The largest independent oil refinery in the UK could close after administrators said they were unable to find a buyer for the site in Coryton, Essex.
The owner of the refinery, Petroplus, went into administration earlier this year. If the site was to shut down 850 jobs would be lost. The administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), said a buyer had not been found, blaming the £625m needed to keep the refinery going.
Refinery operations could stop as early as 4 June if a buyer is not found and PwC is currently in discussions with trade unions regarding job losses.
Talks are still on-going with interested parties who are looking at turning the site into a storage terminal. This would help to reduce any impact on petrol supplies if refining on the site was to stop.
The AA has said it is concerned that closing the refinery could mean speculators again push up the wholesale price of refined fuels resulting in higher petrol prices for consumers. High fuel prices have hit businesses hard especially as they also face rising business electricity prices.
A spokesman for the AA, Luke Bosdet, said “Our concern is speculators will now seize on this latest news to drive up the price at the pumps because there will be a perceived reduction in supply following the Coryton closure”.
The AA says consumers are still paying more than they should be at the pumps as wholesale fuel prices have fallen by around 10p a litre over the past 14 days.
The Coryton refinery supplies around 20% of the fuel in the south east of England. The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) however, has said closure of the refinery will not affect petrol supplies.
A spokesperson for the DECC said “We want to reassure people that there will not be any impact on fuel supply from this development. Continuing jetty operations at Coryton means that there should be no loss of supply through the terminal to London and the south-east”.