What does the future hold for the post-health crisis fuel industry?
Fuel consumption has fallen very sharply since the start of lockdown. This decrease has led refineries to adapt their production to consumption to avoid saturation of refined product stocks.
However, changing consumption has varied differently depending on the type of fuel:
> Diesel consumption (2019: 2.75Mt/month) has been halved. Its manufacture continued throughout the lockdown period. The return to normality is expected to be rapid with the resumption of industrial activities.
> Consumption of unleaded fuel (2019: 0.71Mt/month) and LPG (2019: 0.15Mt/month) decreased by three-quarters. The gradual resumption of activity and relaxing of lockdown will allow a gradual return to the level at the beginning of the year, but with a downside due to the continuation of teleworking and the associated reduction of road traffic.
> The consumption of kerosene (2019: 0.58Mt/month) is virtually nil due to the stoppage of air transport. The very slow recovery in this sector does not bode well for a return to a normalised situation before 2023.
These declines in consumption have had a significant impact on product flows in all countries impacted by the pandemic. In France, this has resulted in a significant reduction in petrol exports and diesel imports.
Moreover, the decline in the level of production of French refineries has led to a reduction in imports of crude oil, a global phenomenon illustrated by changes in crude oil prices and production reduction agreements in producing countries. Crude oil consumption fell at the height of the pandemic by 30%.
However, there is no shortage of development projects in 2020/2025, with a focus on the environment and circular economy. The new marine fuel regulations, which came into force on January 1, 2020, now require the use of heavy fuel (LSFO) with a low sulphur content (less than 0.5%). In addition, LNG propulsion is developing, both in river and maritime transport. Thus, with the construction and future commissioning of new LNG-powered vessels, the greening of the French fleet is underway.