March 01, 2023
South Africa’s Natref plans May-June refinery turnaround
South African refiner Natref is planning maintenance at its 107,000 b/d Sasolburg refinery in May-June. The shutdown will affect gasoline, diesel and bitumen production.
Natref’s official information to local buyers and other stakeholders is that the refinery’s gasoline and diesel units will be halted from 1 May until 7-10 June, while units producing “black products” — principally fuel oil and bitumen — will shut from 23 May through to 10 June.
But South African bitumen buyers have been informed separately by Sasol — which owns Natref in a joint venture with TotalEnergies — that it will have no bitumen from the refinery available to the market for the whole of May and June.
That stoppage will come at the tail end of the South African bitumen consumption season, with May usually a busy month before a significant chunk of construction work ends from June through to August.
Sasolburg is the only remaining South African refinery still producing bitumen after the closure of the Engen and BP-Shell refineries in Durban and the shutdown since July 2020 of Astron Energy’s 100,000 b/d Cape Town refinery. The Cape Town refinery is in the process of restarting operations, although there are no plans for any bitumen production.
To cover domestic demand and regional exports to its southern African neighbours, South Africa has been increasingly busy importing bitumen cargoes. According to Vortexa, 106,300t of bitumen was imported into South Africa last year, all of it to Cape Town and Durban, compared with 86,800t in 2021 and negligible volumes in 2020.
Natref is also understood to have plans for a three-week halt in November, which will impact black products and gasoline units, followed by another major turnaround in May-June next year.