HOVENSA sales process deadline passes as both parties agree to 15-day extension

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ST. CROIX - The end of the sales process period for the HOVENSA refinery - the date that is laid out in an agreement between the V.I. government and the owners of the facility - passed quietly on Friday, with no fanfare and no mention of a possible sale of the facility on St. Croix's south shore.

After several Daily News inquiries on Friday, Government House released a vague, ambiguous, two-sentence statement Friday night that raised more questions than it answered.

However, the statement indicated that the period the refinery would be up for sale would be extended for another 15 days, until Aug. 30.

HOVENSA spokesman Alex Moorhead did not respond to Daily News messages on Friday.

Attorney George Dudley, local counsel for HOVENSA, Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp. and PDVSA, also did not respond to a Daily News message on Friday.

The Government House statement released Friday night said in its entirety:

"HOVENSA and its owners have requested additional time to continue discussions on aspects of the sales process established by the Fourth Amendment Agreement.

"In response, the parties have agreed to extend the sales process period until August 30."

It was not clear from the statement who was having the discussions - whether it was HOVENSA and its owners; HOVENSA, its owners and the V.I. government, who are the parties to the agreement; or whether others might also be part of the mix.

It was also not clear what aspects of the proposed sales process were under discussion or why the extension only needed to last 15 days.

Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. did not return Daily News calls on Friday.

Instead, in response to initial questions about the end of the sales process period, he sent a text message saying he had forwarded the inquiry and was awaiting a response.

Several hours later, on Friday night, he issued the two-sentence statement as a press release.

Greaux did not respond to further Daily News inquiries seeking clarification of the statement and more information.

The Fourth Amendment Agreement between the V.I. Government and HOVENSA set up a period when the refinery would be for sale that only lasted through Friday, after which the agreement and the "sales process period" would have expired unless the parties agreed in writing to extend it.

Government House did not release a written extension agreement on Friday.

In January 2012, HOVENSA announced that it would stop refining oil and planned to operate its refinery on St. Croix's south shore as an oil storage terminal.

That decision led to negotiations between the company and the V.I. government, with an eye toward revising the existing concession agreement HOVENSA had with the government.

After more than a year, those negotiations led to a proposed Fourth Amendment Agreement that had HOVENSA agreeing to a sales process for the refinery, with an experienced investment banking firm, and the government agreeing to allow HOVENSA to operate the refinery site as an oil storage terminal while it was up for sale.

The 30th Legislature initially rejected the proposed agreement in August 2013, but the Senate reversed its decision and ratified the agreement three months later, after the government and HOVENSA provided some clarifications senators had requested.

HOVENSA is a joint venture between wholly owned subsidiaries of Hess Corporation and Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. The subsidiaries, Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp. and PDVSA V.I., Inc., each own 50 percent of HOVENSA.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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