Germany refinery utilisation rates plunge to 76.1% in Q1

23 April 2010 18:36  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS news)--Germany’s refinery utilisation rates ran at an average of 76.1% in the first quarter, down sharply by 11.5 percentage points from 87.6% in the same period a year earlier, an industry group said on Friday.

The drop in utilisation rates came amid declining demand for refined products and maintenance work at key facilities in Karlsruhe and Wilhelmshaven, said Berlin-based Mineralolwirtschaftsverband (MWV), a trade group that represents the country's refiners.

First-quarter sales volumes fell 11% year over year to 24.6m tonnes as heating oil, gasoline and diesel volumes dropped, the group said.

The volume decline was led by light heating oil, which fell 32.6% to 5.6m tonnes in the first quarter. Households last year had filled up their heating oil tanks to benefit from lower prices, the group said in explaining the decline in demand in the first quarter.

Gasoline and diesel demand fell 4.6% and 1.1% to 4.5m and 7.0m tonnes, respectively - largely due harsh winter weather that limited drivers’ mobility, the group said.

But at the same time, refined product prices increased significantly because of higher crude oil prices and the weaker euro when compared with the US dollar, the group said.

Crude oil prices averaged $75.57/bbl during the quarter, up by almost 77% from $42.76/bbl in the 2009 first quarter. Compared with the 2009 fourth quarter, prices rose by $2/bbl, the group said.

Meanwhile, the business situation of refiners in Europe's largest economy remained “strained” during the quarter, MWV said.

Even though margins improved somewhat in March, refiners did not manage to cover their average processing costs over the full three months, it said.

In related news, Germany’s PCK Schwedt refinery confirmed that it started work on a planned €76m ($101m) maintenance turnaround , due to be completed by mid-May. Last year, the Schwedt refinery processed 11.4m tonnes of crude oil into refined fuels and petrochemical products.

($1 = €0.75)

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