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The future of Europe's refining sector continues to look bleak, as the industry seems unable to adapt to new market conditions and struggles to remain competitive with the United States and emerging markets like the Middle East and China, according to Michel Benezit, president of European refiners' trade association Europia.

On the one hand, the past five years have seen the closure of 15 European refineries, or 8 percent of Europe's capacity. On the other, existing refineries need to make large-scale readjustments to switch from refining gasoline to refining diesel, as there is more demand for the latter.

However, such transformation will require investments of about $21 billion through 2020, equaling $1 of capital expenditure for the processing of each barrel. Some $30 billion has already been spent over the past five years, the Wall Street Journal noted.

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Addressing participants at the annual Platts European Refining Markets Conference in Brussels, Benezit warned that refiners will have to analyze developments in the industry carefully in a bid to avert further risks of losing their ability to operate on the continent.

As demand for refined products declines, about 2 percent of Europe's refining capacity will have to be phased out. Global gasoline demand has dropped 17 percent in five years and further closures may be necessary if rates persist, Benezit warned.