International speculation has arisen, firmly denied, that Essar plans to sell the Stanlow refinery.

It follows the recent delisting of Essar Energy from the London Stock Exchange and moves to take the company private.

Essar Energy bought the refinery from Shell in 2011 for $350m in a deal worth $1.3bn.

In March, the company denied it had any plans to close Stanlow and said the refinery ‘is well-positioned to supply UK fuel demand, given its advantageous location and following recent upgrading work to optimise product output’.

It added: “The refinery is supported by integration into extensive pipeline logistics and good road links to access local and regional markets.

“Essar Energy and the entire transport fuel supply industry are working together with the UK Government to improve the resilience of UK refineries and importers.”

Essar also pointed out it had embarked on an estimated $100m ‘cost improvement programme’ at Stanlow ‘to ensure the business is able to weather this period of exceptionally poor refining margins’.

Although it has been claimed Essar hopes to raise $500m from any sale, oil insiders point out that two other refineries on the market have failed to find buyers.

European refineries are said to be struggling and are reducing output as they are hit by rising prices for crude oil and collapsing profits on diesel fuel.

Stanlow, the second largest refinery in the country, can handle almost 300,000 barrels of oil a day.

It produces about 15% of UK transport fuels, including approximately three billion litres of petrol, 3.5 billion litres of diesel and two billion litres of jet fuel a year.

New equipment recently installed is said to give the refinery a further 25 years of life.

“The refinery is not up for sale,” an Essar Energy spokesman in London told the Pioneer.