Is Morocco planning to restart its sole refinery?

The recent decision by the Moroccan state to rent the storage platforms of Samir refinery was seen by staff and analysts as a first step towards finding a solution to the plant that would lead to relaunching the refining activity in the country.

Morocco’s only refiner Samir in Mohammedia has been shut down since 2015 due to unpaid debt to the state and banks, leaving the country dependent on imports of refined energy products which weight on the balance of payments.

So far, private fuel importers failed to secure the strategic reserve of 60 days of domestic needs. The state saw in the low oil prices a chance to stock up on fuel in anticipation of potential rise in prices.

The refinery is owned by Coral holding of Saudi Arabia’s Al Amoudi whose assets in Morocco were also placed into liquidation. His management of the refinery was to blame for its financial hurdles.

The union of Samir’s staff, which had at first opposed the renting by the state of the storage platform and demanded a full restart, have issued a statement welcoming the use of Samir for acquiring reserves as a recognition of the strategic role played by the plant.

Estimated at about 3 billion dollars, Samir’s storage capacity could exceed the 60 days requirement and its resumption requires a clear-cut vision by the state towards the refining industry.

When asked about the refiner, Energy Minister has often been reluctant adopting an attitude that shows that refining seems like a thing of the past.

But now with prices below zero due to the storage crisis, refining at home might provide the domestic market with cheap fuel.

Samir staff union have on multiple occasions called on the state, majority debt owner, to nationalize the plant and urged the judge in charge of liquidation to facilitate its sale to keep Morocco’s energy independence and maintain jobs.

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