THE OWNERS of an oil refinery near Chester that employs more than 1,000 people have denied reports they plan to sell the plant.
Essar Energy says it has no intention of closing the facility at Stanlow, having recently completed ‘upgrading work’ to improve efficiency.
Several readers contacted the Leader after hearing rumours of a planned sale, including some who claim staff have been warned of redundancies.
And in recent weeks the Financial Times (FT) reported that Essar Group, parent company to Essar Energy, was planning to sell Britain's second largest oil refinery, which it bought from Shell for $350 million in 2011.
In a statement on its website, Essar conceded refining margins had been ‘exceptionally poor’, but added that measures had been taken to allow the company to account for this.
It said: “Essar Energy plc denies that it has any plans to close its Stanlow refinery.
Essar Energy has embarked on an estimated US$100 million cost improvement programme at Stanlow to ensure the business is able to weather this period of exceptionally poor refining margins. This programme has the support of Essar Energy plc, management and our employees.”
The refinery supplies more than 15 per cent of the UK’s transport fuels, which equates to an annual production of more than two billion litres of jet fuel, three billion litres of petrol and 3.5 billion litres of diesel. It also processes over 11 million tonnes of crude oil each year.
Sources close to the company reportedly told the FT Essar Group was looking to sell the refinery in an attempt to reduce debts and refocus on its core Indian business.
The publication claimed the Mumbai-based industrial group had conducted discussions with a number of potential parties as part of plans to sell either a minority stake or the entire facility.
However, in its statement, Essar Energy stressed its commitment to working in the region, and the UK.
It said: “The Stanlow refinery is well-positioned to supply UK fuel demand, given its advantageous location and following recent upgrading work to optimise product output. The refinery is supported by integration into extensive pipeline logistics and good road links to access local and regional markets.
“Essar Energy and the entire transport fuel supply industry are working together with the UK Government to improve the resilience of UK refineries and importers.”