Crime for country and taxpayers; has “nothing to do with energy transition”
Former Petrogal workers protested in the rain outside Matosinhos refinery today as the structure is set to be systematically demolished, considering it “a crime”.
Standing with colleagues and former workers, trade union leader César Martins admitted: “We’re not expecting anything” but “the destruction of this refinery is a crime (…) a crime for the country, and for the workers – but essentially for the country and for the taxpayers, who have put a lot of money into it.”
For the union’ rep leading SITE Norte (the union of workers in the manufacturing, energy and environmental industries of the north), “after so many years, the country is going to be held hostage because it’s going to start buying from abroad, and (Portuguese] industry) is going to suffer as a result (…) it’s the whole economy that’s going to lose out”.
Martins recalled that as well as being an oil refinery, Galp’s facilities also functioned as a petrochemical plant – the closure of which preceded that of the refinery, representing a loss to national businesses in the paint and adhesives sector.
“Now they are forced to buy from abroad; prices are different”, meaning higher, due to the transport costs involved.
In short, César Martins believes the decision to close the refinery “has nothing to do” with the mantra of ‘energy transition’ since “now boats are coming from all over to bring products here”.
In its heyday, the Leça da Palmeira refinery had between 4,000-5,000 people working in direct and indirect jobs.
Today, “there are former workers who are unemployed, former workers who are working for the minimum wage, “which is nothing to be ashamed of”, he agreed, but it is also “not what was promised at all.
“Many can’t be here today, because they have to work to eat”, he told reporters.
Martins also criticised the €60 million Just Transition Fund (FTJ) created to deal with the impacts of the refinery’s closure, saying that “it only works for GALP and (Matosinhos) City Council” but not for the workers, despite the training and support for entrepreneurship promoted by the Northern Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR), which manages the fund.
“Most of the workers won’t find jobs, but we’ll have time to see,” he added.
According to GALP, the demolition of the refinery “will be the most visible aspect of a decommissioning and dismantling process” that began “around two years ago” and was announced in December 2020.
GALP guarantees that “once dismantling is complete, the environmental rehabilitation phase of the land will follow”. The company has launched a website (matosinhos.galp.com) about the demolition process.
In May 2021, GALP began a collective redundancy programme for around 150 workers, reaching an agreement with 40% of the 400 or so employees, writes Lusa.
This year it was announced that an International Blue Biotechnology Centre would be set up at the site, which will also count on the collaboration of the Oceano Azul Foundation after the announcement of an innovation city linked to the “energies of the future”.
Little is being acknowledged of a bid by a company “based in the UK” (see note below) to reactivate the refinery, employing most of the original workforce, to produce biofuels.
Simpatrans Oil & Gas wants to buy the site for €300 million (€285 million depending on which source one reads), and is quoted as saying it is “very confident”.
GALP however has countered that it has not (yet) received any credible offer.
According to Porto Canal online, Simpantrans’ CEO Stefan Iliescu “has no doubts” that his company’s offer is enough to make GALP think again. “It is more than enough, because they want to destroy the refinery, which is a way of losing money and not making anything…” he said.
Thus things may change in the near future at Leça da Palmeira – or GALP may continue with the agreement it has made with the government and Matoshinhos City Council.
Porto Canal concluded its recent report saying the council has refused to comment on the Simpantrans offer.
Note: Porto Canal describes Simpatrans as a company based in the United Kingdom. But according to the company’s own website, it is established in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Romania, with a presence in the Netherlands, U.S.A. (Houston and San Francisco), England (UK) and Ukraine.
Source material: LUSA/ Porto Canal