St Croix refinery to prop up oil production
A photo of the Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation in St Croix

BY the second quarter of 2023 the Limetree Bay Refinery in St Croix, which has been idle for many years, is expected to be back on stream.

The refinery, which was sold to Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation (PHRT), according to a Virgin Islands Daily News article, should be back in operation with production of about 180,000 barrels per day.

The news comes amidst the current tight supply environment, particularly in the United States and the Caribbean.

In a release, a chief principal of PHRT, Charles Chambers said "The reality is that the demand for refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel is exceeding the industry's current capability to supply this demand. This shortness of supply in the market has contributed to price increases that are straining the finances of many hard-working people. Our objective is to restart the refinery on St Croix in a safe and environmentally sound manner which we hope will help to alleviate this tight supply situation."

As it is now, Chambers admitted the refinery is seeking investments to get back into business. "We are assiduously pushing within the international investment community towards ensuring that the PHRT refinery is restarted in the shortest possible time.

"PHRT has a really unique opportunity to quickly bring new supply to the market with refinery production that is both inside the United States and the Caribbean."

With that said, PHRT has indicated it has a goal that the vast majority of the full-time employees at the refinery will be United States Virgin Islands (USVI) residents. PHRT is on schedule to create many full-time jobs on St Croix to support the operation and management of the refinery. It is anticipated that phase one hiring will commence in the fall of this year.

Chambers says conversations continue to be had with local and federal regulators and a host of other critical constituents to ensure the safe, environmentally friendly, and quick restart of the refinery.

For nearly 50 years the refinery produced 650,000 barrels per day and was a critical asset in the US and Caribbean fuel supply chain. Those years were a boon for the economy of the US Virgin Islands which the refinery said can be realised in the future with the restart.

The PHRT principal noted that not only is there the real possibility of getting the refinery up and running again in a relatively short space of time but there's also a significant environmental, social and governance (ESG) opportunity for the people of the US Virgin Islands.

Chambers says access to well-paying jobs and affordable energy is an equity issue in the Caribbean. The people of the US Virgin Islands suffered financially during the time the refinery was not running, and restarting the refinery would create an incredibly positive direct impact for the communities of the USVI due to the high-paying jobs that will return and also the increased supply of fuel there and to the wider Caribbean.

PHRT also reiterated its assurances to residents of the USVI that as it works diligently to restart the refinery, the people of the USVI will remain the most important constituents and that their safety and the protection of their environment are paramount.

PHRT was formed by industry veterans with significant knowledge of the energy sector, and in particular the Caribbean and regional refined products market. In January 2022 the entity completed the acquisition of the refinery which is located on the coast of St Croix.

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