Natref to reopen next month

27th September 2001

South African synthetic fuel producer Sasol’s 95 000 barrels per day (bpd) capacity Natref oil refinery will reopen for production in the first week of October, company officials said.

The crude distillation unit at the Natref refinery has been shut down for the last 16 weeks since June 6, following a fire at the plant which killed two people.

“It will reopen in the first week of October,” said Sasol spokesperson Alfonso Niemand. He declined to give a specific date.

Niemand said the impact of the shutdown on its operating margin was R80-million, limited to insurance costs.

Natref is an important source of transport fuels for the country, which relies heavily on crude-oil imports from major Opec countries, such as Saudi Arabia. The closure at the Natref refinery, which accounts for at least 11% of the country’s domestic fuel consumption, has sparked a fuel shortage in some parts of the country, industry sources said.

Refined fuel for domestic consumption was being sourced from Sasol’s Sasolburg plant in the Free State Province and imports transported inland by pipeline as well as by tanker and rail.

The shortages, mostly at petrol stations in areas such as Gauteng, and Mpumalanga, was worsened by fires in parts of KwaZulu Natal and snowfalls, which made it impossible to transport fuel from South Africa’s coastal refineries.

“We have had a situation where depots are running out of stock,” said South Africa Petroleum Industry Association director Colin McClelland There are sporadic shortages and demand is proving to be quite high,” he reported .

Domestic demand was an estimated 50 litres to 60 litres a week with around R550-million spent so far on a combination of crude oil and refined fuel imports to meet the shortfall since the shutdown in July.

McClelland said shortages would continue for another month until they managed to build sufficient stocks in depots despite Natref reopening in October.

“We need about ten days of stocks,” said McClelland. “Even when the plant is running at full capacity, it will take about ten weeks to build ten days of stocks,” he added. – Reuters The crude distillation unit at the Natref refinery has been shut down for the last 16 weeks since June 6, following a fire at the plant which killed two people.

“It will reopen in the first week of October,” said Sasol spokesperson Alfonso Niemand. He declined to give a specific date.

Niemand said the impact of the shutdown on its operating margin was R80-million, limited to insurance costs.

Natref is an important source of transport fuels for the country, which relies heavily on crude-oil imports from major Opec countries, such as Saudi Arabia. The closure at the Natref refinery, which accounts for at least 11% of the country’s domestic fuel consumption, has sparked a fuel shortage in some parts of the country, industry sources said.

Refined fuel for domestic consumption was being sourced from Sasol’s Sasolburg plant in the Free State Province and imports transported inland by pipeline as well as by tanker and rail.

The shortages, mostly at petrol stations in areas such as Gauteng, and Mpumalanga, was worsened by fires in parts of KwaZulu Natal and snowfalls, which made it impossible to transport fuel from South Africa’s coastal refineries.

“We have had a situation where depots are running out of stock,” said South Africa Petroleum Industry Association director Colin McClelland There are sporadic shortages and demand is proving to be quite high,” he reported .

Domestic demand was an estimated 50 litres to 60 litres a week with around R550-million spent so far on a combination of crude oil and refined fuel imports to meet the shortfall since the shutdown in July.

McClelland said shortages would continue for another month until they managed to build sufficient stocks in depots despite Natref reopening in October.

“We need about ten days of stocks,” said McClelland. “Even when the plant is running at full capacity, it will take about ten weeks to build ten days of stocks,” he added. – Reuters