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Sale of refinery is close to collapse

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MurcoONLY 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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Brand new features unveiled at Scolton Manor Park

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ONE of Pembrokeshire’s best-loved family destinations has announced it will be unveiling several new attractions in June, ready for the summer holidays.  

Among the new features at Scolton Manor are an eco-explorer village, a 1.2km woodland cycle track, an outdoor pirate ship play area and a dedicated railway attraction complete with steam train locomotive ‘Margaret’ and ‘Scolton Express’ play train.

Mark Thomas, manager of Scolton Manor Park, said the team were looking forward to showing visitors the new attractions.

“We’re delighted with our new facilities and believe they will perfectly complement the attractions we have here already at Scolton,” he said.

The woodland eco-explorer village aims to give children more opportunities for outside play and spark their enthusiasm to discover more about the natural world.  

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economy, Tourism, Culture and Leisure, said the village is perfect for all young explorers from toddlers right through to older children.

“Children love playing outside and we want to inspire them through their play to not only find out more about biodiversity and the environment but also how to care for it,” he said.

“As well as eco-explorer areas, games and activities there will be fun tips on how they can reuse, reduce and recycle more and protect the environment.”

The eco-explorer village is funded by a £50,000 grant from the Landfill Disposals Tax Community Scheme and £25,000 grant from Community Facilities Programme (Welsh Government), in partnership with the Pembrokeshire Beekeepers’ Association.

Mark Thomas said the current attractions at Scolton have also proved very popular since the outdoor areas at the park re-opened to the public earlier this spring.

As well as an adventure play area for older children which includes a 30-metre zip wire, a spinning climbing web and ‘super swings’,  younger visitors can enjoy the wooden playground, sensory musical play area and woodland play features.

“The many and varied attractions at Scolton enhance its role as a community facility while providing a wide range of countryside experiences at a lower cost,” said Mark.

“The new features in particular will also help to continue the development of the site into a must-visit tourist attraction within mid and North Pembrokeshire.”

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Public engagement exercise over new hospital between St Clears and Narberth

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HYWEL DDA is asking the people of Pembrokeshire to help it further shape and deliver future services by taking part in a six-week engagement exercise.

Since the publication of its strategy, A Healthier Mid and West Wales: Our Future Generations Living Well in 2018, the health board has worked with partners to provide care and develop services. However, the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on health and care services. As a result, the health board now wants to learn from the public about how the pandemic has affected their health and care, and access to it.

This week, Hywel Dda UHB has been distributing a discussion document for the public to consider, along with a questionnaire for completion.

Hywel Dda UHB is also asking for the public’s feedback in relation to its long-term strategy to develop and build a new hospital in the south of the Hywel Dda area, somewhere between and including St Clears, in Carmarthenshire, and Narberth, in Pembrokeshire.

This location is the most central for most of the population in the south of the Hywel Dda area, and it was determined through the public consultation held in 2018.

The public is also being asked to nominate sites for a new hospital based four criteria:

The nominated site must be within the zone between and including St Clears in Carmarthenshire and Narberth in Pembrokeshire. This location is the most central to most of the population in the south of the Hywel Dda area.

The nominated site should be a minimum of 35 acres of reasonably developable land.

The nominated site should have realistic prospects of obtaining planning permission for a new hospital.

There should be appropriate transport infrastructure for a major hospital site.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “The global pandemic has had a major impact on all areas of our lives so it’s crucial that the health board considers, reflects and learns from this extraordinary period. This engagement exercise will allow the public to tell us in their own words how COVID-19 has affected their health and care, and access to it.

“I would encourage as many people as possible to participate because the feedback we receive will play a major role in helping shape future services. This in turn will allow us to deliver on our long-term commitment for a healthier mid and west Wales.

“I would also stress that this engagement exercise is part of an ongoing process. Over the coming months and years, we plan to engage with the public, stakeholders and partners on a wide variety of issues, such as service models. Everyone will have their chance to give their views and opinions because we are committed to continuous engagement with the public to ensure we provide the best possible care.”

The engagement exercise will run until Monday June 21.

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Paul Sartori taking action to support climate with National Lottery grant of nearly £14,000

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LOCAL hospice at home charity, Paul Sartori Hospice at Home, is taking action to support the climate with the installation of solar panels at its main head office in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.

The charity which delivers end of life care services across Pembrokeshire, has been awarded a grant to fund the purchase and installation of solar panels at Paul Sartori House, Winch Lane. This investment is part of an ongoing commitment to address the climate emergency and the charity joins many others who are taking action. Paul Sartori was one of 35 community groups, who were selected to take part in the Climate Action Boost scheme, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

Working alongside Renew Wales, a partner in the initiative, the group explored methods to help tackle the causes and consequences of climate change, and to operate more sustainably. A number of options were discussed to reduce their impact on the environment and Renew Wales helped the charity to develop an environmental action plan, which is to be implemented over the coming months. The scheme available to cover a variety of environmental reduction activities, including renewable energy, reducing consumption, local food and reduced or less impactful travel.

Paul Sartori Hospice at Home wouldn’t normally be associated with environmental activity. Through regular consultation over many months, the charity has been really encouraged by what they have learnt.

“We have invested a lot of time in developing the plan; discussed a number of alternatives along the way, but feel that the solar panel installation will have the biggest impact for the charity in the long term”, said Sandra Dade, Charity Manager. “The National Lottery Climate Action Boost has really inspired our charity to minimise our impacton the environment and we will continue this journey,” added Sandra.

Jemma Nurse, Funding Manager at The National Lottery Community Fund said, “The climate emergency is everyone’s business, which is why The National Lottery Community Fund is acting to support and inspire communities to minimise their own impact on the environment. We are proud to be a significant funder of environmental projects and Paul Sartori Hospice at Home, along with the other groups participating in Climate Action Boost, will play a valuable part in building our knowledge so we can share our learning with other funders across Wales and the UK.”

The services provided by the Paul Sartori Hospice at Home enable people in the later stages of any life-limiting illness to be cared for and to die at home with dignity, independence, pain free and surrounded by those they hold most dear, if that is their wish.

All of the services are free of charge, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, thanks to the generosity of the Pembrokeshire Community. Further information on the charity and its services can be obtained by visiting their website www.paulsartori.org, or by phoning 01437 763223.

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