Will Nova Plama Make Base Oils Again?


Europe has lost many API Group I base oil plants in recent years. Now a Bulgarian partnership is working to bring one back from the grave.

The new owners of the former Nova Plama refinery say they plan to resume fuels production next year and that the facility in Pleven, Bulgaria will begin again to make base stocks in 12 months. The partnership, Plama Refinery, says the plant will have capacity of 35,000 metric tons per year and that it will be upgraded to make Group III oils within two years.

According to the refinerys manager, the companys strategy is to reduce output while increasing the value of its products.

In the past, the capacity of the refinery was too large for this market, Rossen Sofroniev told Lube Report. So we have made changes to scale back on volumes but are also investing in order to raise the value of products that we produce.

The refinery has had a rocky history, going through a series of owners after the Bulgarian government privatized it in the 1990s and then going bankrupt in 2007. At that time the overall refinery had capacity of 1.2 million t/y, and it included a Group I base oil plant.

Highway Logistics Centre bought the facility in 2007 and began looking for financing to re-open it. The company, which recently changed its name to Plama Refinery, has two shareholders. Angel Vasilev Stefanov, described as a Bulgarian investor who specializes in turnarounds of troubled assets, holds a 65 percent stake. Overgas, a Bulgarian company involved in construction of natural gas distribution networks, bought a 35 percent stake in 2009.

Rossen said the partnership has already installed a second crude distillation unit, reduced the refinerys capacity to 671,000 t/y – approximately half the previous size – and is ready to produce gas oil and bitumen. Next year it will begin making low-sulfur diesel and Group II base stocks. In 2013 base stocks will be upgraded to Group III.

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