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South Africa refinery shut downs cause concern

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Elizabeth Dipuo Peters, the South African Minister for Energy, has directed that the portion of the 20 Year Liquid Fuels Infrastructure Roadmap Project covering the review of the existing refining infrastructure be expedited. The move comes after concerned were raised because of the increasing frequency and severity of unplanned refinery shut downs.

The Minister has ordered that an audit of the existing refineries be conducted to establish their reliability, availability and operational capacities. South Africa's domestic supply of liquid fuels from its six refineries has recently been outstripped by domestic demand. The six refineries, whose total capacity is approximately 708 000 bpd are: Sapref and Enref (in Durban), Sasol Synfuels (Secunda), Natref (Sasolburg) and Chevref (Cape Town) and PetroSA's GTL facility (Mossel Bay).

As a result of the problems, the country is constantly importing refined products. The supply becomes even more constrained during planned shut downs, where there is increased reliance on imports of liquid fuels. The situation is exacerbated by unplanned shut downs, especially when a planned shutdown coincides with an unplanned shut down. Extended shutdowns have also generally increased, which further complicates matters.

Recently, Africa’s biggest economy has been hit by shortages of LPG and bitumen due to planned and unplanned shut downs at four of the country’s six refineries.

Engen petroleum has said that its 125 000 bpd plant will be shut until the end of November due to a fire and planned maintenance work at the plant. 20 Engen services stations have reportedly run dry and shut due to the shut downs.

A 180 000 bpd SAPREF refinery, jointly owned by Shell and BP, shut one of its process units for repairs at the end of October after a problem was discovered during a post maintenance restart.

PetroSA, South Africa’s national oil company, restarted its 45 000 bpd gas to liquids Mossel Bay refinery on November 7, which should serve to ease a shortage of LPG and bitumen in the country.

It is expected that South Africa’s refineries should again operate at approximately 95% of their 708 000 bpd capacity at some point this week.

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