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The Serious Challenges Which Confront Refineries in SE Europe Were Hotly Debated at IENE’s Latest Conference in Thessaloniki

The Serious Challenges Which Confront Refineries in SE Europe Were Hotly Debated at IENE’s Latest Conference in ThessalonikiMore than 100 delegates gathered for a one and a half day highly focused conference in Thessaloniki, convened by the Institute of Energy for SE Europe (IENE) on March 30-31, which dealt with the current issues faced by refineries and oil marketing companies in the region. Twenty speakers and panelists from 12 different countries actively participated in the five sessions which formed this unique event which was fully backed by Hellenic Petroleum S.A., the region’s petroleum market leader

More than 100 delegates gathered for a one and a half day highly focused conference in Thessaloniki, convened by the Institute of Energy for SE Europe (IENE) on March 30-31, which dealt with the current issues faced by refineries and oil marketing companies in the region. Twenty speakers and panelists from 12 different countries actively participated in the five sessions which formed this unique event which was fully backed by Hellenic Petroleum S.A., the region’s petroleum market leader. Following opening speeches by Mr. Grigoris Stergioulis, CEO of Hellenic Petroleum, and the Chairman of Greece’s Oil Marketing Companies Association, Mr. John Aligizakis, the conference delegates attended presentations contributed by Dr. Leo Drollas, a well known international analyst based in London, and by John Cooper the Director General of Fuels Europe which is the petroleum industry’s Brussels based body. In between them Drollas and Cooper provided the expert background which proved immensely helpful in understanding the oil market’s prevailing dynamics and organization

The refinery trends in SE Europe where examined in a two hour long session moderated by Dr. Hans Hutta of the ICM in Vienna with the participation of Mr. Avner Maimon, CEO of Bazan Group in Israel, Mr. Vladimir Gagic, Director of Refining Block, NIS jsc of Novi Sad in Serbia, Mr. Laurentiu Pachiu Founder Partner and Member of the Board of Energy Policy Group in Romania, Mr. Diomidis Stamoulis, Senior Director, Strategic Planning of Industrial Activities and Participations of Hellenic Petroleum SA in Greece, Mr. Alexandru Maximescu, Public and Regulatory Affairs Director Manager of OMV Petrom in Romania and Mr. Petros Papasotiriou, Managing Director of the engineering firm Asprofos SA of Greece.

One of the key findings of the session was that the SE European refineries are mostly underutilized, with the exception of Bosnia. Increasing refinery throughput is difficult as only a small part of the region’s crude is directed to petroleum products. Most processed crude goes into gasoline and heating oil derivatives, with the market for these products limited in both size and margins. Operational efficiencies in refineries in the West Balkans are also lacking. SEE refineries generally have inadequate capabilities in global crude trading and rely heavily on Middle East and Russian oil. These refineries produce limited amounts of value-added petrochemical and lubricant products and do not have the advanced equipment to be found in refineries in neighbouring EU countries.

These findings suggest that within the next 3-5 years, the bulk of the region’s major refineries will need to change their operating models, undergo regional consolidation or close down. Another important finding of the conference was the realization that due to a very special set of circumstances, which were fully analyzed and discussed among delegates and panelists, the SE European refinery scene is undergoing a renaissance, in stark contrast with developments in Central and Western Europe and USA where closures and mothballing has been the order of the day. Upgrading and revamping of refinery complexes in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia appear to be the order of the day while a new refinery is actually being built in Turkey.

The regulatory framework and investment needs and new business opportunities were also discussed in a special session which followed the one on refining trends. Mr. Ilia Gjermani, Head, Regulatory and Management, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Energy, Albania, Mr. Adam Howard, Principal Banker Natural Resources, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), UK and Mr. Roman Matkiwsky, Director Energy & Infrastructure, of the Thessaloniki-based Black Sea Trade & Development Bank, were the main contributors while Mr. Christos Dimas Chairman, of the Hellenic-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Geopolitics Committee & Member of the BoD, IENE was the session’s moderator.

The conference concluded with a panel on Fuels Marketing, Storage and Transportation which was moderated by Mr. Nikola Radovanovic Chief Legal Officer of NIS, Serbia’s leading oil group. Mr. Roberto Karahannas, General Manager, Domestic & International Retail of Hellenic Petroleum SA, who was the key note speaker, presented the key challenges facing oil marketing in the region, based on his extensive experience in dealing with six different national markets (Greece, Cyprus, FYROM, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Serbia). Mr. Dinos Leukaritis, CEO of Petrolina of Cyprus and Mr. Alexis Athanasopoulos, Head of Regulatory Affairs of EKO in Bulgaria and Chairman of the Oil Refining, Storage and Retail Committee of IENE were co panelists.


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