The shutdown at the Coryton oil refinery in Essex dragged into its third day yesterday, as payment arrangements prevented the site from selling petrol and diesel to forecourts.
Coryton supplies about 600 BP and Texaco forecourts in London and the South-east, and accounts for about a fifth of all fuel sales in the region.
Amid reports that some petrol stations have run out of fuel, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – which was appointed administrator after the refiner went bust – wants to change the arrangements so Coryton can be paid directly and sales to forecourts can resume. Payment for Coryton's products have traditionally been made to Swiss parent company Petroplus, which has collapsed.
Steven Pearson, of PwC, said: "We need to unscramble the system so we have a direct link between Coryton and customers."
However, it only has enough crude left to keep refining for the next few days and is in no position to buy any more when they run out.
"There is a very, very big question mark over what happens when Coryton runs out of crude," said Brian Madderson, the chairman of RMI Petrol, which represents UK forecourts. "There have been a few instances of fuel shortages".