* EU refining industry contracting faster than demand
* Industry wants new rules postponed pending 'fitness check'
* Commission says laws can spur innovation, competitiveness
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Nov 27 The European Commission will
unveil the results of a study of the EU laws governing refiners
by September 2014, officials said on Wednesday, raising concerns
it will be too late to prevent new legal burdens on the
As profit margins have shrunk, Europe's refineries have been
closing units and shutting capacity faster than demand in the
mature market has contracted. Official EU data showed refining
activity in October fell to its lowest level in 25 years.
The industry has argued that EU environment and energy
legislation have added to its problems.
In response, the EU executive Commission is undertaking an
assessment, or "fitness check", of the relevant law to identify
any unnecessary overlap, unintended consequences or unreasonable
burdens. It is carrying out the same exercise for the aluminium
Peter Eder from the Joint Research Centre, the Commission's
scientific unit which is undertaking the study, told a Brussels
forum the aim was to deliver conclusions by September next year
and that it would take that amount of time to do the job well.
The industry welcomes the exercise but says it is taking too
long, while the Commission is pushing out more legislative
proposals that will affect it, such as an energy and environment
package to be published in January.
"Either legislation should not be introduced, or they should
do the fitness check quickly, and the Commission has said it
can't," Chris Beddoes, director general, of European refinery
industry association Europia, said.
Robin Nelson, science director at Concawe, which also
represents the industry, said the Commission's approach of
assessing the impact on every one of Europe's roughly 90
refineries could take three to four years, much longer than the
Environmental campaigners have criticised the refining
industry for seeking to dilute climate measures. The industry
says it backs them as long as they are affordable.
Britain's refining industry association, for instance, has
said research shows it needs to invest 11.4 billion pounds
($18.6 billion) between now and 2030 to comply with regulation.
Beddoes said the risk was that refineries would be unable to
invest in anything else.
Europia is asking the Commission to shelter the industry
from regulatory burdens by such measures as keeping it on a list
of companies granted free carbon allowances under the European
Union's Emissions Trading Scheme.
Another concern for the industry is the fuel quality
directive, which seeks to label different fuels on the basis of
how carbon-intensive they are.
The Commission has yet to announce its decision on the law
after fierce lobbying from leading tar sands producer Canada and
from refiners, which say it adds to costs.
Fabrizio Barbaso, deputy director general in the
Commission's energy department, said compliance with EU law
could have benefits as well as costs because it could spur
innovation, improving competitiveness.
($1 = 0.6144 British pounds)
(editing by Jane Baird)