Refining NZ is considering getting out of refining and becoming solely a fuel importer

Refining NZ is considering getting out of refining and becoming solely a fuel importer

The company that owns New Zealand's only oil refinery, at Marsden Point in Northland, is considering getting out of fuel refining altogether and operating solely as a fuel import business.

At the moment Marsden Point produces about 70% of the fuel used for transport in this country.

The refinery's owner Refining NZ said in a release to the NZX on Wednesday that it was starting a "Strategic Review" to determine the optimal business model and capital structure for its assets that will maximise “through the cycle” returns to shareholders, and deliver secure, competitive fuel supply to New Zealand. External advisers have been appointed to help with the review, though the company did not state who they were in the release.

As at the end of last year Refining NZ employed over 400 staff and about 250 contractors, but didn't break down where those staff were specifically employed.

The company says it has invested to expand processing capacity, improve product quality, reduce emissions and maintain facilities, "but these investments have not delivered an acceptable return over the last 10 years".

It says "significant new supply" has come online in China, Korea, Singapore and India, "and these larger integrated refining facilities in low cost economies are producing large volumes of low cost product putting significant downward pressure on regional margins".

Low margins have been compounded by significant increases in the market price of electricity in New Zealand, meaning that at the fee floor in the processing agreements Refining NZ does not cover its cash costs, the company says.

Four options outlined by the company include: Continuing the current "refinery model", altering this "model" through adjustments to processing and distribution agreements, separating the refining and infrastructure assets, or converting to an import terminal.

The company says some of its assets and capabilities "could facilitate New Zealand’s transition to a lower carbon economy, including hydrogen and biofuels".

While it doesn't say so implicitly the statement suggests the company is looking at generating capital that might be returned to shareholders at some point. Its three biggest shareholders are Mobil, Z and BP. The share price has languished, falling by over 50% in the past 12 months, but it did rise 5c to 91c after the review announcement on Wednesday.

Refining NZ says that while Covid-19 is affecting its operations in the short term, it actually believes that "the market conditions that have necessitated the review are structural".

Chairman, Simon Allen said: "Refining NZ has quickly responded to the current COVID-19 situation but is challenged by structural conditions resulting in low refining margins globally and oversupply in the Asia region. It is appropriate for us to review the fundamentals of the business and the Company’s future within the New Zealand fuel supply chain."

The company has confirmed it will be talking to a number of parties - including the Government. It is expected to provide an update on the review in June.

In terms of the review, the company says it will: "Look at opportunities to improve the competitiveness of refining operations and options to separate the refining and infrastructure assets or convert to a fuel import business model.

"The review will also look at the capital structure required for the preferred option to maximise value for shareholders."

In the year to December 2019 Refining NZ made a net profit after tax of just $4.2 million, down from $29.6 million the year before. This was achieved with assets of nearly $1.4 billion and shareholders' funds of $750 million.

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66 Comments

If it closed it would have a huge negative impact on employment in Whangarei.

That's the lever they will be using with the government.

One lever on the government and one lever on the electricity suppliers.

Electricity Suppliers? Does Marsden point use a lot of electricity?

what sort of a question is that!!!!

91 cents. A long way from the $6.60 after the refiner was upgraded to do the job it is now wanting to downgrade.
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=104...

And what happens to the plans to upgrade the rails to the refinery if it rationalises?
https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/119140813/northland-rail-line-110m-to-e...

I know! We get a Government Guaranteed Off-Balance Sheet Special-Purpose Vehicle to issue some Bonds and get the RBNZ to buy them and.......

The Rail was for the Port at Whangarei ( Logs & Cars ) not the Refinery for moving Fuel...

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This is a mistake. I understand that they identify that they need to ensure returns to shareholders, but that is exactly the problem. What they should be asking, and discussing with the Government is how does the country manage and maintain it's resilience in the future world? Dependency on external refineries means that we will be vulnerable to turmoil in the world for basic, essential supplies. A bigger picture beyond short term profits is much more important, until we have an alternative to fossil fuels.

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Think you'll find this is just a start of commercial bullying and blackmail; not dissimilar to the Tiwai Shelter and Rio Tinta wanting a government subsidy in the hard times.

Typical multi national corporate behaviour, to socialising their losses and privatise their profits.

