Pakistan's Attock refinery says will close in a week unless demand rises

KARACHI, Pakistan, March 31 (Reuters) - Pakistan’s Attock Refinery is operating its 54,000 barrels per day (bpd) plant at 29% capacity and is prepared to shut the complex in a week’s time if local demand does not recover, the company’s top official said on Tuesday.

If it closes, it would be the third Pakistani refinery to halt operations because of the collapse in demand as the country implements a lockdown to try to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“The main plant is shut down. Only two small units are running and these will be closed in the next few days if the situation persists,” Adil Khattak, chief executive officer at Attock Refinery, told Reuters from the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where the refinery is located.

Pakistan’s energy ministry last week asked fuel retailers and refiners to cancel the import of products and crude from April. The government also asked the oil marketing companies that supply fuel stations to increase purchases from national refiners to try to ensure operations continue.

But on Saturday, Pakistan’s largest refiner Byco Petroleum Pakistan Ltd halted crude processing at its 155,000 bpd refinery because of “zero demand for products in the aftermath of COVID-19 lockdowns,” Shahryar Ahmad, its head of communications, said.

Byco, located on the outskirts of Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, has put the refinery on cold circulation, which means crude is passed through the machinery without producing any refined products as fired heaters are shut.

The process would help in quick restart of refinery in case demand recovers, Byco said in a statement.

Similarly, Pakistan’s National Refinery Ltd stopped crude processing at its 64,000 bpd plant from last Wednesday. (Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; editing by Barbara Lewis)