PARIS (Reuters) - French oil and gas company Total said on Thursday that production had resumed gradually at its 338,000 barrels-per-day refinery and petrochemical platform in Antwerp, Belgium after a $1 billion (£0.74 billion) upgrade.
The upgrade, which includes a new refining complex to convert more heavy fuel oil into low-sulphur light products, would improve the competitive edge of the site in the heart of Europe’s main petroleum products markets, it said.
A new de-asphalting unit and a hydrocracker would increase output of clean and high-value-added products, Total said, adding the new complex would reduce the high-sulphur heavy fuel oil yield ahead of new marine fuel rules taking effect in 2020.
The capacity of Antwerp’s steam cracker, which uses petroleum or gas derivatives to produce ethylene and propylene for the plastics industry, was expanded to use more feedstock.
The steam cracker has the capacity to process 1.1 million tonnes.
A new unit was built to convert rich gases produced by the refinery into cracker feedstock, while one of the two steam crackers have been adapted to import and process 200,000 tonnes of ethane per year from Norway, Total said.
“Antwerp’s steam crackers will now be able to process up to 60 percent advantaged feedstock derived from gas, which are cheaper than naphtha, derived from oil,” said Bernard Pinatel, head of Total’s refining and chemicals branch.
Rival ExxonMobil said a $1 billion upgrade of its Antwerp refinery would be completed by mid-2018.
Total said Thursday’s inauguration completed an upgrade programme launched in 2013 to make its Antwerp complex one of the largest integrated refining and petrochemicals platforms in Europe.
Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Edmund Blair