Turkish Refinery Turns to Russia for Oil
(Bloomberg) -- Azerbaijan’s state oil company is turning to Russia to supply a new $6.3 billion refinery it built in Turkey because shipments from one of its preferred suppliers -- Iran -- are off the table due to U.S. sanctions.
The Star Refinery in Aliaga on the Aegean coast agreed to buy an initial 1 million tons of Urals crude -- about one tenth of the plant’s annual processing -- from Russia’s Rosneft PJSC, Mesut Ilter, the facility’s chief executive officer, said in an interview.
“If there were no restrictions, we would buy Iranian crude,” he said, adding that the refinery can purchase oil from anywhere “as long as our model supports it,” although in practice Azerbaijan’s own light crude isn’t really suitable.
The Trump administration this year ended waivers that allowed a handful of countries including Turkey to continue importing Iranian oil. Turkey has long opposed U.S. sanctions on Iran, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying the measures violate international law and diplomacy. Tracking shipments from Iran toward Turkey has become trickier since the sanctions ramped up, making it hard to know how much, if any, Iranian oil Turkey is buying.
The State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan, or Socar, started operating the 200,000 barrel-a-day Star Refinery in October, helping to meet Turkey’s growing appetite for processed fuels while curbing imports. The project marked a growing energy interdependence between the two countries, with Turkey already a major destination for Azeri natural gas.
Turkey’s Tupras Turkiye Petrol Rafinerileri AS, owned by Koc Holding AS, was the country’s sole refiner until the Star plant came on stream. The new facility now accounts for a quarter of the nation’s refining capacity.
The refinery, which is expanding storage capacity by more than 50% to 2.5 million cubic meters, will process almost 8 million tons of crude this year and 10 million tons thereafter, Ilter said. Refining margins range from $5 to $8 a barrel, he said.
At full capacity, the plant will produce 5 million tons of diesel a year, 2.5 million tons of petrochemical raw materials such as naphtha, and 1.5 million tons of jet fuel.
Turkey will cut its diesel imports to 40% of annual demand from 60% thanks to the new refinery, Ilter said. Along with Tupras, the Star facility will be able to meet all the nation’s domestic jet-fuel demand, even once Istanbul’s new airport reaches full capacity, he said.
However, future growth in demand for oil products will be centered on petrochemicals rather than transportation, according to the CEO.
“We have built this refinery considering Turkey’s long-term dynamics and petrochemical needs.”
Other views and comments from Ilter:
- Refinery plans no shutdown until 2022; shutdowns later are planned in tandem with Petkim’s program, to be likely in periods of 4 years
- Diesel demand to increase after imposition of low-sulfur fuel rules for maritime industry from 2020 to prevent pollution from ships
- Star Rafineri AS, which operates the plant, has targeted $500 million in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization from annual revenue projected at as much as $6.5 billion at current oil prices; should happen when plant is operating at full capacity next year
- Co. has started paying back a $3.2 billion loan taken out in 2011 to build the refinery from its cash generation; no refinance is planned; “If we make money more than we envisaged we can consider an early payment on the loan”
- Sees investment repaid within 11 years; reduction of Turkey’s current account deficit by $1.5 billion a year
- Star is 40% owned by Azerbaijan’s economy ministry; Socar and Petkim own the remainder
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