With a history dating back to 1999, the Prax Group is a leading independent oil refining, trading, storage, distribution and retail multinational dealing in crude oil, petroleum products and bio-fuels, possessing a portfolio of assets and investments that help to complement and enhance these activities.
With approximately 1350 employees spread across 12 offices in seven countries, the Group’s downstream marketing and distribution businesses carry the Harvest Energy brand name, whilst its midstream and upstream businesses – including refining and blending – carry the Prax brand.
Driven by the needs of its customers around the world and the desire to fuel their journey, the Prax Group utilizes its global capabilities across its integrated midstream and downstream energy businesses, from retail to storage, aviation to wholesale, marine to bunkering and beyond. The Prax Group refines and blends physical oil to regional, market and customer specification in strategically located terminals and warehouses around the world. The Group also operates efficient, safe, and high-quality logistics, moving oil by barge, truck, rail, pipeline and vessel in support of its core trading activities and for third parties.
In July 2020, the Prax Group announced that it had signed an agreement with Total to purchase Lindsey Oil Refinery and its associated logistic assets. Constructed in 1968, the refinery – located in North Lincolnshire in the UK and extending across more than 500 acres – has the capacity to process up to 109,000 barrels of oil per day and incorporates some of the most advanced refining and conversion processes in Europe. The majority of its output is petrol and diesel for road vehicles, with the rest made up of specialty comproducts such as fuel oil, bitumen, kerosene and aviation fuel. Finished products are distributed nationally and internationally from the refinery via road, rail, ship & pipeline.
“The Group’s long-term strategy is to be fully integrated across the oil value chain from upstream to downstream,” explains Luc Smets, General Manager of Prax Lindsey Oil Refinery. “The acquisition of Lindsey Oil Refinery is a natural progression for the Group, providing the opportunity to integrate the refinery and its associated product flows into the company’s UK distribution and retail footprint, which operates under the Harvest Energy brand. This will create unique opportunities for synergies with existing Prax-owned assets, as well as demonstrating our ongoing commitment to building a reliable supply chain to meet the needs of our customers for many years to come.”
There has been significant investment at the refinery over the past few years to meet the demands of the market now and in the future. Its production units and upgraded processes have the flexibility to supply a well-balanced portfolio of retail, commercial and specialty products to the market.
Safety is the cornerstone of operational excellence at Prax Lindsey Oil Refinery. Health, Safety and Environmental practices are continuously reviewed and upgraded across all operations. The refinery operates under the COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazard) regulations, and works closely with both the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA).
The transition of the refinery from Total to the Prax Group had the added caveat of taking place during the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, making the efforts of the Group and its people all the more impressive. “We are immensely proud of how hard the team worked in such a challenging environment to successfully manage the transition,” Luc affirms. “The team had to work differently, as every business has, during the pandemic, and their ability to adapt really helped to showcase the Group’s agility and its responsiveness to change. The nature of the environment around us at the time, required us to be innovative in our approach to things such as; data collection and the physical assessment of the refinery operations during the transition phase. This resulted in unique circumstances such as operators walking around site with portable cameras on their helmets feeding back pictures to Teams and Zoom conferences.
“At all times, however, safety has remained our primary concern and we have ensured that all guidance has been adhered to and safety precautions implemented to mitigate any concerns regarding Covid-19. We also launched a comprehensive program to educate our people of the importance of following all necessary rules, and I am pleased to say that due to all the Covid-19 measures put in place at the refinery, such as social distancing, temperature checking, face masks, hand sanitizers and lateral flow testing, the cases on site have remained very low throughout. To this day, we continue to monitor and review the measures we have in place to ensure the safe working of everyone on our site.”
With the refinery now firmly under the stewardship of the Prax Group, it has given it a huge national presence for UK distributors to pick up oil supplies. “We can also assure availability of product due to the geography of our UK supply network, and the relatively short distances we can cover from the refinery, such as to Grangemouth, Jarrow and London,” comLuc reveals. “Part of the acquisition of Prax Lindsey Oil Refinery includes the Finaline pipeline, which runs from the refinery to Buncefield Oil Depot, near the town of Hemel Hempstead. From here, product from the refinery can then be fed by pipeline to Heathrow Airport. It all means that we can service our clients much better, guaranteeing them both reliability and security of supply.”
Linked to the acquisition of the refinery, the Group has also since completed an exclusive supply agreement with Trafigura, a market leader in the global commodities industry. “Under the terms of this transaction, the Group will purchase crude oil and refinery feedstocks from Trafigura for all of its requirements for Prax Lindsey Oil Refinery,” Luc details. “As part of this agreement, Trafigura will use its extensive global reach in international oil markets to source the optimal range of crude oils and feedstocks for the refinery. This arrangement is an important step in the Group’s plans for the long-term growth of the refinery. It will provide operational and planning flexibility, helping us to continue to deliver an excellent level of service to our customers.”
The aforementioned long-term growth of the refinery will be made possible by a series of recent, ongoing and forthcoming investments. Upon its takeover of the refinery, the Group enacted both a ‘Day 1’ and a ‘Day 100’ initiative, running in parallel to identify both quick value-added wins and also those areas where more targeted investment was needed. The Prax Group also employed the services of specialist consultants to investigate the kinds of strategical projects that could be prepared in readiness for the refinery’s next Turnaround and Inspection period in 2023.
“We have made a strong commitment to invest each year to adapt the facility further in order to improve upon safety and reliability, and to adequately respond to the market,” Luc continues. “This year, our project to upgrade to the feed for HDS3 (one of the refinery’s hydrodesulphurization units) will commence, which will lead to the production of cleaner, lighter fuels. In the meantime, we will be bringing more tanks back into service, bringing back storage on site, and looking to maximizing our opportunities by boosting production and the throughput of the refinery units. Overall, it makes for a very exciting time for the refinery.”
As Luc goes on to state, the Prax Group is very much a global organization, and one that has its eyes fixed on being positioned right across the energy supply chain. “The Group is ambitious in that it wants to be involved in all facets of the oil and gas mix, from refining to upstream, and from trading to distribution, and the Prax Lindsey Oil Refinery really represents the missing piece of the puzzle in achieving this vision,” he says. “In fact, it is more than fair to describe the refinery as both the beating heart of the system and the jewel in the Prax Group’s crown.
“Of course, that beating heart would be nothing without the people whose job it is to ensure that the refinery operates to its full potential on a daily basis, and that is what makes our people here at the refinery our greatest asset. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge, skills and talent here at the refinery, and as an independent, dynamic, flexible, and fast-moving organization, the Prax Group sets great store on the entrepreneurial approach to creating value that is shared by the team. As such, our people at Prax Lindsey Oil Refinery can be confident of knowing that they will be at the center of the all the exciting plans that Prax Group has for the future.”
The Prax Group itself is still in what Luc describes as a ‘growth phase’, meaning that there will be significant investment to be made in all of its assets in the years to come The Group recognizes the importance of the refinery to the UK’s national infrastructure and its key role in securing energy for both the local area and the country as a whole,” Luc declares. “The acquisition of the refinery will bring about new investment to the region – where it is a major facilitator of employment, both directly and through those employed across the supply chain – and underlines the Group’s determination to support the local economy and the wider community.”
Prax Lindsey Oil Refinery
Services: Oil refinery