During the evolution of the Romanian oil industry, the refining sector emerged at the end of the 19th century by way of a massive import of foreign capital and advanced technology. In 1895 the construction of Steaua Română refinery started in Câmpina, one of the largest in Europe of that time, with capital of Deutsche Bank. In 1904, Standard Oil founded the Romanian-American Company and Deutsche Bank commissioned in Ploiești the Vega refinery. A year later, Rotschild banking group founded the French-Romanian Aquila Company, which upgraded the Plopeni refinery.
In 1908, Royal Dutch Shell founded Astra Company, which in 1911 merged with Regatul Român Company under the name of Astra Română. In 1910, the Orion refinery was built with British capital, and the French-Romanian Aquila opened the Columbia refinery in Ploieşti.
During the interwar period and in the decades of socialist economy, new refining units were built: in 1934, the Petrobrazi refinery, in Ploiești; in 1949, the Dărmănești refinery (Bacău County); in 1966, Rafo Onești; in 1969, Suplacu de Barcău (Bihor County); in 1975, Petromidia (Năvodari). Thus, after 1989 as many as 10 refineries were operational and they continued to work based on the demand of oil and petro-chemical products from the traditional markets and from the energy-intensive industrial sectors. Gradually, though, a big part of the refining units were closed as the demand of oil products diminished and the international competition became tougher.
At present, there are four operational refineries in Romania, three of which produce transport fuels. They belong to international vertically integrated oil consortia. Ranked by refining capacity, they are the following: Petromidia (Năvodari), property of Kazakh company KazMunayGas (KMG), operated by Rompetrol Refining, with a processing capacity of 5 million tons (mt) annually – capacity increased in 2012 as a result of an investment program of €300 million; Petrobrazi (Ploiești), owned and operated by OMV Petrom, with an annual capacity of 4.5 mt, following a wide-scale investment program of €600 million; Petrotel (Ploiești), owned and operated by the Russian Lukoil, with an annual capacity of 2.4 mt. Vega refinery (Ploiești) is also operational and owned by KMG, and specializes in the processing of naphtha, fuel oil and other oil fractions for the production of solvents and other special petroleum products.
Closing refining capacities as well as streamlining the operational ones also meant cutting a significant number of jobs in the industry – high skilled and well remunerated.