Origin International Inc. has made a formal offer to take over all North Atlantic Refining Limited assets — including the Come By Chance refinery and its retail properties.
The move comes after a turbulent month for the refinery and its hundreds of workers, as a deal to sell the refinery to Irving Oil fell through in early October. North Atlantic Refinery Limited said at the time it was considering its options and trying to find ways to cut costs and save money before moving to close the facility permanently.
The U.S.-based Origin International has submitted its offer to Silverpeak, the New York-based investment management firm that owns the refinery, but the company is not providing any other details beyond confirming that information.
"We can confirm an offer has been made to Silverpeak. We have nothing further to add at this time," said CEO Nicholas Myerson, in response to CBC News requesting comment on the development.
The details of the proposed deal are not immediately available.
Sources tell CBC News that if the pending offer is accepted and gets regulatory approval, the company envisions bringing the Come By Chance refinery back to full capacity and maintaining steady employment.
The union representing workers at the refinery calls Wednesday's announcement good news, especially after months of uncertainty and subsequent layoffs in early October.
"We're excited, and hopefully it's a great news story for the province.… We just need them to make a deal," said Glenn Nolan, president of United Steelworkers Local 9316, who told CBC News that Origin gave the union a presentation on Friday that involved employment returning to the site.
"They're ready to go once they can get a deal with Silverpeak," he said. "Staffing numbers will be the same."
Nolan said there is no timeline for when the refinery will return to normal operations, and figures it will be at least three months from the time the deal is made, and then through regulatory supervision and due diligence. He said he will remain cautiously optimistic until the deal is finalized.
"It's been a stressful time since March and April, right up until now. The union has received a lot of calls, a lot of desperation," he said.
Energy Minister Andrew Parsons told reporters on Wednesday that while the news of an offer is positive, he doesn't want to give false hope.
"Right now, I don't want to get too high with the high or low with the low here. But it is positive. I spoke with the union today — obviously these people who are looking to get back to work are excited," said Parsons.
"When you look at the refinery situation around the world, when you see multiple refineries up for sale, multiple deals being scuttled, refineries closing, the fact that we got interest here it is a good sign."
Parsons said there are other parties interested in the refinery but would not disclose who they are. Parsons would also not disclose the details of the Origin offer, but said the provincial government is in constant contact with the company, the union and Silverpeak.
"The reality is these negotiations have to take place out of the media, out of the House, and between these companies. I don't want to anything to harm it. It's really sensitive," he said.
Interest started in summer
It isn't the first time that Maryland-based Origin International, which specializes in recycling oil, has expressed interest in buying the refinery.
Less then two weeks ago, the company issued a plea that the facility be kept in "warm idle" mode so it can more easily be reactivated if a change of ownership occurs.
"Time is of the essence to ensure a restart plan can be put in place for next year," a representative of Origin International said, on condition of anonymity, at the time.
"Origin is finalizing a plan that would have all employees back to work immediately after a transaction, with a restart for the plant in the second quarter of next year."
However, the company also made its interest known even months before that.
Back in July, as Irving Oil was nearing a deal to buy the refinery, CEO Nicholas Myerson threw his company's hat in the ring.
He spelled it out to the province's natural resources minister at the time, Siobhan Coady, in a letter dated June 8, which was obtained by CBC News.
"We just wanted to make decision-makers aware of our interest in the province and a key asset in the event circumstances changed," Myerson told CBC News at the time.