The government could use the public works act to acquire their asset, and if their retail arms of these multi nationals gets their supplies from elsewhere, set up in opposition and price them out of existence.

Even better, move to electric vehicles and become self sufficient. Muldoon was onto this, however got shut down by overseas banksters.

Globalisation is for multi national benefit rather than the worlds people. Follow the money, as these banksters attempt to extract the last penny from their game which is nearing an end.

I agree with your sentiments. I think it shows just how the current business model needs to change. Current business puts shareholders before stakeholders and the communities they operate in (also stakeholders); profits before anything else. This capitalist model really needs to change now!

I also understand that this refinery is constructed to use heavy crude, while the vast majority of crude produced in NZ is high grade light crude and cannot be refined at Marsden point. I was told that in the 80s NZ was approximately 80% self-sufficient for fossil fuels, essentially because what we got paid for our crude allowed us to buy 80% of our total needs of heavy crude for Marsden Point.

And yes alternate energy sources MUST be identified and sourced. I understand Bill Gates is funding research into smaller more compact, and more useful nuclear power plants which can be used to compliment wind and hydro power. All possibilities for the future.

I'm less pessimistic of NZR, GS. The cold harsh reality of the industry is that imported cargo's from parts of Asia are cheaper than what the NZ refinery can produce. By vertically integrated oil giants shifting more of their purchasing away from the refinery towards imports this only further increases the total average costs to the refinery, their customers and ultimately us as fuel users. Put crudely (pun intended) if you are competing against someone that has a lower cost base you are competitively disadvantaged. If you are a shareholder of that business you expect management do something about it. It's not clear to me why we might then expect the tax payer to take ownership of a presumably poorly performing business in such circumstances.

Its like this Basil.

If you sell or lose control of your assets, you are beholden to those that own the goods and services. You become price takers, rather than price setters.

Politicians, by there very nature, are very risk averse. Its centred around their job security; and easy to bluff during negotiations. Hence, the lack of regulation. Now if you dont sell it off in the first place, it doesnt matter what you charge as someone operating locally will bank it; be it citizens or businesses that operate there.

Splitting the energy companies up had to be the daftest move yet. It went against the principles of economics of scale, allowed a bunch of profit seeking middlemen to clip the ticket, and now we have some of the highest power prices in the world; yet the most cost efficient (excluding nuclear). This has created all sorts of inefficiencies in the energy produced; a big part being Rio Tinta abuse of the situation. Regulating Transfer Price Charges would sort these pricks. Max Bradford, what a clown you were.

Thank you for a sensible post. not like the others surrounding you

Well said, kick these blooodsuckers out of the game

Quite right Murray, you would think that the over reliance of a single source in a supply chain China in the current situation would demonstrate the need to be self suffcnet as far as possible. Marsden point is here and operating effectively just not profitably enough time to re visit the model with an underlying requirement to retain capacity within NZ to sustain at least some of the economies requirement for fuel.

And in 3-2-1 Shane Jones and the PGF ride to the rescue, for a Modest Equity Share of the biz.....

Tariffs on imported refined fuel? Subsidy? Nationalisation? The 1970s all over again? Electricity does seem expensive in NZ, not sure why, maybe more and more people and the banning of alternatives.

I've explained why. Energy underwrites money, 100%. All the rest is betting, which will be found short.

We have burnt our way through the best half of the best energy we will ever have. Period.

As the remaining sources require more and more energy to access, there is less and less opportunity for 'profit'. And there was clearly a point where our sicial construct could not afford itself. Too obvious. Which is why the need to add more that $1 of debt for a $ of GDP (which isn't a truth in its own right).

In the long view, fossil energy should be worth about $1,000,000 a litre. And if we valued our grid in terms of long=term maintenance, we'd be 'paying' more for electricity too. We have lived through a temporary period where we avoided costs and avoided future ramifications, then told ourselves this was 'normal'and that we were 'entitled'. Neither were true.

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No. Energy is available in effectively infinite supply with cost that falls as supply increases (owing to efficiencies that come from increased scale). Hydrocarbons can be synthesized from air and water for somewhere in the range of $100/barrel using nuclear or pv energy should we have no cheaper source, so what possible justification, other than crack-pottery, is there for pretending it could ever be worth more than $1 a liter?

The Grid, with it's massive fixed costs that are 2/3rds of cost of electricity, will soon be mostly supplanted/worked around by the far cheaper option of distributed rooftop PV supplemented by additional energy delivery via battery EV's.

