(Bloomberg) -- French oil major TotalEnergies SE plans to expand fuel trade with South Africa after a wave of refinery shutdowns sent imports soaring.

Africa’s most industrialized nation has long relied on fuel from abroad, but demand has grown in recent years as a string of refineries suspended output. Total is well-placed to boost its presence in the country, where it has storage depots and plans a tie-up with local firm Zambo Energy to supply products.

The shortage “has become massive,” Thomas Waymel, the company’s senior vice president of trading and shipping, said in Cape Town on Tuesday. South Africa now meets 80% of its fuel requirements with imports, he said. 

Refineries have been shuttered for a number of reasons, including accidents and flooding. Capacity was wiped out in 2022 — with all plants out of action — and only some have since recovered. 

While ramping up purchases from abroad, the government is also preparing mandates for cleaner fuels, which will require costly refinery upgrades. That market will become more important “and we want to supply it,” Waymel said.

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