Refining operations

THE LINDSEY OIL REFINERY (LOR) AT KILLINGHOLME IN LINCOLNSHIRE WAS COMMISSIONED BY ITS JOINT OWNERS, PETROFINA AND TOTAL, IN MAY 1968

It was joined about a year and a half later by the adjacent Conoco (now Phillips 66) Humber refinery facility.  Ownership became 100% vested in Total on its acquisition of Petrofina in 1999.

Capacity, feedstocks and rationalisation

Initial distillation capacity was just over 70,000 barrels per day (3.5 million tonnes).  Subsequent increments during the 1970/80s brought this up to a total of 221,000bpd (10.8 million tonnes) these expansions also included the addition of fluid catalytic cracking (FCC), alkylation, visbreaking and MTBE units. The FCC unit has a capacity of 49,000bpd with reforming capacity at 28,000bpd.  Processing flexibility is such that the refinery can handle 45 different types of crude oil – although given its geographical proximity, the plant typically runs between 85% – 95% of North Sea sourced feed stocks.

With a Nelson Complexity Index of 6.4 , the refinery is at the low end of the range for UK plants which have a network average of 8.26.

In 2009 a substantial capital project was completed with the commissioning of a new distillate hydro treater and hydrogen production unit to increase the plant’s capability to produce sulphur free diesel.

Crude oil and feed stocks are imported by pipeline from the Associated Petroleum Terminal (APT) situated 5 miles away at Immingham Dock and jointly owned with the Phillips 66.  The refinery site comprises 145 storage tanks including 11 for crude oil and 38 road tanker loading bays which can accommodate up to 400 RTWs per day. The rail loading facility comprises 5 loading bays and can accommodate up to 10 trains per day; it is the country’s largest private rail complex.

When Total decided to exit the UK downstream sector in 2010, the refinery was put up for sale along with the marketing business.  While the latter – retail branded site network plus Total Butler – was sold to Rontec in 2011, it did not prove possible to find a buyer for the refinery.

Early last year a rationalisation programme was announced following a wide ranging review of the company’s European refining network.   Reflecting over-capacity in the sector across Europe the rationalisation entails a 50% cut in Lindsey’s distillation capacity by shutting down one of the two crude units along with associated operations to be completed by year end.   Staff numbers will reduce from 580 to 400.       

What might the future hold? 

Against a backdrop of excess refining capacity in Europe, Total’s exit from the UK’s branded retail fuels market along with the sale of its equity distributor interests, the decision to halve Lindsey’s distillation capacity did not come as a surprise.

When coupled with last year’s closure of Murco’s Milford Haven refinery, it will result in a close balance between overall UK refining capacity and total market demand – albeit with continued imbalances in individual product categories with surplus petrol and a shortfall of both diesel and kerosene.

With these considerations in mind and given its location, both in terms of proximity to feed stock source and as a key supply point to markets in both the UK and mainland Europe, Lindsey has several attributes that suggest that it will continue to be an important part of the UK refinery network for the foreseeable future.


Lindsey Oil Refinery – product yield and distribution

The yield pattern by principal product category is as follows:

Petrol @ 25%

Jet A-1/ Kerosene @ 13%

Diesel/Gasoil @ 30%

Fuel Oil & Bitumen @ 15%

LPG & Speciality Products @ 17%

(Source: UKPIA)

The main distribution channels into the UK market are:

RAIL – principally to the company’s wholly-owned terminal at Colwick ( Nottingham), to its co-owned (with Phillips66) facility at Warwickshire Oil Storage, Kingsbury and to the Shell terminal at Jarrow

PIPELINE – principally for the carriage of Jet A-1 along the 145 mile Finaline to Buncefield and onward movement to Heathrow airport

COASTER – from APT to east coast UK locations

ROAD – from the refinery road location to RTWs servicing markets in the north, north east, Humberside/Lincolnshire and East Anglia.

As well as Heathrow, the company is also represented in the aviation fuel market at Gatwick and Stansted airports.

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