment programme. The leaders said they would be ready to enforce new measures if Tehran were to transfer ballistic missiles to Russia. The G7's reference to Iran comes on the heels of a new resolution passed by the board of governors of the UN's nuclear watchdog the IAEA . The resolution calls on Iran to step up co-operation and reverse its decision to restrict the agency access to nuclear facilities by de-designating inspectors. Kanaani said "any attempt to link the war in Ukraine to the bilateral co-operation between Iran and Russia is an act with only biased political goals", adding that some countries are "resorting to false claims to continue sanctions" against Iran. Tehran will continue its "constructive interaction and technical co-operation" with the IAEA, Kanaani said. But the agency's resolution is "politically biased", he said. Not an "anti-Iran" policy In an interview with the Russian daily newspaper Izvestia published today, IAEA director general Rafael Grossi refused claims of political bias. "We do co-operate with Iran. I don't deny this. This is important for inspection. My Iranian colleagues often say that Iran is the most inspected country in the world. Well, it is, and for good reason. But this is not enough," Grossi said, adding that the IAEA does not adhere to an "anti-Iran policy". Grossi also stressed the need for countries to return to diplomacy with Iran, while expressing concerns over the expansion of its nuclear programme. "Russia plays a very important role in this diplomacy, trying to keep the Iranian programme within a predictable and peaceful framework. But again, everything needs to be controlled," he said. The IAEA's new resolution and the reference to Iran in the G7 statement could be the start of a more concerted effort to raise pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme. "What is happening right now is the process of accumulation of resolutions, so that when the day comes and the IAEA makes a referral to the UN Security Council, there will be enough resolutions to make a case for action at the security council level," a diplomatic source told Argus . Iran is enriching uranium to as high as 60pc purity. Near 90pc is considered to be weapons grade, according to the IAEA. By Bachar Halabi Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Huge potential for tray-to-tray recycling:PETCORE


