(Reuters) -The owners of the struggling Limetree Bay refinery in St. Croix filed for bankruptcy on Monday, just months after the Caribbean facility restarted for the first time in nearly a decade – only to quickly run afoul of residents and U.S. environmental regulators.
Limetree Bay Refining said in a statement that filing for bankruptcy became necessary after U.S. regulators ordered it to shut temporarily in May following a series of incidents, including nearby communities being sprayed with a petroleum mist, causing residents to complain of breathing problems and foul odors.
The St. Croix refinery was restarted in February in a bid to take advantage of growing demand for lower-sulfur fuels and its Caribbean location.
“Severe financial and regulatory constraints have left us no choice but to pursue this path, after careful consideration of all alternatives,” said Jeff Rinker, Limetree Bay’s chief executive, in a statement.
The refinery had been idled for nearly a decade when new owners developed plans to restart in 2020, a plan that was delayed by more than a year and went more than $1 billion over budget.
The facility was overhauled in advance of the restart, in an effort to profit from an international clean-air marine fuel mandate known as IMO 2020 but had to deal with delays, cost overruns and plunging fuel demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following February’s restart, the 210,000-barrel-per-day facility attracted complaints from residents. Reuters reported that the facility was also not monitoring for sulfur dioxide as required by law, and U.S. environmental regulators ordered the plant shut in May.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Limetree Bay to increase air monitoring and take corrective action to avoid harm to the nearby community. On Monday, the EPA gave the plant an extra two weeks to complete its shutdown.
The company’s owner said it had between one and 49 creditors, assets between $1 million and $10 million, and liabilities of less than $50,000, according to documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas.
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