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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the complete shutdown of the Limetree Bay refinery on the Caribbean island of St. Croix because of “multiple improperly conducted operations”, Offshore Technology reports.
The Limetree Bay facility only resumed operations last month after another full shutdown, that one resulting from an unspecified operational issue. The refinery, which was idle for four years until 2016 when ArcLight Capital Partners and EIG Global Energy Partners acquired it and set bout to restart it.
Initially, the crude oil processing facility was supposed to resume operations in 2019, but the deadline was extended several times before the facility finally began operating last year. However, multiple problems caused a shutdown earlier this year. This second shutdown will last for at least 60 days, according to the EPA order, which cited ‘imminent risk to public health’.
The order followed a flaring session last week, which released oil droplets over nearby neighborhoods. Following the release, the operator of Limetree Bay voluntarily shut down. According to the EPA, the refinery was violating the Clean Air Act because it was "substantially endangering public health, welfare, or the environment."
In addition to the oil droplets, the environmental authority found the Limetree Bay facility exceeded the limit of sulfur dioxide emissions.
The last few years have been tough for Caribbean oil refineries but last year changed the fortunes of at least one of them. Aruba, better known as a tourist hotspot, this year started considering the reopening of its refinery, a 235,000-bpd processing facility that operator Valero idled in 2021, saying it was unprofitable.
Yet as tourist revenues vanished amid the pandemic, the island was in urgent need of new revenue streams, hence the refinery reopening plan, which involves either its conversion to an oil terminal or into a liquefied natural gas import terminal.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com