European refineries face difficult times

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European refining has taken a sustained beating since the onset of the financial crisis two years ago, caught between consistently steep oil prices and a long-term decline in European oil product demand.

In particular, Europe’s refining margin rates came under enormous pressure last year. BP reported its gross margin for northwest Europe at $3.26/bbl in 2009, a drop of more than 50% from $6.72/bbl in 2008. Shell, the largest European major, reported a starker drop from $5.25/bbl to $1.80/bbl on