Limetree takes first tanker at St Croix, eyes LPG

OREANDA-NEWS. September 23, 2016. Limetree Bay Terminals expects to reach 20mn bl of active crude storage at its St Croix, Virgin Islands, facility by the end of the year, and could tap on-site facilities to participate in LPG movements, chief executive Darius Sweet said.

The facility at the former grounds of the now-shuttered 350,000 b/d Hovensa refinery in St Croix took its first Sinopec crude cargo earlier this month, Sweet told Argus. The Chinese state-owned firm leased 10mn bl of the initial 13mn bl of storage immediately available at the facility when Freepoint and ArcLight Capital took ownership of the facility in January.

Limetree was working to expand that storage to more than 20mn bl by the end of the year, although Sweet declined to set a target. The pace of expansion would not necessarily be set by commercial contracts, he said. Roughly 12mn bl of the 32mn bl total storage in place when the refinery was operating was committed to crude.

Tankage would include clean products for the island's fuel rack and adding heated storage for asphalt, heavy crude and other bitumen. The facility must make at least 100,000 bl of storage available to the island's Department of Public Works under the terms of the contract.

Limetree continued to study potential upgrades to its dock design, Sweet said. The focus was on VLCC vessels for a single point mooring system, though the depth of water available could allow larger ULCCs, he said.

Other, much older equipment remained under review as well. The site once operated as the Hovensa refinery, a partnership of Hess and Venezuelan national oil firm PdV. The refinery closed in 2012 as cheap natural gas and rising volumes of bottlenecked US crude production left the facility at a steep competitive disadvantage to nearby US Gulf coast refiners.

Equipment still on site could expand the terminal's services into LPG, Sweet said. The facility already uses propane and distillate for power generation.

Under the terms of its contract with the Virgin Islands government Limetree must study restarting some or all of the 500,000 b/d refinery during the first 18 months of the terminal's operation.

The spread between US and global crudes has narrowed since the refinery closed in 2012 as logistical improvements and an end to the ban on US crude exports erased many of the constraints that created deep discounts for US refiners.

But energy costs remain a challenge for the facility. Sweet declined to comment on any specific conditions the company would look for to encourage restarting any refining equipment.

"Clearly there needs to be a market demand for whatever configuration we would look at," Sweet said.