Rompetrol’s Petromidia refinery offline following fatal explosion, fire

July 7, 2021
Rompetrol Rafinare SA is investigating an early July explosion and subsequent fire at its 5-million tonne/year Petromidia refinery in Năvodari, Romania, on the Black Sea.

Rompetrol Rafinare SA—jointly owned by Kazakhstan’s state-owned JSC NC KazMunayGas subsidiary KMG International NV (54.63%) and Romania’s Ministry of Economy, Energy & Business Environment (44.69%)—is investigating an early July explosion and subsequent fire at its 5-million tonne/year Petromidia refinery in Năvodari, Romania, on the Black Sea (OGJ Online, May 5, 2020).

The incident, which occurred during the early morning hours on July 2 at the refinery’s diesel hydrotreating plant, resulted in four injuries and one fatality, according to a series of separate releases and official social media posts from KMG International and Rompetrol.

While the fire was fully extinguished and the site contained by a team of onsite and military firefighters later the same day, Rompetrol said the refinery remains shutdown pending an assessment of the incident’s impact on technological operations at the manufacturing site.

Rompetrol, which will issue a potential timeline for restarting the refinery following results of the damage assessment, confirmed will maintain fuel deliveries to its branded stations in Romania and the Black Sea region during the shutdown period.

A team of Petromidia specialists and external authorities has been assembled to investigate the cause of the incident, the operator said.

In a July 6 posting to its official social media accounts, Rompetrol said it also is in discussions with employees and their union representatives regarding solutions to increase safety measures across the Petromidia platform, as well as ways to maintain jobs for workers at the site in the wake of the incident and current shutdown.

The refinery blast as well as the latest discussion with union representatives come amid the context of Rompetrol’s already ongoing union negotiations related to increasing salaries of Petromidia employees as part of their collective contracts of employment, the company said.

In 2020, the Petromidia refinery processed more than 4.8 million tonnes of crude to produce Euro 5-quality fuels, including 1.16 million tonnes of gasoline and more than 2.6 million tonnes of diesel and kerosine, according to the operator’s latest annual report.

Crude processing at the refinery during first-quarter 2021 amounted to 1.26 million tonnes, Rompetrol said.

Ongoing Petromidia projects

The July 2 incident at the diesel hydrotreating plant follows Rompetrol’s May 27 announcement that the Kazakh-Romanian Energy Investment Fund (KREIF) has started construction of a $148-million combined electricity and heat production cogeneration plant at the Petromidia refinery aimed at ensuring increased energy efficiency and compliance with strict environmental protection standards at the site (OGJ Online, Apr. 7, 2020).

Scheduled for startup at end-July 2023, the new 80-Mw cogeneration plant will provide about 60-70 Mw of electricity to fully cover needs of the Petromidia platform, as well as deliver up to 180 tonnes/hr of industrial steam to support processing activities at the site.

Consisting of two Siemens SGT-750 turbines and two heat-recovery boilers, the cogeneration plant—which will receive 25% and 75% of its primary natural gas fuel from the refinery’s technological processes and the national network, respectively—is currently under execution by Çalık Enerji Sanayi ve Ticaret AS of Turkey, to which KREIF awarded the contract for engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) on the project in August 2020, Rompetrol said.

KREIF in 2020 also approved partial funding to Rompetrol for two other investment projects at Petromidia, both aimed at creating synergies for the refinery’s production processes.

Previously scheduled to be completed in September 2022 at a cost of $35 million, the first project was to involve construction and integration of a new dewaxing plant at Petromidia to enable the refinery to expand production of wintertime diesel fuels as well as increase output of aviation jet fuel.

Designed to expand polymer production at Petromidia by more than 30% to help meet regional demand for petrochemicals, the second major project—initially due for completion in June 2021—was to involve an $8-million conversion of the refinery’s existing high-density polyethylene (HDPE) unit into a polypropylene (PP) plant to increase the site’s current PP production of 90,000 tpy to 120,000 tpy by 2022.

While Rompetrol referenced the dewaxing and HDPE-PP projects in its May 27 release announcing start of construction on the cogeneration plant, the company disclosed no further details regarding statuses of either project.

The operator, however, did confirm in its 2020 annual report to investors released in April 2021 that it planned to carry out basic and detailed design for the proposed conversion of the PP installation as part of a continuation of a delayed 2020 plan.