USVI: Oil refinery to reopen under $1.4B deal with ArcLight

The U.S. Virgin Islands announced Monday that it reached a $1.4 billion deal to reopen one of the world's largest oil refineries in a move expected to boost the U.S. territory's economy.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp said private equity firm ArcLight Capital Partners LLC will restart a refinery in St. Croix that closed in 2012. He said more than 1,200 construction jobs will be created and that refinery operations will start in late 2019 with an estimated 200,000 barrels of crude oil to be processed daily. Mapp said revenues could top $600 million over the first 10 years.

"This landmark deal to jumpstart our recovery and to pave the road to better times...requires us to move expeditiously if the refinery is to restart on schedule," he said in a statement.

Mapp called a special legislative session this month because legislators have to vote on the deal.

If approved, 50 percent of annual revenues go toward the island's public pension system and a portion of the remaining money will help build a new upscale hotel in St. Thomas, the first one in decades, he said. Mapp warned the money would not save the pension system but extend its life by at least five years. He said some of the revenue also will help fund the operation of the island's judicial branch and allow the Waste Management Authority to pay part of its debts with vendors.

Limetree Bay Terminals LLC, an ArcLight subsidiary, currently owns an oil storage terminal that generates $11.5 million a year for the government. As part of the new deal, the company will pay the government a base rate of $22.5 million a year instead of taxes. Mapp said that amount could range from a minimum of $14 million to up to $70 million depending on the refinery's performance.

Mapp said the deal comes after two years of hard work that also involved the U.S. government. The Hovensa refinery was once a joint venture of U.S.-based Hess Corp. and Venezuela's state-owned oil company that closed after years of weak demand and high operating costs. It left nearly 2,000 workers without a job and stunned the island's economy.

The deal was announced more than nine months after major storms caused widespread devastation in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hurricane Irma passed near St. John and St. Thomas on Sept. 6 as a Category 5 system, killing three people. Maria passed to the south of St. Croix two weeks later, resulting in major flooding and wind damage to homes there.