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All this is only possible in the case that you believe in technology.
You should be well aware by now that PDK takes an expressly contrarian and pessimistic view of such things even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Glad others have cottoned on. It's just ideological drivel dressed up in a condescending tone without a real argument to be found.

It's real-time watching real depletion of a very real, very finite, planet. By a now grossly-overshot popualtion.

I make no excuses for that, and lay the ideological label at the door of those - led by the economic belief-pedders - who thought the planet was infinite.

If you extract at exponentially-increasing rates, from a finite resource, even those who are economics-blinkered can cotton on the the final doubling-time problem. A resource, by the way, includes sink capacities.

It's interesting to watch those-who-need-to-deny try to turn their labels back to front. I often wonder how far through life they are, how much time they have left to regroup, how much their ego/mana/standing relies on that-which-they-must-fiercely-cling-to?

As for argument, RO, try reading your way through the list attached to my recent op/ed here. :)

if it was all so much cheaper …. the question is why hasn't it happened?

Answer; because its either
- wish science
- not viable (more expensive)
- doesn't fit with existing infrastructure (= more expensive)

And we aren't talking rooftop electricity. We are talking ENERGY and a complete industrial infrastructure
Last time I looked, its was tough to produce a complete car from my rooftop PV

Do you think they will continue to maintain the grid (if 50 … 80% of customers leap off?)
How will fixed costs for finished goods move in this case?
Tell em hes dreaming

Most of the cost in the grid is the 'last mile' infrastructure. Autonomous battery EV's can fill up at substations to provide backup to household batterys that store PV energy, no last mile required. We are currently paying >$1000 house per year per house for the grid, in a few years that will pay for a whole off-grid PV system in your home. Home PV will continue to get cheaper and cheaper. Larger industrials can have their own rooftop PV - and grid connection, or battery trucks from substations. Tesla is already doing this on their Gigafactories.

In a few years.... blah blah..
Always just round the corner

I was co-Chair of Solar Action, more than a decade ago. Have lived off solar (and micro-hydro) for 20 years. Championed it because I realised that was where we would end up by default.

But Foyle's posit is wrong on many levels. I repeat; money is only underwritten by energy. If there is none available, no work is done. Period. Forget all the 'getting cheaper' and 'productivity gains' and all the trot-out phrases. We are going over the top of the curve. Ask yourself how much solar infrastructure could be made ex-fossil energy? Stuff-all, is the short answer.

https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/10/the-energy-trap/

Just plain wrong. Solar infrastructure can of course all be made without use of fossil fuels, as can everything else, because we can synthesize hydrocarbons from inexhaustible feedstocks (air or carbonate rocks). You can't name a single thing that can't be made without them, excepting (perhaps) helium for some semiconductor processing that in long term we may eventually need to recover from nuclear power plants or even mine from gas giants for critical applications. When there is endless evidence contradicting your beliefs, you need to fix your perception of reality.

Go back in history and look at the fossil fuel usage. A huge percentage of it was not necessary and extremely shortsighted. The 1973 Lincoln Continental had a 7.8L V8 engine and struggled to achieve 7.0 mpg. The average weight of a car is around 1300 kg, and most are used to transport one person. We will gradually move to extreme efficiency through necessity. Small light weight transport devices that will probably achieve 100 mpg or the electric equivalent. What you are saying is correct, only if you attempt to continue with what has gone on before. For all you Tesla fans, they are a continuation of the inefficiencies of the past. Google the one person electric car. The Airbus A380 aircraft - the modern day flying Lincoln Continental.

I largely agree that Solar PV will supplement (not supplant the grid) and as PV costs decrease and batteries become more energy dense and cost less Hydrogen may become a source of fuel for both fuel cells for vehicles and gas for burning in Gas Turbines to take up spike demand.Irrespective of its inefficiency both in net energy for fuel cells produced by solar PV driven electrolysis if the original source fuel - The Sun- being free means its economical until more efficient methods are available. Novel Peroskovite is being researched worldwide and is likely to become the breakthrough in energy storage at low cost.

"We have burnt our way through the best half of the best energy we will ever have. Period."

This is a short sighted statement.

While I broadly agree with your sentiment, with the above statement you are saying there will never be more technology that comes along and unlocks energy from resources that currently aren't usable.

