Final stages of the Limetree Bay refinery shutdown process have been put on hold due to lack of liquidity, and further oil purge depends on the outcome of the ongoing bankruptcy case, new report has filed in the United States District Court.
The report is part of an ongoing civil lawsuit filed on July 12 against Limetree Bay by the Environmental Law Enforcement section of the US Department of Justice, which argues on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency that refinery operations repeatedly violated the Clean Air Act.
The parties submitted a joint status report and a motion to stay all deadlines on September 10, and the court granted the stay and ordered the parties to submit a second joint report, which was filed on Friday.
The refinery’s oil processing units remain inactive, while terminal operations at the Limetree Bay terminals are still active. Limetree Bay Refining, LLC is pursuing Connecticut bankruptcy proceedings in the Southern District of Texas.
On October 28, Limetree’s lawyers filed a notice of extension of the stages and deadlines of the tender procedures, which revised several deadlines. The auction date was set for Friday, with the sale hearing scheduled for December 3. December 10 is the deadline for the winning bidder to close the sell transaction, and December 13 is the deadline for an alternate bidder to close a sell transaction, if any, according to the joint report.
The government and Limetree agreed to a stipulation to keep the refinery idle.
Previously, the EPA and the refinery had agreed to measures to purge the remaining oil from the facility. The plan was to test Flare 8, which ended in July, then purge the system and inject nitrogen “to prevent oxidation while the facility is idle.”
The refinery also hired an independent observer to ensure the purge meets EPA regulations. The report.
Subsequently, the refinery “received five sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide ambient air monitors in early October,” according to the report. One of the sulfur dioxide monitors was faulty, and while “Limetree Bay is working to get a replacement from the manufacturer, it has acquired a loan that will be used until the replacement is received.” The ambient air monitors have been installed and are now operational.
The EPA said these monitors were required by the facility’s permits and should have been in place when the refinery resumed operations in February, but company officials disagreed and said that the installation was compliant.
The refinery had already closed in 2012 after years of economic turmoil aggravated by violations of the Clean Air Act. The brief but disastrous restart resulted in several incidents of environmental contamination that left at least 1,200 nearby homes covered in oil particles and hundreds of laid-off refinery workers and contractors.
According to the latest report, Limetree Bay’s work on a Phase 3 purge plan, which will require EPA approval, “has been suspended due to financial constraints.”
The third phase, once approved, will focus on removing ammonia by-products and “other process chemicals from refinery equipment.”