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Extreme Temperatures Threaten Oil Refinery Operations in Europe

Peak summer temperatures in some parts of Europe are threatening the normal operation of refineries, Bloomberg has reported, citing the situation in Greece and Poland.

Temperatures in Greece look set to top 40 degrees Celsius next week, which would make normal operations for refiners challenging and in Poland the hot weather is also jeopardizing the normal operation of refineries.

“European refineries were designed in the sixties and the seventies,” Alan Gelder, vice president of refining, chemicals and oil markets at consultancy Wood Mackenzie, told Bloomberg. “The world’s got hotter since then.”

The publication attributed the expected problems to climate change, noting that refiners are partially responsible for their own problems based on the attribution of said climate change to humankind’s use of hydrocarbons.

Refiners are adapting to the changing situation but not all of them are there yet because refineries in Europe were generally designed to be hardy in sub-zero temperatures, Bloomberg also wrote in its report, citing a British engineering company.

Because of high temperatures, then, some refineries would need to curb their output to avoid equipment failure and other problems that high temperatures can cause at a refinery that has not been equipped to handle them.

According to one analyst, some refineries might be forced to cut processing rates by 15% over a 24-hour period at some point this summer, Bloomberg reported. This does not sound like a whole lot but the impact of such a potentiality would depend on demand for fuels.

Refineries in the United States re also having to deal with summer heat, Bloomberg also noted in its report, adding that plants along the East Coast and in the Midwest might be the most vulnerable to heat-caused disruption to normal operations. That is for the same reasons as European refineries’ problems: they were built to withstand winter cold, not summer heat.

By Irina Slav for