Refiners across the globe were severely impacted by COVID-19, which destroyed demand, reduced operations in several refineries and even compelled them to suspend operations. Despite unfavorable conditions in the first three quarters of 2020, refiners are getting back to normalcy with seemingly improving market scenario, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
In the beginning of 2020, several refiners were forced to slash capital expenditure (capex) to sail through the crisis. This led to postponement or rescheduling of planned maintenance activities in several refineries across various regions. Lockdowns imposed in many countries also resulted in supply shortage of spare parts and contract workers, preventing refinery operators to go ahead with their maintenance activities as per original schedules.
Haseeb Ahmed, Oil and Gas analyst at GlobalData, comments: “As companies slash costs to stay afloat amid falling revenues, they are unwilling to infuse additional capex into maintenance schedules. Several refiners have pushed maintenance activities to 2021, as they re-assess their business portfolios. For instance, Milazzo Refinery and Eni have postponed maintenance activities in their respective refineries to Q2 2021.”
Several refiners deferred maintenance schedules to Q1, Q2 or late 2021. Workers safety has been one of the key concerns for refiners to delay maintenance. Refineries located in North America and Europe have been impacted the most, since the pandemic was widely prevalent in these regions during the initial stage. However, many of these refineries have started maintenance and are taking adequate precautionary measures – albeit with delays. While refineries across Asia have started their maintenance activities, refineries situated in Oceania, or in the Middle East are yet to start.
Ahmed continues: “The implications of delayed maintenance activities, such as reducing refinery and losing supply contracts, have weighed down several refinery operators. Although maintenance activities are back on track across many regions after a hiatus, it is unlikely that refiners can catch-up with their initial schedules.
“While, operators are adjusting to the new norm of operating refineries, the gradual improvement in global economy provides a ray of hope to run refineries at their maximum potential and cover the lost ground.”