French refinery strikes are timed to hit hard

French refinery strikes are timed to hit hard

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Strike action and unplanned maintenance has taken offline more than 60% of France's refining capacity - or 740,000 bpd - forcing the country to import more when global supply uncertainty has increased the cost, said Reuters.

A walkout by hard-left CGT trade union members at TotalEnergies has disrupted operations at two refineries and two storage facilities, and two Exxon Mobil refineries have faced similar problems since Sept 20.

The week-long strike at TotalEnergies is part of broader action across the French energy sector as workers push for higher pay to counter inflation.

The strikes have shut down production at TotalEnergies' 240,000 bpd Gonfreville refinery and blocked deliveries at its 119,000 bpd Feyzin refinery, which was already offline following a leak.

The outages have increased the impact of what is known as the maintenance season in Europe, which takes place after the peak of gasoline consumption in the summer driving season and before winter heating demand.

Some 1.5 million bpd are expected to be offline across Europe in October, tightening already-strained supplies, particularly of middle distillates. Middle distillates such as diesel and gas oil are primarily used in freight transport, manufacturing, farming, mining, and oil and gas extraction.

"(The strikes come) at exactly the wrong time, global middle distillate onshore stocks are pretty tight... and increasing that deficit will send prices higher," Eugene Lindell, refining and products market analyst at FGE, said.

France has enough strategic reserves of oil products to cover average demand for about three months, the UFIP petroleum industry body estimates.

TotalEnergies said it had increased imports and had stocks "that could last between 20 days and a month," in addition to the strategic stocks held by France. Some TotalEnergies fuel stations have run dry in recent days, including in areas surrounding refineries and fuel depots.

The energy group said that was because a price cut introduced on Sept. 1 to help customers deal with inflation had resulted in a sharp increase in sales. Analysts do not expect widespread shortages at pumps but the refinery outages are reducing already-low stock levels.

France's diesel inventories stood at 60 million barrels in June, almost 15 million below the five-year average for that month, according to Energy Aspects. "We have downgraded our estimations of stocks in the region by 4 million barrels for both September and October," said James Burleigh at Wood Mackenzie.

France usually imports about 50% of its diesel needs yearly. Imports generally increase going into the fourth quarter due to refinery maintenance schedules. But in the week to Oct. 2, imports of oil products rose 40% week-on-week to cover the production shortfall caused by the strike, data from energy analytics firm Vortexa showed.

French suppliers are buying diesel cargoes on a ship-to-ship transfer basis from record numbers of Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) coming into Europe, Wood Mackenzie said.

Uncertainty over how long the French strikes will last has lifted European diesel spreads relative to crude <ULSD10-B-ARA> just as Western sanctions against Russia are driving prices still higher. The European Union is trying to source around 600,000 bpd of diesel to replace Russian fuel ahead of a February ban.

Early indications show that growing volumes of diesel from the Middle East are pointed toward Europe, Vortexa senior market analyst Pamela Munger said. Meanwhile, lower-than-normal French nuclear output may also spur diesel demand in France.

We remind, More than 60% of France's refining capacity is offline as strikes over pay and unplanned maintenance pile pressure on the refined products sector. The outages come as Europe looks to ease its dependence on Russian fuel. Here are the oil companies and sites affected by strike action and outages: French unions CGT and Force Ouvriere called for a strike on Sept. 20 following wage negotiations with Exxon Mobil Corp related to rising inflatio

Europe braces for heavy oil refinery outages amid tight supplies

Europe braces for heavy oil refinery outages amid tight supplies

MOSCOW (MRC) -- A heavy oil refinery turnaround season in Europe this autumn, plus French strike action, is set to push diesel prices higher and tighten supplies ahead of a European Union ban on Russian refined products which is due to come into force early next year, said Reuters.

