The government has refused any help to keep open the Coryton oil refinery in Essex, claiming overcapacity in the refining industry, after the Swiss multi-national company Petroplus became insolvent threatening 850 jobs and London's petrol supplies.
Coryton has been in administration since January, with 500 full-time workers and 350 contractors waiting to see if a rescue bid could be pulled off. The refinery provides about 20 per cent of the fuel needs of London and the South East, and local MPs have pointed out that the loss of such an important national infrastructure asset will increase reliance on foreign fuel imports.
The administrator, PwC, has announced 180 redundancies after the failure to find another buyer. But the possible closure of Coryton, once part of Shell, follows on a long term plan by the multi-national oil companies and the European Union to reduce the number of oil refineries across Europe dating back to the late 1970s.
Coryton will be the last of the Thames estuary oil refineries in production. Supplies will shift from deliveries to Coryton to supplies by pipeline from Stanlow Refinery in the North West, another aspect of the UK oil pipeline which followed on the tanker drivers’ dispute in 2000.
According to the workers’ union, Unite, the closure “...will have a devastating impact on the local community and the wider economy, sucking out over £100m, and leading to the loss of hundreds of skilled jobs”. Coryton workers are resisting the closure with demonstrations in the nearby town of Corringham and also outside the Leveson Inquiry when Cameron was giving evidence. ■