24/06/17
24/06/17

Huge potential for tray-to-tray recycling:PETCORE

London, 17 June (Argus) — Ahead of the Petcore Europe Thermoforms Conference in Granada, Spain, on 25-26 June, the technical manager of Petcore Europe's thermoforming working group, Jose-Antonio Alarcon, spoke to Argus about the development and challenges of tray-to-tray recycling in Europe. Why is closing the loop on tray-to-tray packaging important for the European industry? Most of the PET recycling industry has been concentrated on recycling PET bottles, while tray packaging makes up around 25pc of the overall PET market in Europe. For many years, bottle producers were not keen to use recycled content in their packaging, so most recycled PET flakes were going into tray applications. As regulation continues to push up recycled content in bottles, more and more flakes are going to the bottle market, while trays have not followed the same circularity path and recycled content supply has become more competitive. Around 70pc of bottles are collected on average in Europe, but the figure is less than 30pc for trays. Only around 50,000 t/yr of trays are currently recycled in Europe, when more than 1mn t/yr are placed on the market. There is huge potential. Petcore Europe has been pushing for tray-to-tray solutions, and in the thermoforming working group we are working on dealing with barriers to making trays circular, looking at collection, recycling technologies, standardisation and design for recycling, food contact and communication. What are the major obstacles to scaling up tray-to-tray recycling? One is the collection of trays in most countries in Europe. In some countries, such as Italy, trays are collected together with other packaging types. In others — particularly where there is a deposit return system (DRS) for bottles — then trays are not properly collected. Collection is the first challenge, if you are not collecting, you are not sorting, you are not recycling. One country that is very successful in tray collection is Belgium. France is working on it and is doing a good job. And Italy is also carrying out trials, but these have been less successful — finding an appropriate outlet for material was a challenge and improvements need to be made to make this work. It is worth mentioning that, Corepla, the EPR system in Italy, has several industrial schemes to improve tray-to-tray recycling with selected recyclers. But the success story in Belgium really stands out. It is a chicken and egg scenario, why is there not more tray-to-tray recycling? Because it is not collected, sorted, recycled? Or maybe because there is not enough demand? If there is not the demand for inclusion of tray flake, then sorters do not have the critical mass to create a dedicated stream. The technology is advancing, there are sorting technologies capable of identifying PET bottles, PET mono-layer tray, PET multi-trays and there are recyclers today that are leading the market and recycling both mono and multi-layer trays already. No fewer than seven stakeholders in the value chain need to be convinced that tray-to-tray is the right thing to do and makes sense — both environmentally and economically. How do you see tray-to-tray recycling developing in the coming years? Ultimately, the market will determine the value of tray-to-tray recycling. The recycling of trays needs to evolve. Bottle recycling has been in place for more than 20 years, and there is a clear progression from how it looked at the beginning to how the market works today. The tray recycling sector is in its infancy, and it will take time to evolve. It needs to have the right level of interest and demand to progress. At the end of the day if things are not economically viable, they will not progress. The market needs to be self-sustaining. Some companies are already focused on recycling of multi and mono-layer recycling. And there is a learning curve. If you look at the number of players recycling bottles in Europe and compare it with recyclers of trays, it is very different. But it is growing, and most tray-to-tray projects only started in recent years. There will be more solutions — sorting and washing technology will improve, decontamination technology will improve. We need separate sorting, and the value chain and retailers to be aligned and moving in the right direction. Progress is slow, but it is necessarily so for the learning curve. At the same time, we need to put pressure on the market to catalyse this movement. Legislation will play a critical role, but the best action is to drive your own fate. How is regulation supporting the development of tray circularity? There are particular chapters on trays in Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) in EU regulation 2022/1616 and the Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPD), but there is no specific legislation dedicated to thermoforming packaging just yet. In the SUPD, there is mention of on-the-go packaging that can be related to trays, but it covers all packaging types for single use, not specifically PET trays. Article 6 under EU regulation 2022/1616 mentions the need for separate collection of plastic to be used in food contact applications. This is where we need to work more on the collection and sorting of PET trays and have to push for the trays to be placed in a separate collection stream. While legalisation undoubtedly underpins demand for recycled content, Petcore aims to go above and beyond the minimum requirements set for the tray market. The thermoforming market needs to be circular and needs to be self-reliant, independent of the regulation imposed. Will the development of chemical recycling be in competition with tray-to-tray recycling? The aim of the association is to make the whole PET market circular — my expectation is that in the future there will most probably be some bottle flake going into trays and some tray flake going into bottles. There will also be some claim for chemical recycling, but each sector needs to have its own area, we need to have mechanical and chemical recycling working in harmony. Recycling of trays is not the same as recycling bottles, mechanical properties and composition of the packaging is different. And trays are more complex than bottles, because they have the tray, lidding film, inks, labels, etc. The percentage of multi-layer material is much higher in trays than in bottles and this makes the recycling process more complex. And design for recycling will help, but there is a place for both mechanical and chemical recycling. We need to look for the most conservate and sustainable recycling route — first this is mechanical, but when this is not possibility chemical recycling makes sense. Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Japex takes control of Norway-focused upstream venture


24/06/17
24/06/17

Japex takes control of Norway-focused upstream venture

Tokyo, 17 June (Argus) — Japanese upstream firm Japex has acquired a majority stake in Longboat Japex from London-listed independent Longboat Energy to take full control of the Norwegian oil and gas joint venture. Japex spent $2.5mn to buy the 50.1pc stake, which will completed during July-September this year, Japex said. It bought a 49.9pc stake in Longboat Japex from Longboat Energy in May last year, with the UK firm last year looking to raise extra funds through asset sales, farm-down deals or issuing new equity. By Reina Maeda Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Business intelligence reports

Get concise, trustworthy and unbiased analysis of the latest trends and developments in oil and energy markets. These reports are specially created for decision makers who don’t have time to track markets day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

Learn more