Essex: Battle to save Coryton refinery to continue

MINISTERS will today be pressed over whether there is any possibility Coryton oil refinery can still be saved after administrators confirmed they have failed to find a buyer to keep the plant going.

The Essex refinery, which supplies 20% of fuel in London and the South East, will be closed over the next three months and the site will be converted into an import terminal after PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) struck a deal to sell most of the assets.

Unions believe the Government can still intervene to “knock heads together” to ensure the refinery is kept open.

Conservative Stephen Metcalfe, who has secured an adjournment debate in the Commons on the plant, will ask ministers if there is any other option for saving it but admits yesterday’s announcement means that is unlikely.

The South Basildon and East Thurrock MP said: “I’m disappointed that the announcement has been made today, I can’t pretend I’m not.

“I cannot see a way (of saving Coryton) now but I will be putting that question.”

A consortium comprising oil giant Shell, Royal Vopak and Greenergy will buy the site for alternative use after PwC abandoned hopes of finding a buyer for Coryton as a going concern after a five-month search.

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PwC said there would be no change to the redundancy programme, with 180 out of around 850 staff and contractor jobs to be cut by the end of June and further redundancies planned from late July onwards.

Phil Whitehurst of the GMB union added: “Even at this late stage the Government should step in and knock heads together to keep open a refinery supplying 20% of the fuel for the region. This is because the other refinery owners have an economic interest in seeing it closed for the chance to keep prices high as crude oil prices drop.”

Energy minister Charles Hendry said he was seeking to help affected workers, but stressed there would be substantial investment in the site by its new owners, with plans for some recruitment.

He added: “There is however some comfort in this announcement for the local community.

“Vopak, Greenergy and Shell have committed to investing a substantial amount in the site to develop it as a state-of-the-art import terminal.

“This includes paying for enhancements to the infrastructure that will keep the site viable for many years.”