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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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Community backs fundraiser to help injured Pembrokeshire paramedic

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OVER six thousand pounds have been raised to support a local paramedic who was badly injured in a road traffic collision involving a motorbike and a car last Sunday (Jan 29).

Sean Luby, has served as a paramedic for more than three decades.

The Pembrokeshire Herald has been told that he was on his way to work the night shift when his Honda motorbike was involved in a collision with a grey Audi A3 car on the A4076 near the Horse and Jockey public house. The road was closed for several hours.

His condition is now critical but stable after undergoing a 12-hour operation yesterday on Friday (Feb 3), with more surgery expected soon.

His colleagues have set up a JustGiving to support Sean’s family through this difficult time and to help cover their travel and accommodation costs during Sean’s stay in hospital.

Marco Siso, who set up the appeal along with fellow DAV paramedic Simon Clark said: “The response has been really overwhelming”

Marco added: “He’s a lovely bloke and this has hit the staff hard. It has brought us together and we want to do what we can to help.”

As a paramedic of such experience Sean has helped save the lives of hundreds of Pembrokeshire people when he has been both on and off duty.

He is currently one of the dedicated ambulance vehicle (DAV) paramedics at Withybush Hospital, working primarily with the maternity and paediatric services.

Dyfed-Powys police is asking anybody who witnessed the collision, on the on the A4076 Steynton Road, Milford Haven at about 5.10pm on Sunday January 29, to get in touch.

Witnesses can contact police by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20230130-274.

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Site visit for National Park planners considering caravan park improvements

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NATIONAL PARK planners, expected to allow officers to approve an application to relocate caravans in a caravan park, will instead attend a site visit there.

Huw Pendleton, of Celtic Holiday Parks, had applied for a change of use of land for the siting of nine relocated static caravans and associated infrastructure improvements at Meadow House Holiday Park, Summerhill.

The application, before the February meeting of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s Development Management Committee, had been recommended for delegated approval by officers if a string of conditions were met.

Delegated approval for the application at the 200-pitch site bordering the national park was mooted despite Amroth Community Council objecting to the application; recommending refusal.

A report for planners said 47 static pitches were previously permitted under a change from 55 touring pitches; nine of these static pitches now being proposed for relocation to an area of land within the holiday park.

It stated the overall number of pitches within the site is not proposed to be increased.

Correspondence had been received which raises concerns on the privacy impact from the proposed static caravans on existing residential properties, as well as the potential for noise and disturbance from occupiers of the site.

It was recommended for delegated approval with a string of conditions including the completion of a Section 106 agreement.

At the February 2 meeting, concerns were raised by neighbour Dorian Evans on amenity grounds, and by local county councillor Alec Cormack, who asked for deferment pending a site visit, saying there would be a “significant impact” on neighbouring properties, which was disputed by agent Gerald Blain.

Following a proposal by Councillor Simon Hancock, members agreed to attend a site visit.

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Wales 10 – Ireland 34: Clinical Ireland outfox wasteful Wales

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RUGBY is often described as a game of inches, where the tiniest errors significantly affect games’ outcomes. That was the case on Saturday, where Ireland won convincingly by making fewer unforced errors than Wales.

As a contest, the game was all but over in the first 25 minutes. Ireland did nothing flash, nothing extraordinary. They were just better at the basics. It’s what you’d expect when the first-ranked team in the world play the ninth.

Conceding a try after two minutes was a bad start, but again and again thereafter, Wales either coughed the ball up or conceded penalties in clutch positions.

Ireland’s game management showed the confidence of being a settled group under a single coach with a defined game plan. Ireland’s players constantly worked off the ball to close gaps and shut off running lines. The Irish slowed down the Welsh ball and applied pressure with clinical precision. The Irish scrum and lineout gave the visitors’ backline time to play.

Whatever the Welsh game plan was before Wayne Pivac left as the coach (answers on a postcard for that one), on Saturday, Wales showed signs of trying to create a pattern of play based on phase play creating the space to allow Wales’s backs to punch through stretched defensive formations. However, a plan is only as good as its execution. And Wales repeatedly created good positions only to make sometimes desperately disappointing mistakes.

Twice Wales had the throw near the Irish line, and twice Irish forwards picked off the ball. On another occasion, Wales went long at the lineout in their half, only for the ball to land on the Irish side. Add that to a crooked throw in a promising position, and Wales lost momentum at crucial stages.
Ireland stormed into an early lead with their first attack ending with Number Eight Doris smashing his way over from close range. It got worse six minutes later when James Ryan scored with almost a carbon copy play.

Wales’s best chance of the opening quarter came when Irish full-back Hugo Keenan got to a loose ball over the Irish line before Welsh winger Rio Dyer.

Although Biggar got the home side off the mark with a penalty, within minutes, a telegraphed pass ended in the hands of Lowe, who streaked over unopposed for Ireland’s third try.

24-3 down soon became 27-3 following another Sexton penalty following Welsh indiscipline at the breakdown. Realistically, that score ended the game. However, in the half’s dying moments, Wales again applied pressure. Jac Morgan, who had a good game in a losing cause, crossed the Irish line only to be held up by a strong Irish defence.

It looked grim at half-time. Wales had been disorganised and disjointed, while every time the Irish got the ball in the Welsh half, they looked like they would come away with points.

Whatever Warren Gatland said at half-time got the Welsh players’ attention.

Wales came steaming out of the blocks in the second half, looking better organised and less frantic. Good phase play opened a gap in the Irish midfield, and Liam Williams sped through the gap to touch down near the posts, making Biggar’s conversion a formality. Wales continued to work through the phases, and only an uncharacteristically poor pass from Justin Tipuric spoiled a good chance for Rio Dyer to get a clear run at the Irish line.

Wales still tried to keep up the pressure but lacked accuracy at key moments when cooler heads might have produced more. As if that wasn’t bad enough, with fifteen minutes of normal time to go, Liam Williams was – maybe a little unluckily – yellow-carded for making contact with the ducking, bobbing and weaving Jonny Sexton’s head.

The man advantage was all Ireland needed to break Wales’s stranglehold on the match. They kept kicking for space behind the Welsh midfield and used Bundi Aki as a midfield battering ram to keep the Welsh players tied in at the breakdown. With Wales stretched and gaps appearing in the defensive live, Van der Flier had the simplest of tasks to add a fourth try for Ireland.

As the clock ticked down – and with Wales 34-10 down – the Irish pressed for the score that would give them a record win in Cardiff. Wales tried again to break out for a consolation score, more in hope than expectation, and it was all Ireland when the final whistle blew.

Warren Gatland said he was “strangely not that disappointed” after the game.

The Wales coach said: “The things I’m disappointed with are things we can put right: the slow start and giving away needless penalties. When you look at the game we put ourselves in positions we could’ve taken advantage of. We can take away the positives, look at our second half performance and improve on that.”

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