In October, around 1.5 MMbpd of crude refining capacity is expected to be offline in Europe for planned and unplanned maintenance, Energy Aspect estimated. This figure compares with 1.1 MMbpd of offline capacity in September, and is above the 2015-2019 average for this period. In November, offline capacity is expected to reach 600,000 bpd.

The busier maintenance schedule is likely to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Given all the Covid-related restrictions, social distancing etc, it's likely that not a lot of extensive works were actually carried out but rather just essential maintenance," Energy Aspect's Livia Gallarati said. Maintenance outages next month include Eni's Sannazzaro refinery in Italy, Repsol's Tarragona refinery in Spain, and Galp Energia's Sines refinery, among others.

"The European diesel market is looking a bit softer than we had expected say this time last month," Gallarati said, adding that the consultancy has softened its European demand forecast as economic pressures mount. Europe has also been upping its diesel imports from other regions like the Middle East and Asia, with September arrivals hitting a three-year high of 1.6 million barrels per day, based on data from oil analytics firm Vortexa.

But while higher imports and a softening demand outlook are helping to ease the pressure on diesel markets, widespread refinery outages in France, partly due to strike action, could tighten supplies again. One European trader said that while the market has priced in, and to a large extent prepared for the planned outages, it is the unplanned outages that could cause problems for the oil products market.

"The issue is unexpected outages like the French strikes," he said. Walkouts over pay and unplanned maintenance have resulted the temporary shutdown of four out France's six oil refineries in the week to 28 September. This has taken offline 740,000 bpd, or over 60% of France's refining capacity.

Exxon Mobil, which operates two of the shut plants, told Reuters it had temporarily put limitations in place for customers, saying this was in accordance with the terms of its supply contracts. Benchmark European diesel profit margins hit a two-week high of about USD50 a barrel on Wednesday, based on Reuters assessments, driven by the French strikes.

Analysts expect the shutdowns to tighten refined product supply if they drag on. "The wave of strikes in France took the market by surprise and there is uncertainty about its duration," OilX analyst Neil Crosby said. "Overall, we remain constructive diesel cracks come Q12023 as the market will struggle to replace lost Russian supplies," Gallarti said, adding that Europe stands to lose 500,000-600,000 bpd of Russian diesel due to sanctions.

The European Union will stop buying all Russian crude oil delivered by sea from early December, and will ban all Russian refined products two months later, in protest over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. "We struggle to see stocks building massively from where we are," Woodmac analyst Mark Williams said.

We remind, strike action has reduced output at Exxon Mobil’s 240,000 barrel per day (bpd) Port Jerome-Gravenchon oil refinery and Notre Dame de Gravenchon (NDG) petrochemical site in France. French unions CGT and Force Ouvriere called for a strike at the plants on the evening of Sept. 20. This followed wage negotiations with Exxon Mobil related to growing inflation in Europe.

Elliott Group releases CO2 compressor and pump solution

Elliott Group releases CO2 compressor and pump solution

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Elliott Group, a leader in the engineering and manufacturing of rotating equipment, announced the release of their new CO2 Phase Hybrid Compressor Pump Solution, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Elliott has combined their proven expertise and extensive experience in CO2 compression and pump technology to develop a solution that addresses the handling of high pressure CO2. This compressor/pump design is equipped to handle any project and/or equipment related to CO2 compression needs from atmospheric pressure to typical piping pressure of around 2200 PSI and higher for sequestration requirements.

While each package configuration may vary slightly based on the customer’s specific conditions or needs, a typical CO2Phase compressor package would include the compressor, pump, motor(s), gear, lube system, and buffer or seal system.

Configurations are available with a double ISO-cooled compressor with a pump and two motors. “Elliott's CO2Phase Hybrid Compressor Pump Solution is proven, ‘ready now’ technology that addresses the CO2 compression market. The technology allows for compression of CO2 from near atmospheric pressure to supercritical pressures followed by efficiently pumping the CO2 to the final required pressure. It is ideal for CO2 pipelines or CO2 sequestration,” said Todd Omatick, Elliott’s New Product Introduction Manager.