You may have heard of polywell fusion, for example. It smashes boron and hydrogen atoms together to make very low radiation fusion energy at a fraction of a price of a tokamak reactor - if it works. There is enough boron on the planet to last for millions of years in these reactors.

This is a very high quality energy source - provided we can invent the technology to harvest it. Once you have this effectively limitless source of fusion you can wastefully use it to produce liquid hydrocarbons from the atmosphere if you want.

Are polywell fusion reactors a given? Hardly - they don't work yet after all, and there's not been a huge amount of interest in investing in them. But just like how people in the 1800s thought whale oil lamps were the best way to keep the interior of a building lit, declaring that we'll never get a better form of energy than that found in crude oil is a bit foolish.

Note I am not saying we're guaranteed to unleash fusion, of any type. Just that your statement is short-sighted.

The problem with Fusion to date is that it only works well in huge scales due to the loss mechanisms, and huge ignition powers are expensive to achieve. But there are 5-10 very promising non-tokamak schemes that are in development at the moment, one or more of which is likely to pan out. TAE is most likely to win with a pretty well proven path to break-even in next 2 years and a commercial prototype in 3 years.

powerdoenkiwi. what a mouthful of BS

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This business should be nationalized if it doesn't work commercially. To rely on imported fuel for the whole country is strategically unacceptable.

Protect the refinery from low cost imports using tariffs. This is one business and employer we cannot afford to lose.

The belief in the never-ending free market, had us 'storing' our 3 month e,emergency supply in Singapore - the current lesson makes that look less than robust.

Only so long as we have oil production in NZ. But Coalition have decided to end that, so importing refined fuels makes sense. During next decade there will be increasing oversupply of fossil fuel capacity owing to shift to batteries. It will inevitably be a race to the bottom money losing industry.

Domestic oil production is irrelevant. Marsden Point does not refine Taranaki oil anyway, it's a 'sweet light' v 'heavy crude' thing.

Venezuela nationalized their refineries.

The Govt has put fuel companies under the microscope when in fact its the Govts own tax that makes up a significant portion of the per litre price so no wonder the refinery owners are reviewing their business because they know Labour and the Greens are anti fossil fuels.

Better to review their business now before the Govt brings in more regulations or before we have a Labour/Greens only coalition.

Venezuela was being screwed, and tried to get out of being screwed. Nigeria is another example of being screwed, Libya, Iraq, the list goes on.

I find it helps to ask 'why' about things, rather than applying a pre-held POV. Tends to give the correct result more often, as a rule.

if they change it to an oil terminal wont they have to scrap the boilers and processing plant and remediate the site?couple of hundred million that they wouldnt want to pay out,sounds like a stickup bluff style.govt is spending money like a drunken sailor and they want some.

they won't be paying for any remediation of sites even if contractually obliged, suck the $$$ out of the asset, then fold, leaving any clean up liability with Joe Public.

It's not in the contract to actually see it done, it's there to hold the authorities to ransom.

Agree it is a bully tactic.

Make sure Govt enforces reinstatement of the land back to natural beach front. At that point I'm picking they will go into receivership rather than spend any more money. Crown then takes over the abandoned asset, and maintain status quo/staff until electrification gets really established in NZ. Once that has happened, convert to port land. A 25-50 year strategy.

Or Govt enforces reinstatement and the area is turned into a multi million dollar gated housing and resort development on canals.

In other words:
"We may stay if the government can come to the table"

the sea may take it back before the govt gets around to it,not much above sea level tsunami fodder.

I saw a new portable EV charger for sale the other day in case your battery dies. It ran off petrol and was $6,500 USD. Couldn’t help laughing at the irony...

I've got a battery charger for my petrol car, runs off electricity... Doesn't seem ironic, just a useful backup for when I forget to run the car for a week or two.

Highly unlikely to ever need a petrol powered charger for an EV, if you buy an EV suitable for your uses, and don't try to push a crappy old nissan leaf into duties (distances) unsuited for it.

Battery charger for a petrol car is an auxiliary source of power vs. the primary. Regardless, I thought the irony was more in anyone purchasing an EV for ideological reasons would never take a free petrol charger vs paying that price to pay for one.

