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 Monday night the refinery was definitely shutting its doors for good, North Atlantic Refinery Limited said 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 Tuesday.
The company confirmed that a proposed deal with Irving Oil had all but fallen through, a transaction many had hoped would have given the aging facility new life.
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 deciding to shut down the refinery.
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. 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. NT, Origin International Inc. 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 Inc. — a private U.S. company that specializes in recycling used oil — has expressed interest in the refinery.
The CEO of Origin International 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 in the letter.
“We just wanted to make decision-makers aware of our interest in the province and a key asset in the event circumstances changed,” Myerson wrote.
‘We’ll have to move away’
If a permanent closure were to happen, it would see 500 direct jobs axed, and would 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 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 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 somberly.
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.