Processing news briefs�May 12

Canadian Petroleum Producers Group ... TotalFinaElf SA


Canadian petroleum refiners are upset with a new position taken by Ottawa on guidelines to reduce sulfur in gasoline. Environment Minister David Anderson says refiners must lower sulfur levels to 30 parts per million by 2005. The Canadian Petroleum Producers Group, an industry lobby group, said it is puzzled and concerned by Ottawa�s position on the issue. Last June, the federal government said refiners would be required to cut sulfur to 150 ppm from 350 ppm by Jan. 1, 2002, and to 30 ppm by Jan. 1, 2005. The industry offered to reduce sulfur to 30 ppm by July 1, 2003, but drop the interim target. The producers group says the two-stage reduction can't be reached because of technical problems in changing refineries and costs. Ottawa has rejected that proposal. Some estimates place costs of refinery upgrades to meet emission targets at $1.1 billion (Can.). Imperial Oil Ltd., Toronto, one of the country's largest refiners, says it is not foot-dragging but rather asking Ottawa for some flexibility in implementing the changes.

Kuwait's Oil Minister Sheikh Saoud Nasser al Sabah expressed interest in entering France's refining-distribution market . This, in turn, could provide an opportunity for French company TotalFinaElf SA to take a foothold in Kuwait's upstream sector. Kuwait wants to take advantage of some of the divestments TotalFinaElf must carry out to comply with European Union conditions for the merger of the former Total SA and Elf Aquitaine SA. Total has a technical assistance contract in Kuwait pertaining to fields in the south but has always considered this a stepping stone to actual production

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