Using both compressor and pump technology, this highly efficient CO2 compression system can optimize equipment and minimize operating costs.

China may tweak a proposed sharp increase in refined fuel export quotas for this year by extending the plan into next year, as it weighs the benefits to the economy of higher exports against low domestic stocks and operational challenges. However, the four sources with direct knowledge of the matter - and three others - said the government was still reviewing the matter. The market has been widely expecting China to release a fifth batch of fuel export quota of up to 15 MMt for the rest of the year, which would be its largest so far in 2022 and lift China's sagging exports.

AFPM, API joint statement on White House, DOE meeting with U.S. refiners

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and American Petroleum Institute (API) released the following statement after a meeting that included Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, senior White House officials and leaders of the top U.S. refining companies, said Hydrocrbonprocessing.

“U.S. refiners and administration officials met to discuss current market imbalances and our industry’s ongoing work to efficiently and affordably supply fuel to the U.S. market. As the administration refuses to rule out limitations on exports, we shared the significant unintended consequences that would come with such a policy, including potential cost increases, refinery closures, job losses and productivity declines.

“The administration continues to govern with contradictory energy policies and rhetoric. On the one hand committing to provide energy resources to our allies while at the same time threatening limitations on exports; talking about the need for permitting reform to accelerate critical energy infrastructure while actively cancelling pipelines; talking about the need for more supply while restricting access to additional federal oil and gas leasing; talking about reducing costs while increasing taxes on domestic producers during a time of historically high inflation.

“The focus of this administration should not be on trapping product in the United States or diverting fuel away from retail sales and into storage, but rather, on how to better produce and more affordably move U.S. product within the United States. The oil and natural gas industry stands ready to continue to meet U.S. consumers’ needs for affordable, reliable energy while supporting our allies around the world."

As per MRC, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) has announced the winners of the 2021 Annual Safety Awards, part of the refining and petrochemical industries’ ongoing mission to enhance and recognize outstanding workplace safety. The awards, considered the industries’ premier awards, are part of a comprehensive program developed by the AFPM Safety and Health Committee to promote safe operations in the refining and petrochemical industries. They also recognize facilities that have outstanding occupational and process safety performance.

TotalEnergies strengthens its sustainable mobility development activities

TotalEnergies strengthens its sustainable mobility development activities

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The Flemish government recently awarded TotalEnergies the contract to install 1,500 electric vehicle charging points in Antwerp, said the company.

In the heart of Europe and in Belgium's most populous city, the company is reinforcing its commitment to offering and developing sustainable mobility, with the aim of becoming Belgium's leading company in the public charging market by 2024.

On the recommendation of the Department of Mobility and Public Works of the Flemish Region, the Flemish government has tasked TotalEnergies with the installation and commercial operation of a charging service for electric vehicles in the West Flanders (Westhoek, Kortrijk and Bruges) and Flemish Brabant (Brussels Periphery, Leuven) regions. TotalEnergies will install up to 4,400 public charge points over the next two years.

The new 22 kVA charging stations will be operated under the TotalEnergies brand for a period of twelve years and will be supplied with 100 % renewable electricity generated by offshore wind power in the North Sea off the coast of Belgium.

“We are very pleased with the trust Flanders has granted us for the coming years and we will draw on our expertise to encourage and support the mobility of its citizens. This success reflects TotalEnergies’ ambition to further accelerate its transformation into a broad energy company. In Belgium, as in all markets where we are expanding into electric mobility, we are committed to providing a customer experience and electric charging services that meet their expectations.”

We remind, TotalEnergies said it would increase investments and ramp up production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as it laid out its strategy for a possible future without Russia - while still stopping short of severing links. Unlike rivals such as BP and Shell, TotalEnergies has held on to several of its holdings in Russia, which include important LNG joint ventures.