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The Group owns and operates three refineries in Aspropyrgos, Elefsina and Thessaloniki, which account for approximately 65% of the country’s total refining capacity and combine a storage capacity for crude oil and petroleum products of 6.65 million m3.
The Group’s refineries operate as a single, unified system.
Energy efficiency is a main pillar of the Refining strategy, with sustained efforts to improve the relevant indicators. Access, as well as the flexibility of the Group's refineries to process a wide range of crude oil types are one of its key competitive advantages.
Τhe three refineries and their individual technical characteristics are described below:
During 2020 and despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Group retained its strong operational performance in all refineries and completed successfully the full turnaround of the Aspropyrgos refinery in 2H 2020. The turnaround included significant upgrade investments, mostly in the area of environmental improvements, as well as safety enhancements.
Within the framework of reducing its wider environmental footprint, the Group aims to reduce both air emissions and generated waste through specific actions, such as maximizing the use of fuel gases, using fuels with higher environmental standards, and applying advanced technologies in the production process. For 2020, measures to improve the environmental footprint in context with compliance with the new emission levels linked to the Best Available Techniques (BAT) were incorporated into the new environmental permits of both the Aspropyrgos and Elefsina refineries, as well as the Thessaloniki refinery.
The high-complexity, FCC-type refinery in Aspropyrgos was built in 1958. One of the most modern refineries in Europe, it has undergone several upgrades, the most important ones being:
The refinery has a significant number of main distillation units and subsequent conversion units, including a fluid catalytic cracker (FCC), a vacuum distillation unit, a mild hydrocracker, and a visbreaker for processing atmospheric residue. It has a significant gasoline production capacity through the isomerization and reforming units (CCR).
The refinery fully complies with the new environmental regulations and safety requirements. It delivers petroleum products in accordance with the highest EU standards.
It is very flexible as far as production, storage, and distribution of products is concerned; therefore, gasoline or diesel production may be increased based on market trends. The refinery owns a large private port, an extensive crude oil distribution pipeline network from and to the crude oil unloading and storage installation in Pachi, Megara, and a distribution pipeline for finished and semi-finished products from and to the Elefsina refinery. It also has the main responsibility for fuel supply through pipeline to the “Eleftherios Venizelos” Athens International Airport.
The refinery is connected to the gas network, with significant energy and environmental benefits.
The Aspropyrgos refinery began implementing the new IMO production standards in November 2019, in order to respond to the changes in the market and to ensure its supply with clean fuels, while retaining its flexibility to respond to market conditions. As both the Elefsina and Thessaloniki refineries do not produce high sulphur fuel oil, no adjustments are required in their operation.
Alongside, by the end of 2019, with the completion of the conversion of the gasoline blending components MTBE and TAME production units into ETBE and TAEE production units respectively, the Aspropyrgos refinery began producing bio-ethers. The modifications were put in place so that HELLENIC PETROLEUM Group can meet the obligation to supply E5 gasoline in the domestic market, without any bioethanol addition, so as to improve the quality and environmental footprint of the final product and substitute imports.
Maintenance and environmental upgrade project– Aspropyrgos Refinery
In the second half of 2020, the full turnaround of the Aspropyrgos refinery was successfully completed. Despite the fact that the Group carries out similar projects in all its refineries, this particular one presented special challenges, due to its size, complexity and the large number of employees and contractors involved, as well as the period it was implemented in.
Specifically, with a budget exceeding €130 million, the project was the largest of its kind in the Group’s history. Over half of the investment was directed to safety and environmental upgrades, with an expected reduction of 50% in the refinery's total particulate emissions (PMs).
The Elefsina refinery has a refining capacity of 106,000 bbl/d and its upgrade was completed in 2012, a project of € 1.5 billion making it one of the most modern and complex in the Mediterranean region.
The upgrade includes the installation of three main units: a high-pressure hydrocracking unit (hydrocracker) with a capacity of 39,000 bbl/d; a thermal cracking unit (flexicoker) with a capacity of 20,000 bbl/d; and a vacuum distillation unit.
It is a strategically important refinery for the Group due to its high storage capacity (3,3million m3 of crude oil and petroleum products) and the logistics infrastructure for imports and exports management, including a large private port and a tank truck loading station. The refinery is connected to the terminal in Pachi, Megara and the Aspropyrgos refinery through a pipeline network.
The upgrade significantly boosted the Group’s competitiveness, as it increased the yield of middle distillates, replacing high-sulfur fuel oil and maximizing diesel (ULSD) production by consuming high-sulfur crude oil. The investment also reduced emissions, thus significantly improving the environmental impact. Specifically, sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions decreased by 70.2%, nitrogen oxide (“NOx”) emissions by 11.6% and particulate matter (PMS) emissions by 84.2%.
Finally, upon completion of the upgrade project, the refinery has an increased flexibility in terms of crude oil supply, as it can process 100% high-sulfur crude oil, heavy crude oil products and semi-finished products in the hydrocracker complexes.
The operation of the flexicoker unit also marked a substantial improvement, after the successful and safe completion of the maintenance work in the third quarter of 2017.
The Thessaloniki refinery is of a hydroskimming type and has a 1.4 million m3 storage capacity. It is the only refinery in Northern Greece and has the capability of supplying both the domestic market and the neighboring countries in Southeast Europe.
The refinery’s upgrade was successfully completed in 2011 and it can be divided into three main projects: (a) distillation units renovation, (b) storage capacity increase for better flexibility in crude oil supply, and (c) a new Continuous Catalytic Regeneration Reformer (CCR, 15,000 bbl/d) as well as a desulfurization unit for maximizing gasoline and diesel production.
The refinery is connected to the Group’s refinery in Skopje (the only refinery in the Republic of North Macedonia) through a pipeline.The upgraded Thessaloniki refinery continued the refining of high margin crudes, minimizing the additive (ΜΤΒΕ) in gasoline production and the consumption of natural gas. The new Continuous Catalytic Reformer (CCR) Unit has enabled the refinery to process additional naptha from the Elefsina refinery, on top of own naptha production, maximising the system refining margins.Moreover, its energy efficiency levels were improved following the preventive maintenance works on piping and steam traps.
The Group’s domestic refineries operate as a single system (hub). Consequently, monthly crude oil procurement, production planning and sales forecast are integrated processes for the entire network, thus maximizing refining value and profits for the Group, always based on domestic demand and current prices in the regions of Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Europe.The Group’s ability, due to the refineries’ increased complexity, to process intermediate products (SRAR, VGO) and adjust its crude slate and oil processing levels, considering prevailing refining economics, is a key competitive advantage.
In 1999, the Group acquired the OKTA refinery in Skopje (Republic of North Macedonia) through its subsidiary, EL.P.ET. BALKANIKI.
OKTA is connected to the Thessaloniki refinery through a pipeline for the transportation of high added value products. Its location offers a significant competitive advantage in terms of the distribution of products into the local market, through marketing companies, and exports to neighboring countries in the Balkans. OKTA is focused on the trading and marketing of petroleum products.