Hopes for an imminent improvement in supply options in the south east have been dashed after the owners of Thames Oilport announced that its opening was still months away and they could not commit to a revised opening date.

Thames Oilport is a joint venture between Royal Vopak, Greenergy and Shell UK which in December 2012 took over the the Coryton Oil refinery on the estuary of the River Thames.

Coryton had supplied 20% of London and the south east’s fuel but its owner Petroplus collapsed in January 2012 and it ceased production in June that year.

The partners are converting the refinery into a fuel storage terminal for import and distribution in UK, and in November it was reported that the first cargo would be delivered to the terminal before the end of the 2013.

However, this week a spokesperson for Thames Oilport said: “We have been working hard to transform existing refinery infrastructure at Thames Oilport into a safe, modern import terminal. The quality of the existing assets was lower than expected and we have had to replace much more than expected. The state of the former refinery’s assets has been the main cause of delay to date.

“The time has clearly passed to achieve our original aim of opening promptly with a simple throughput service. A significant part of the start-up work is behind us, but a lot of work still has to be done and that will be followed by a period of rigorous testing and preparation that could take some months. We now expect to open after a more extensive upgrade and will do so with the capability of meeting a range of market demands, including gasoline, diesel and bitumen, and with lower maintenance and operating costs.”

He added: “We are increasingly impressed by the potential of Thames Oilport. The partners are reviewing our plans so that we realise much more of the site’s potential before we open. We cannot commit to a revised opening date until after that review has been concluded.”

“Meanwhile, development plans for the adjoining former refinery land are advancing well. The partners have established a joint venture for this area called Thames Enterprise Park. This major regeneration site has the potential to be the home for a cluster of energy and environmental technology businesses providing skilled jobs, a boost to the local economy and real synergies with Thames Oilport.”