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Total to sell half of Port Arthur refinery

Total Petrochemicals and Refineries USA, Inc. is seeking a buyer for 50 percent of its Port Arthur refinery.

Wendy Ashworth, Total senior manager of human resources, said a 50-percent sale could earn Total- Port Arthur a strategic partner similar to the company’s existing joint ventures in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and South Korea. But in the event of such a deal, Ashworth said Wednesday morning, Total would remain the operator of the Port Arthur facility.

“Port Arthur is an integrated refining and petrochemicals platform that is one of six strategic platforms of Total Refining Chemicals in the world,” a Total statement reports. “The Port Arthur refinery is 100 percent owned by Total and the petrochemical site is a joint venture with BASF (40 percent Total and 60 percent BASF).

“Total’s other strategic platforms outside of Europe are already operated as joint ventures, and we confirm that we are studying the possibility of a long-term strategic partnership for the Port Arthur platform. Such a partnership would ensure the ongoing development of this high-quality asset that has benefited from recent substantial investments.”

Reuters reported Friday that Total is shifting more capital toward production and has retained investment bank Lazard to advise on the deal.

U.S. refiners, particularly those along the Gulf Coast like Total-Port Arthur, are “reaping near-record profits” and “soaking up low-cost Canadian oil sands crude and U.S. shale while exporting fuels to premium markets,” the Reuters article states.

Reuters estimates a 50-percent share of Total- Port Arthur could be worth $188 million, although other factors like location, complexity and legal risk would affect that price.

Potential bidders, Reuters reports, could include companies from Canada’s oil sands patch, which are shipping growing volumes of heavy crude to the U.S. Gulf or those simply seeking a foothold in the world’s biggest fuel market.

Total reports the Port Arthur refinery has a capacity for 174,000 barrels per day of crude oil and ships most of its products — transportation fuels, petcoke, aromatics and liquefied petroleum gas — east of the Rockies through pipeline integration wit the U.S. transportation fuel markets.

Reuters estimates the facility’s use of imported crudes has fallen by a third within the last five years — bringing the facility down to 70,000 barrels per day — while shipments of refined products, like gasoline and diesel, have doubled within the last five years to about 4.4 million barrels per day.

Total has released no information about how efforts to sell 50-percent would relate to a June announcement regarding plans to build a $1.6 billion ethane cracker at the Port Arthur site.

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