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Murco sale ‘close to collapse’

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murco saleONLY one bidder remains as a possible buyer for Murphy Oil’s 130,000 barrels-per-day Milford Haven refinery, but the process is close to collapse, a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

The refinery, operated by U.S. oil and gas company Murphy Oil subsidiary Murco, is the latest British plant to face closure as the industry battles lower demand and increased competition from new, modern refineries in the Middle East and Asia.

Officials at Murphy Oil were not immediately available for comment. The source told the Herald a last bidder was still in the running to buy the plant as a going concern although the bid was seen as having little chance of success.

Many analysts believe the plant is likely to be turned into a storage terminal.

The refinery has been up for sale for three years, but Murphy Oil has failed to find a buyer for the plant, which employs nearly 400 in West Wales.

It is believed that at least two companies were offered the plant for free, plus a dowry worth “tens of millions” of pounds.
Fears that the refinery could close follow the battle to save the Grangemouth refinery complex, on the Firth of Forth, Scotland.

A spokesman for the Welsh government said: “We maintain regular contact with Murco and will continue to communicate with them about their operation in Wales.”

Pembrokeshire councillor John Allen-Mirehouse, former cabinet member for regeneration and economic development on Pembrokeshire County Council said: “This is a turbulent time for oil refining and the industry in Pembrokeshire is not exempt from these pressures. I would be horrified if the refinery closed. The jobs there are very skilled, well paid and very important to the community.”

The Milford Haven refinery can process up to five million tonnes of crude oil per year. Murco bought 30% of the then Amoco refinery in 1981 and acquired the remaining 70% in December 2007.

It was first reported that the Milford Haven site was threatened last year when Murphy chief executive David Wood said that in the absence of an offer the company was “evaluating the potential conversion of the facility into a storage terminal”.

Since then, the plants economic performance has slipped further as oil margins in the UK have come under pressure.

In its preliminary results, published on October 30 this year, Murphy Oil planed “weaker margins at the Milford Haven refinery” for a loss of $22.7m (£14.23m) in its UK refining and marketing operations.

Production at the plant has fallen slightly in the last year to average 126,303 barrels a day over the last month, down from 132,282 barrels a day for the same period the previous year.

The Murco plant is one of two oil refineries in West Wales alongside the Valero plant at Pembroke which was sold by former owner Chevron in August 2011.

The possibility of a shutdown at the Milford Haven refinery is likely to cause fresh concern in Whitehall and with the Welsh Government.

The Scottish Government was quick to meet union leaders and management at Grangemouth, eventually averting the threat of closure.

Murco could not be contacted for comment.

Experts say that the refining industry, which was built up decades ago to convert North Sea crude into petrol and diesel, is struggling as domestic oil production falls and facilities age.

The number of refineries has dwindled from 18 to seven.

Milford Haven is the only refinery left in Murphy Oil’s empire after the company sold a pair of American sites.

The industry has also been weakened by the rise of diesel-powered cars as many refineries, including Murco’s, mostly produce petrol.

In terms of size and complexity, the most marginal refinery Britain is Milford Haven because of its small capacity.

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Tesco shoppers asked to check bank statements after some charged three times

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ANYONE who has shopped in Tesco since Friday, June 11 has been urged to check their bank account and make sure they have been charged the correct amount.

The advice comes as some Tesco customers paid up to three times more for their shopping this weekend after a payment software glitch affected some card payments.

Shoppers who paid via online bank Monzo were charged twice on Friday, according to consumer website MoneySavingExpert.

However, another payment problem struck over the weekend when some shoppers tried to pay for their purchases using contactless payments, only to be told it had been declined.

They then tried to pay again, which worked, only to find that they had been charged twice – or even three times. Some customers on social media said they had to spend “endless time” on their day off talking to their bank.

Following the news that, Libby James, co-founder of www.merchantadviceservice.co.uk, commented: “This software glitch customers experienced in Tesco over the weekend could be down to a host of technical issues varying from an intermittent internet connection, to too many transactions being processed at once – it’s hard to pinpoint the problem. However, shoppers who purchased goods from Tesco over the weekend should thoroughly check their online bank transactions to ensure they have not been overcharged. For those who were affected, they should directly contact the merchant for a refund. Although technology has failed Tesco customers on this occasion, to avoid this where possible in future instances, try not be too hasty when it comes to contactless payments and wait for the transaction to be authorised, rather than tapping again to be safe.”

If you do require more information from Merchant Advice Service, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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Public urged to have say on second homes and empty properties policies

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has begun a consultation exercise on the authority’s policies relating to second homes and long term empty properties.

