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The refining sector is the Group’s core activity, accounting for approximately 75% of total assets. In Greece, the Group owns three out of the four refineries operating in the country, holding approximately 65% of the Greek oil products wholesale market. It also owns the sole refinery in Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia.
The Group’s domestic refineries in Aspropyrgos, Elefsina and Thessaloniki cover approximately 65% of the country’s total refining capacity, with a composite Nelson complexity index of 9.3.
Their location (coastal refineries) and high complexity give them the competitive advantage of easy access to and processing of all types of crude oil that are available in the region. Furthermore, the logistics infrastructure offers a storage capacity of 6.65 million m3 for crude and products.
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.
In 2013, the Aspropyrgos refinery achieved an outstanding performance in terms of its operational availability (99.3%), with a particularly low number of main units’ downtime. Moreover, performance improvement projects were implemented with substantial economic benefits, especially on energy efficiency. In September 2014, the connection of the refinery to the natural gas network was successfully completed. This project is expected to yield significant savings, as fuel oil can now be substituted by natural gas for own use, when the price of the latter is more attractive. In addition, there are environmental benefits arising also from the reduction of CO2 emissions derived from the use of natural gas, as a cleaner fuel.
The Elefsina refinery has a refining capacity of 100,000 bbl/d and has recently undergone an upgrade project, worth €1.4 billion. 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 consuminghigh-sulfur crude oil. Following the upgrade, the refinery boasts a Nelson Complexity Index (NCI) of 8.1 (from 1.45) and a Solomon Complexity Index of 13.9.
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 upgraded Elefsina refinery started commercial operations in the second half of 2012 and completed optimization of all units during 2013. In the second half, the refinery reached almost 100% utilization, with many units exceeding their design specifications.
Middle distillates yield (diesel, jet) exceeded specifications and reached 75%, leading the respective yield at Group level to 52%. Τhis has positively contributed to the Group’s refineries’ operating performance, with the yield of high added value products standing amongst the highest in the European refining industry, highlighting the competitiveness of our asset base, following the considerable investment that was implemented during the five year period 2007-2012. Moreover, HELLENIC PETROLEUM’s international sales continued to rise, enhancing the Group’s export orientation. The refinery significantly improved its performance, following the maintenance and improvement works performed in 2014, as targeted interventions were implemented at the processing units. In addition, the refinery achieved a great utilization rate, contributing significantly to the Group’s results, while improving the refinery’s environmental footprint.
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, with sales of 516 thousand tons in 2014.