Fuel shortage concerns in South Africa

Several major fuel refineries in South Africa have shut down, and long queues have started forming at petrol stations in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.

South African Petroleum Refineries (Sapref) has declared the riots and violent looting gripping the two provinces a force majeure event and warned that it has shut off its refinery in Durban.

Sapref is a joint venture between Shell and British Petroleum (BP) South Africa.

The refinery operator said that suppliers of materials that are critical to its operations had suspended deliveries to the refinery due to safety concerns for their staff and the risk of damage to their vehicles on the roads.

“Without the said critical materials and with no clarity as to how long the unrest will last and normal supply resume, Sapref is unable to sustain refinery operations,” Sapref contracts and procurement manager Pensilla Billat said in a letter dated 13 July 2021.

“Consequently, Sapref has been obliged to make the difficult decision to shut down the
refinery.”

A spokesperson for Sapref told MyBroadband that the decision was taken after careful consideration of the risks involved, including the safety of its people and Sapref’s ability to continue operating safely without a confirmed supply of critical material to the refinery.

“This shut down was executed in a control procedure to ensure that proper mitigations were done such that our community and environment was not affected,” said Sapref.

“Plans to start up the refinery will be communicated once the situation allows us to.”

According to Sapref’s website, it is the largest refinery in South Africa and makes up 35% of its refining capacity.

Daily Maverick reported that Sapref is not the only fuel refinery that has shut down.

Refineries operated by Engen and Chevron are also not currently producing fuel.

This leaves only Natref — a joint venture between Sasol and Total — as the last remaining major source of petrol and diesel in South Africa, the report stated.

Natref is South Africa’s only inland crude oil refinery, according to the Sasol website.

Quoting Sebokeng Fuels director Lauren Klein, News24 reported that South Africa’s inland areas do not face an immediate threat of fuel shortages.

However, there is a risk of shortages in the coming weeks if the pipelines transporting fuel from South Africa’s coastal regions run dry.

Whether or not South Africa faces a fuel shortage depends on how long the refineries will be closed and how much fuel has been stockpiled outside of KwaZulu-Natal, the report stated.

Eyewitness News reported that Durban residents have been queueing outside the few petrol stations that have not been closed, looted, or destroyed.

SABC News reported last night that pumps have started running dry in parts of Johannesburg.


SABC News report on petrol stations running dry in parts of Gauteng


South African Petroleum Refineries force majeure letter


Now read: South Africa’s food security at risk if riots aren’t stopped

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Fuel shortage concerns in South Africa