October 15, 2012 [Thurrock Gazzette] - The managing director of Vopak, the main company behind Coryton’s transition into a storage terminal, has said turning the stricken refinery into a terminal was “the best option”.
The refinery’s parent company Petroplus went bust in January, with administrators Pricewaterhouse-Cooper stepping in to find a buyer. It was Ian Cochrane’s company, Vopak, along with Shell and Greenergy, who succeeded in their bid to turn the site into a deep water import terminal after no viable offers were tabled to keep the refinery open.
It was announced at the end of June that a deal had been agreed with the Vopak-lead consortium. But the man at the helm of Vopak is excited about the opportunity for his company, which already has three storage terminals in the UK (Vopak London, Vopak Windmill, Vopak Teesside), including one at Purfleet. The terminal will ship in part-refined oil, which will be stored and then treated by Vopak’s clients.
He said having a state-of-the-art import terminal is better for the UK’s fuel security, in contrast to comments made by politicians throughout the sale process of Coryton, concerned that shutting the UK’s refineries threatens the country’s fuel supplies.
Mr Cochrane told the Gazette: “If you’re going to have a competitive fuel supply, you have to have the ability to ship in from those refineries which are refining the best fuel at the best price, such as those in the Middle East.
“If we kept our refineries, we’d still have to import crude oil anyway. The North Sea has a depleting reserve of crude oil and when that runs out, shipping in crude oil will be more expensive. Refined supply is much less vulnerable than crude supplies are.”
He added that currently, crude oil is shipped into Rotterdam on giant ships. That then has to be transferred to smaller ships, so by directly importing a part-refined product, there is already a saving in cost.
He said: “The big advantage with the Coryton site is it has access to deep water. The size of the ships we want to bring in can’t make it around the bend in the river at Tilbury, so this will allow us to ship in more fuel.
“I’m not trying to minimise the impact of the closure of the refinery or the loss of 850 jobs, but in this consumer driven industry we have to move on and get on with something else. “The option we offered for Coryton was the best one when it was realised that it couldn’t carry on as a refinery.”
On Vopak’s plans for what is to become the Thames Oil Port, Mr Cochrane said: “We put our own team in at Coryton last Monday. We’re in a discovery period. Our first priority in everything is safety.
“It’s going to need to be totally re-equipped and that’s going to cost a lot but we’ll know by the end of the autumn what work needs to be done. Then it’s a question of carrying out that work.”