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The great refining transition

Strong competition from US, Middle East and Asian markets is threatening to dethrone Europe’s key refining position. Mahin Siddiqui, energy analyst, reports

It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times. Such is the complexity of the global refining industry, which is entering a transition phase as demand and supply centers shift from the developed nations towards developing economies.
Europe, the traditional refining behemoth, had a rude awakening when Swiss Petroplus filed for bankruptcy suddenly in 2013 after an 85 year refining sprint.
Two years later, shocked politicians, industry professionals and energy economists saw as many as 15 refineries shut down by December 2015.
Refineries are expensive to run, offering little if any return on investment on upgrades. Europe’s ageing refineries had already been squeezed due to rising crude prices combined with high taxation systems and outdated business models.
If history has twisted Europe’s refining arms, current...

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