February 28, 2023
Shell Pernis maintenance fuels bitumen supply concerns
A major turnaround due to start at Shell’s 404,000 b/d Pernis refinery in Rotterdam in early March is adding to concerns about bitumen supply in northern Europe at the start of the road paving season.
The maintenance work at Pernis is scheduled to last up to two months, with bitumen production at the facility likely to be affected from mid-March. While Shell is understood to have built up enough bitumen stocks to meet anticipated regional demand, the halt will likely overlap with a planned maintenance shutdown affecting bitumen production and supply at ExxonMobil’s 236,000 b/d Port Jerome refinery in northern France, which began on 27 February and is scheduled to last until 17 March.
There are also concerns about further strike action in France next month, which some bitumen buyers fear will impact all of the country’s refineries and could last for several days. French industrial action so far this year has mainly affected TotalEnergies’ refineries at Gonfreville, Donges and Feyzin for 24-48 hours at a time, leaving France’s other bitumen-producing refineries at Port Jerome and Lavera unscathed.
TotalEnergies’ 219,000 b/d Donges refinery on the French Atlantic coast was halted on 27 February after a fire caused by an electrical transformer issue, although the incident is understood to have been minor and production is expected to resume over the next few days, according to workers and company sources.
The northwest European road paving season is set to begin around mid-March and typically runs through to November. There were already some concerns about supply tightening during the season because of the impact of EU sanctions on Russian bitumen, crude and refinery feedstocks like straight-run fuel oil.