Update: Job fears grow at Coryton oil refinery as unions warn of supply problems

ADMINISTRATORS at the Coryton refinery today issued an assurance that they have acquired a cargo of oil which will allow fuel production to continue, after unions warned of a growing threat to jobs.

PwC said the move allowed a “breathing space” while efforts continued to secure the future of the south Essex plant

But the administrators warned that the cost of operating the site were “significant” and the new purchase would only extend operations by a number of days.

The statement followed a warning by union sources that the site was only operating at 30% capacity amid continued concerns about job losses.

The site, which supplies 20% of fuel in London and the South East, briefly halted sales last week after its Swiss owner, Petroplus, placed the refinery in administration, prompting fears of up to 1,000 job losses.

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PwC said: “The joint administrators announced they have acquired a cargo of oil to be processed at the Coryton refinery. This purchase allows refining to continue whilst efforts to find a more stable solution for PRML are advanced.”

Steven Pearson, joint administrator and partner at PwC, said: “It has required extensive discussions and intense negotiations to acquire this cargo of oil. It provides vital breathing space.

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“Discussions have been ongoing with a number of parties who have expressed an interest in sustaining refining at the site and this purchase provides more time to allow those discussions to be assessed by all parties. We continue to work through the day and night to find a solution which buys more time and which ultimately could result in a sale.

“The support of the management, employees and unions at Coryton has been outstanding and a critical factor in getting to this stage. We are grateful for their ongoing support and resolve and we all remain focused on finding a solution together.

“The costs of operating the site are very significant and this means we are living from hand to mouth. We cannot guarantee anything at this stage, but at least we have extended the period which the site can operate for by a number of days. This extra time is critical in maximising our options.”

Earlier, union sources warned that there had been no deliveries of crude oil to the plant for several days even though petrol delivery trucks started leaving the site last week following the shutdown.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “Instead of David Cameron telling other countries how to run the euro, he should step in to avoid the possibility that this refinery will have to shut down for a short period if, as feared, it runs out of crude oil.

“Coryton is crucial to the economy of London and South East. The Government has an absolute duty to avoid the economic chaos that would follow a possible shutdown for workers and businesses.

“The fate of the region’s economy cannot be left in the hands of the administrators.”

Unite union national officer Linda McCulloch said: “Senior officials of Unite are in constant contact with the Government and the administrator in order to secure the future of the company in the UK.

“PwC are still trying to source crude oil and are working hard with Unite to find a supplier.

“The situation changes daily and rapidly and we will be speaking to the administrators throughout the course of the day and with senior Government officials.”

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