Reuters: Total wants to sell 50 percent of PA refinery

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Total wants to sell 50 percent of its Port Arthur refinery, according to the news service Reuters, and the French oil company has retained an investment bank to advise on the deal.

It is unclear how efforts to sell the stake would relate to Total’s announcement last month regarding plans to build a $1.6 billion ethane cracker at the site, Reuters reported.

The proposed Port Arthur deal involves the refinery, of which Total owns 100 percent. The petrochemical part of the site is operated through a joint venture that is 60 percent owned by BASF, with Total owning the remaining 40 percent. A 50-percent share of Total’s refinery is estimated to be worth $188 million, although factors like location, complexity and legal risk will affect the price.

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Port Arthur is one of Total’s six integrated refining and petrochemical platforms around the world.

The Paris-based oil major has been trying to cut its exposure to refining since 2012, and plans to have reduced its European refining and petrochemical capacity by 20 percent by 2017. Its chief executive has said the industry is in a “crisis.”

The refining business is thriving in the United States, thanks in part to a federal law preventing the export of crude, making feedstock cheap.

The Port Arthur plant’s use of imported crudes has fallen by a third in five years to around 70,000 bpd last year, most of that from Mexico, Venezuela and Kuwait, according to government data.

Refined products like gasoline and diesel can be freely exported, however, and overall shipments have doubled in five years to 4.4 million bpd.

Despite the downturn in oil prices, demand for gasoline and other refined products has remained robust, boosting profits for refiners, and creating an exit point for those who wish to jettison less desirable plants from their holdings.