Reducing the number of second homes and long term empty homes is seen as desirable as increasing the supply of affordable housing across Pembrokeshire is a priority.

Second homes and empty properties reduce the number of houses available to local residents.

Pembrokeshire currently has the second highest rate of second or empty homes in Wales and in 2017 the Council introduced a 50% Council Tax premium on second homes and a premium of up to 100% on long term empty homes.

The money raised in Pembrokeshire is used to support the development of affordable housing, such as a long-term housing project in Solva, as well as providing grants to local projects through the Enhancing Pembrokeshire Grant fund.

The consultation asks respondents to give their views on potential options from April 1, 2022, which include varying the Council Tax premium for second homes and long term empty properties.

The consultation is available here: https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/review-of-second-and-long-term-empty-homes

The closing date for responses is Monday 26th July.

If you are unable to complete the survey online, please call 01437 764 551 to request a hard copy response form.

The responses provided will be compiled into a report to be considered by Cabinet before a final decision on the options will be made by full Council on 14th October 2021.

Cllr Bob Kilmister, the Cabinet Member for Finance, urged Pembrokeshire residents to take part in the consultation.

He added: “The more feedback we get on this matter the better. The issue of second homes and empty properties is one that cannot be ignored.

“While people from elsewhere in the UK find it relatively easy to afford property in Pembrokeshire, it is much more difficult for those living and earning locally.

“A high proportion of second homes in a community also poses a threat to the viability of local schools and opportunities to nurture and grow the Welsh language.

“While further possible actions on second homes and long term empty properties are being considered by the Welsh Government, the Council is currently only able to consider the level of Council Tax premium.

“I would ask all Pembrokeshire residents to provide feedback on the options for Council Tax premiums on second homes and empty properties so we have as many viewpoints as possible to consider ahead of future decisions.” 

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Tributes to victim as police confirm fatal workshop fire in Sageston

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POLICE have confirmed that a workshop fire in Sageston over the weekend was sadly fatal and is now being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.

A spokesperson for the force said: “Dyfed-Powys Police was called to a fire at a workshop at a property in Sageston at shortly after 10am on Saturday, 12 June.

“Sadly, a male was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The Health and Safety Executive and HM Coroner has been informed.”

Mr Scourfield, 56, was in his workshop in the grounds of his home at Sageston on Saturday morning when a fire broke out.

Four fire crews rushed to the south Pembrokeshire village and brought the blaze under control, but sadly, Mr Scourfield died at the scene.

A spokesman for the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “On Saturday June 12 at 10.02am, Joint Fire Control received reports of a fire in a workshop in the village of Sageston in Pembrokeshire and crews from Pembroke Dock, Tenby, Milford Haven and Haverfordwest were mobilised to the incident.

“A total of four appliances and a water bowser were in attendance of the incident.

“The fire was brought under control swiftly by the action of the initial attending crews and a joint investigation has already begun between the Service’s fire investigators and colleagues from Dyfed-Powys police to establish the cause of the fire.

“Due to the unstable nature of the building, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR) were deployed to the incident to provide support in securing the scene as part of the investigation.

“The fire service left the incident at 06.11pm.

Tributes have poured in for Mike.

He was a great supporter of Carew’s sports teams and all three of the club’s cricket games were cancelled on Saturday.

Carew Cricket Club posted on Twitter on Sunday: “The thoughts of everyone associated with the club are with the Scourfield after yesterday’s tragic news.

“Michael was an integral part of the club for decades and his support and sponsorship played a major role in helping the club get to where we are today.

“Over the years he held pretty much every role within the club, from scorer to chairman, and cared deeply about the club.

“There are no words to express the shock and sorrow felt around the club yesterday.

“His loss leaves a massive hole, and he will always be remembered.”

Other clubs also sent their condolences to Carew and to the Scourfield family.

Cresselly Cricket Club posted: “Such devastating news, our thoughts and condolences to all of the family and everyone connected in the community from everyone at Cresselly CC.”

Neyland Cricket club added: “Condolences from all at Neyland CC to the Scourfield family and to all at Carew Cricket Club on this devastating news. Mike epitomised all that was good about cricket. Our thoughts to all at this incredibly sad time.”

Kilgetty Cricket Club also posted: “We’re really saddened to hear the news about Michael. All our thoughts go out to the Scourfield family, Carew Cricket Club and the whole of the Carew community.”

Cresselly seconds also held a minute’s silence for Mike before their game with Laugharne on Saturday.

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