The future of Milford Haven oil refinery in Wales looked shaky last night after a deal to sell it fell through.
American-owned oil firm Murphy Petroleum (Murco) had been hoping to sell it to investment fund Greybull.
Now Murco is in talks with employees about Milford Haven, casting 400-odd jobs at the Welsh site into doubt.
These are challenging times for oil refineries in the UK, with Coryton in Essex closing two years ago and Scotland’s Grangemouth having trouble. From a peak of 18 in the late 70s, the UK now has seven open.
Tom McKinlay, Managing Director of Murco said: “For over three years, we have left no stone unturned in trying to find a buyer for the plant. Our efforts highlight the challenges and on-going changes confronting the European refining industry and are in no way a reflection on the attitude and work ethic of the Murco team.”
The union Unite which represents some of the workers yesterday called on the UK Government to step in and save the refinery.
Unite Welsh secretary, Andy Richards said: “The UK government cannot repeat the mistake of Coryton and allow another of the UK’s oil refineries to close. It’s now time for all parties that have a stake in the future of Milford Haven to fight tooth and nail to save the refinery.”
Motoring groups suggested another closed refinery could put a strain on fuel prices and leave the UK dependent on imported road fuels.
Professor Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation said: “Even if we can secure the fuel we need from abroad, unforeseen events – war, politics, weather – all threaten the stability of the supply chain and will have an impact on price.”
Milford Haven shows how hard thins are for UK refineries, said Prof Glaister: “The oil business is often seen as a licence to print money but this demonstrates how unattractive it is to be in refining. Profit margins have collapsed by about two-thirds over the past eight years.”
Refineries themselves aren’t adapted to the UK’s needs, he suggested: “Our ageing plants are geared up to produce petrol and yet increasingly motorists drive diesel cars.”