Petroplus’ UK oil refinery may be forced to get rid of 1,000 workers

Posted on 23 Jan 2012

Trading in Petroplus shares was suspended today; leading to fears that up to 1,000 employees’ jobs at the firm’s Coryton refinery in the south east will be affected.

Petroplus is Europe’s largest independent refiner by capacity. As one of the largest producers of bitumen in the UK, Coryton’s refinery workers are said to be fearing for the worst according to East of England MEP Richard Howitt. The refinery also halted all sales of fuel.

“Job losses of this scale are completely unacceptable. Everything must be done to avert them,” said the Labour MEP, who has represented his region since 1994.

Petroplus was fined 50,000 Swiss francs (£34,000) in November last year for lying to the Swiss SIX stock exchange about its 2009 earnings. Today (January 23), the company requested that the trading of its shares be halted on the exchange – coming as a “complete surprise,” said Mr Howitt.

The MEP has been in meetings with other European parliamentarians to discuss ways in which jobs could be saved at the site. Petroplus has operations in a number of other European countries, including Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland.

Shutdowns have taken place in other European states over the past several months too. The firm said a plant in France was being shut down, while its refinery Antwerp, Belgium, would start a safe shut down within a week.

An analyst from Swiss private bank Vontobel commented last week: “It’s rather severe. According to my calculations, given the normal throughput they have, they can only keep operating until mid-January.”