New life could be coming to Tesoro refinery

Tesoro Refinery

There’s a ray of hope for more than 200 Tesoro workers who are about to lose their jobs. Both the union and the company say there are possible buyers.

The refinery in Kapolei is supposed to shut down on May 1. That will still happen. But if a new company takes over to run it as a refinery, then the workers will be rehired.

Tesoro says it is in discussions with multiple potential buyers.

In a statement, Tesoro says, “It has informed the workforce that it will evaluate and pursue all options that could potentially lead to a successful sale.”

It could be sold as a terminal to import fuel, which would not require as many workers, or remain as a refinery with all the workers rehired, which is what the union is hoping for.

“I’m very optimistic that we will be able to find a buyer for this refinery. We think that it’s definitely needed for Hawaii,” United Steelworkers spokeswoman Lynne Hancock said.

But Tesoro points out that the discussions are still in the early stages. So the workers will still be laid off on May 1 and the refinery will be converted to a terminal.

The rest of the facility will be mothballed so a new company can take over easily. But it could take months before the workers can be rehired.

“In the case of the Philadelphia refineries, it was in a matter of two or three months that the deal came together and a formal announcement was made,” Hancock said.

Tesoro is one of two refineries in the state. The other one is Chevron.

A University of Hawaii Economic Researcher says the current market can’t sustain more than one refinery.

“Eventually either Chevron closes or this new player will be the only player in town or Chevron is gonna be bought by this new one,” UH Economic Researcher Iman Nasseri said.

Either way, Nasseri says gas prices probably won’t be affected much because there’s enough competition worldwide to keep the market stable.

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