Their owners are their customers. Surely the profit is a paper exercise , and what would be the point of making more ?
IF, the govt decides to prop it up, it should be in the form of a fuel tax , to keep production in NZ , for strategic reasons.

If an oil company speaks ignore them, they are liars.
Most people would be shocked how often some tank farms run out, then all of a sudden their transporting a very long way.
Like the time not long ago Queenstown Airport was about out of fuel and they sent a convoy of trucks from the north island.
This sort of carry on happens all the time, relying on imported fuel is a fools game and they have been caught out many times. so to trust them is silly.

If our only oil refinery shuts down it will be a huge step in a negative direction for NZ. We will be moving back to being another island nation that relies heavily on imported finished products. Irrespective of its profitability our government needs to step in and support this business to maintain our independence as a country. Supporting our major infrastructure is money well spent for New Zealand's long term future. Do we want NZ to be at the mercy of the ruthless finished product oil world? Do we really want to be importing our petrol,diesel,jet, bitumen for roading, CO2 for our drinks, Sulfur for farm fertilizer.
Also the impact of the 650 employees no longer having a job would have a huge flow on effect in the north. Also this number doesn't account for the people that indirectly work for the refinery eg local engineering shops, trade suppliers, bakeries, work clothing providers, safety gear retailers etc.
New Zealands refinery is one of the worlds cleanest, if it is shut down we would then be importing from refineries that have dramatically more co2 emissions per litre of fuel they produce.

Makes sense, with the ban of offshore drilling even in the event of a global conflict New Zealand would no longer be self-sufficient in meeting its energy needs.

Sad for the people about to lose jobs. It seems like industries across New Zealand from aluminium to oil are rolling over.

Labour and the Greens are very serious about reducing emissions so closing of the smelter and oil refinery are just part of that journey.

Other emitters like Glenbrook Steel, Portland Cement, Ravensdown fertiliser will follow but it has to be done to reach our climate goals.

Brilliant, lets move that industry to a foreign country where we can pretend it doesn't exist and just import the products produced regardless of how bad their practices are. This lesson in how to pretend you are making a difference while not doing anything bought to you by the Greens, Virtue Signalling since forever.

I can remember the think big projects and I think this was one of them?

Yep, its expansion was one of the Think Big projects. Funny what a difference a month makes though, here's the CEO talking on 14 February about what a good investment it was for NZ all those years ago - and how they intended to shape the company into the future;

https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/two-cents-worth/story/2018734102/think-...

Anyone that thinks oil prices will remain depressed for years to come is likely quite wrong. Muldoon initiated Think Big in response to an oil price shock, and just as the projects were coming on-line there was an oil price slump. It then went the other way again a few years later. The current prices won't last. But I'd have thought given the ridiculously low prices for crude, the refinery would be enjoying far improved margin returns at present.

but we become very dependent on the elephant in the room
https://money.usnews.com/investing/news/articles/2020-01-29/china-flexes...

Conventional economics says Oil will spike as production shortages filter down the chain...
But Debt load and maxed out consumers says it cant...
We are in the flying equivalent of the death zone

How can anyone not understand what powerdownkiwi is saying. Oil is $20 a barrel and petrol $1 at pump (before tax) Can't you see we're almost out of energy? We're totally screwed.

Dude there is so much energy. The world is awash with natural gas and oil. Massive oversupply.

er, that was sarcasm. Pretty clear that oil producers are beginning to freak out about losing their market, all trying to diversify like mad. PowerDownKiwi is going to have to find a new dead horse to beat.

For the economy diversifying from Oil is the equivalent of diversifying from food
Its underwrites everything

... and NO customers
For the millionth time... you dont run out of Oil
You run out of viable consumers for the end products...
Which is exactly the same as running out... the supply lines STOP
Get it ?

Winston Peters will ride over on his horse and make sure those jobs don’t leave Northland.

The thing I hate about privatisation is that it fragments everything. Has this media outlet not picked up on the news OMV struck oil in the south taranaki prospect last week? Its a huge find and could materially change the energy position of this country....Jenee have you heard about that?
https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/120995935/positive-result-for-oil-and-g...

The OMV " find " will be gas I suspect if it exists.
No point in bringing ashore just yet - no market.

Think who is the large marginal user of gas in NZ.

Shutting un Synfuels would allow for many years of future gas always required for our electricity dry year generation.

We have plenty of gas for many years down the track.