Shell to close Louisiana oil refinery that employs hundreds

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CONVENT, La. (AP) — Shell announced Thursday that it is closing one of its refineries between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, after failed attempts to sell the facility.

The refinery in Convent can process 240,000 barrels of crude oil per day. It employs nearly 700 workers and 400 contract workers, who will be affected by the closure expected to begin in mid-November.

“Despite efforts to sell the asset, a viable buyer was never identified,” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told The Advocate. “After looking at all aspects of our business, including financial performance, we made the difficult decision to shut down the site.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards called the announcement that Shell would shutter its refinery in St. James Parish “very sobering” and disappointing. But he said the company’s move is part of a larger, international strategy to consolidate its oil refineries and transition to renewable energy resources.

“The decision is part of the company's global strategy to invest in a core set of uniquely integrated manufacturing sites that are also strategically positioned for the transition to a low-carbon future,” Smith confirmed in an email.

The goal is for the refineries to be more integrated with the chemical complexes and produce more biofuels, hydrogen and synthetic fuels, the company said.

Shell expects to offer affected employees other opportunities within the company or help them find new jobs.

Edwards said he spoke with Shell officials Wednesday about the news and was assured the company would hire as many people as it can for other locations and offer retirement incentives to those eligible.

The governor said Louisiana’s labor department also will try to help the soon-to-be laid off workers find other jobs or training opportunities. He said he hopes to put a “transition center” onsite at the refinery to help those employees.

“We’re going to work as hard as we can to connect these individuals with other employment opportunities,” he said.

The company plans to consolidate its assets by 2025 from 14 sites into six energy and chemical parks, which includes the Norco site near New Orleans. Other sites are in Deer Park, Texas; The Netherlands; Singapore; Germany; and Canada, the newspaper said.

Even after the closure, the Louisiana plant will still be available for purchase.

“After the shutdown process is complete, we will continue to market the Convent refinery for divestment,” Smith said.