The evolution of oil refining in Europe

01 Feb 2013

Back in 1963 when CONCAWE was founded, the world looked very different from what it is today, and so did the global and European refining industry. Oil product markets were expanding fast and new refineries were being built at a steady rate. The oil crisis of the 1970s brought an abrupt end to this, heralding a long era of consolidation and stepwise adaptation. At the same time the nature of the global oil business shifted from fully integrated companies producing, transporting and refining their own oil to a much more diversified situation where oil production (‘upstream’) and refining/distribution (‘downstream’) gradually became two essentially separate businesses. From being purely a ‘cost centre’ in an integrated chain, refining has become a separate activity in its own right, operating as a ‘profit centre’ between two global markets—crude oil and products— which, although not entirely independent, have their own dynamics and influences. In addition demand gradually shifted towards lighter products while the quality requirements on all products were considerably tightened.