Total’s Gonfreville Upgrade No Sure Bet


Observers of the international lubricant industry have Total penciled in for a 10,000-barrel-per-day upgrade at its base oil plant in Gonfreville, France.

The industry may need an eraser for that project. The Paris-based oil company said it has not in fact decided whether to proceed with the project and that it may go in another direction.

We are aware of the rumors, but they are not correct, Lubricants Base Oil Manager Alain Fauretold Lube Report. We are studying the possibility [of an upgrade], but it is just a study. No official decision has been made. Faure added that the company plans to make a decision by mid-2006.

Totals Gonfreville refining complex has an existing base oil plant with capacity of 10,000 b/d, mostly Group I stocks but also 400 b/d of Group III. Observers began looking for an upgrade in 2003 when the company decided to undertake a 500 million (U.S. $617 million) expansion and upgrade of the refinery. The project featured a hydrocracking unit being installed primarily for fuels purposes, but the company noted at the time that the unit would also yield feedstock that could be processed into higher quality base oil.

Faure, who did not hold his current position at that time, said Totals thinking then was to use solvent dewaxing to make Group III oils. The company has since scrapped that idea and instead is considering installation of a wax isomerization unit. The latter alternative would require a larger initial investment but would be a more efficient means of producing large volumes of Group III.

Total will need increasing amounts of Group III to meet rising European standards for finished lubricants, Faure noted. But he maintained that the company may still decide against wax isomerization. In that case, it would buy its Group III from other suppliers.

Related Topics

Market Topics