Pros and cons for refineries, fuel demand sliding

The drop in oil prices as a result of the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia and the coronavirus spread presents a major challenge for petroleum firms.

Brent crude’s 30 percent plunge last Monday inflicted major damage on companies stocked with petroleum products, Greek refinery officials informed, as these products had been  purchased at previously higher prices.

The market volatility, however, has also created opportunities, namely lower-cost supply of raw materials without the need for high working capital. Operating costs have dropped considerably.

The major concern at refineries and petroleum product trading companies is demand, or fuel consumption, expected to drop amid the growing number of mobility restrictions being imposed by governments around the world in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Demand for gasoline and diesel has dropped since last weekend as a result of reduced transportation needs. This decline in fuel demand is expected to continue following latest preventive measures. The Greek government yesterday announced a measure closing all educational institutions for 15 days as of today.

Fuel demand levels during the year’s first two-month period were unchanged compared to a year earlier, but the month of March has already shown first signs of a decline. Many airlines are cancelling flights.

Petroleum companies fear a further deterioration from May onward, when Greece’s tourism season begins in earnest.

For the first time since 2009, the International Energy Agency has forecast a drop in petroleum consumption for 2020.