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2nd company says it’s interested in North Atlantic refinery, as anxious workers worry about jobs

Origin International says it’s awaiting further clarity on Come by Chance site

While the permanent closure of the Come by Chance oil refinery is not a done deal just yet, job cuts are coming this week, according to the union representing workers at the site.

While sources initially told CBC News on Monday night the refinery was definitely shutting its doors for good, North Atlantic Refinery Limited says it is considering its options and trying to find ways to cut costs and save money before moving to close the refinery.

That information was contained in a letter to workers, seen by CBC News on Tuesday.

The company confirmed a proposed deal with Irving Oil — a transaction many had hoped would give the aging facility new life — had all but fallen through,

North Atlantic Refinery Limited said in its internal message to workers that it “does not expect the sale of the refinery [to Irving Oil] to go forward.”

North Atlantic said it is trying to remain economically viable when it comes to the refinery, and absent that, it “will proceed with permanent closure.” It’s not clear how long the company is prepared to carry on before shutting down the refinery.

Glenn Nolan, president of United Steelworkers Local 9316, told CBC it’s an anxious time as uncertainty swirls.

He said he had a call with Premier Andrew Furey and Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons.

“We’re asking what the options are and we’re hoping that in the next couple of days, they’ll get back to us and let us know where we stand,” he said.

Nolan said the devastation to the economy, families and livelihoods cannot be overstated if the refinery closes.

“Our futures are all over … and when I say ‘futures,’ I mean future of Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said.

Another company interested in refinery

The situation involving the refinery continues to evolve almost hourly.

A meeting with union employees working at the refinery concluded Tuesday morning shortly before 11 a.m. NT. Workers declined to comment, and resumed work at the site.

There may be another glimmer of hope for the facility.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m., Origin International Inc. — a private U.S. company that specializes in recycling used oil —issued a statement saying it remains “interested in the refinery.”

“We are limited in the commentary we can provide at this point as we have had no opportunity to do any due diligence and are not aware if any new sale process has begun,” reads the statement provided to CBC News.

“We appreciate how important Come by Chance is to the Newfoundland and Labrador economy.”

The company said it is awaiting further clarity on the status of the refinery from North Atlantic.

It isn’t the first time Origin International has expressed interest in the refinery.

The company’s CEO wrote a letter in June to then provincial natural resources minister Siobhan Coady.

“In the event the Irving transaction stakeholders deem appropriate an assessment of alternatives to acquire NARC, Origin stands willing and able to re-engage in its bid for NARC,” Nicholas Myserson wrote.

“We just wanted to make decision-makers aware of our interest in the province and a key asset in the event circumstances changed.”

‘We’ll have to move away’

If a permanent closure were to happen, it would see 500 direct jobs axed and mean less work for dozens of contract employees.

In the past, the refinery has contributed to as much as five per cent of the province’s economy.

Denis Furlong of Arnold’s Cove has worked at the refinery for 22 years. He was laid off in April and had hoped to get back to the refinery, but said he isn’t shocked at the latest developments, given the economic climate.

“It’s totally different times now. Small businesses, big businesses, doesn’t matter. The profits aren’t there for any of them anymore,” Furlong told CBC News on Tuesday afternoon.

“That’s it. You have to be able to roll with the punches.”

His wife, Mary Whelan, fought back tears as she talked to CBC, saying the couple can’t survive financially on her salary alone if the refinery does close.

“I don’t know what going to happen.… We’ll have to move away, I’d say,” she said sombrely.

Daniel Baker, who works for an industrial maintenance company, said the indirect economic blowblack would be massive.

“You’re looking at 600 or 700 families,” he said.

“There’s a lot of spinoff jobs from this.… You take this little coffee shop, it’s going to be hard on them,” he added, pointing to a building behind him.

Jeff Slade was laid off from the refinery in March. His wife and two kids are in Arnold’s Cove, but if the site is closed for good, he figures he will have to move by the spring.

“Probably head back to B.C.… Hopefully something comes out of it, [I’ll] see what happens, you know. It’s a pandemic — it’s a bad time, a bad time,” Slade told CBC News.

North Atlantic said it will continue to operate the fuel tank farm at the refinery and supply various fuels throughout the province.

The chain of North Atlantic service stations and Orange Stores will also continue to operate.

“The company will not be providing comment on internal, confidential matters at this time,” North Atlantic Refining said in a statement Monday evening.The refinery appeared to be on the upswing prior to the global pandemic, which forced the owners to stop refining fuels in March.

Source: CBC | This text was excerpted from the media outlet cited on October 6, 2020 and is provided to Noia members for information purposes only. Any opinion expressed therein is neither attributable to nor endorsed by Noia.