SAPREF, a joint venture between Shell Refining South Africa and bp Southern Africa, has decided to halt operations at the refinery by the end of March.

After consultation with government, unions, and employees, the shareholders of SAPREF have decided to commence with a spend freeze and halt refinery operations for an indefinite period.

The decision was taken to facilitate an informed finalisation with various options for sharholders, including a sale option.

The shareholders are not expected to make further investment commitments for the refinery until decisions regarding future of the plant have been taken.

SAPREF stated that the decision to halt refinery operations currently has no impact on full time employees.

bpSA CEO Taelo Mojapelo said: “Over the many decades since its establishment, SAPREF has made immense economic contributions at both a local and national scale.

“For this reason, we continue to pursue the sale of our share in the refinery so that it can continue to advance its legacy as a reliable, safe and productive asset.

“Leading up to the refining pause, we have put contingencies in place to ensure that this decision does not impact our customer facing businesses in South Africa or our fuel supply obligations.”

SAPREF, which was established in 1963, is said to be the largest crude oil refinery in South Africa with 35% of the country’s refining capacity.

It is used to refine essential products such as petrol, diesel, jet fuel, lubricating oil, liquid petroleum gas, paraffin, solvents, bitumen, marine fuel oil and chemical feed stocks.

It is said to be an important contributor to the country’s socio-economic development for 59 years.