Mission to China Brings Back Additional Investment Opportunities for USVI, Mapp Says

Back this week from a trade mission to China, Gov. Kenneth Mapp spoke during a press conference Tuesday about additional investments proposed by oil giant Sinopec, the company that has partnered with ArcLight to purchase the shuttered Hovensa refinery on St. Croix.

Mapp spoke Tuesday about more jobs and economic development, especially on St. Croix, that would come as a result of Sinopec’s expanded interests, but warned that nothing would come immediately. Rather it would rather be developed over the next few years.

“That will be a significant number of jobs,” Mapp said. “I simply ask the folks of Virgin Islands that this is going to require a level of patience. You’re not going to see trucks, jobs and material coming into the Virgin Islands in the next month. It’s a process and we’re sharing objectives.”

Specifically Mapp said the contingent of 15 members from the territory were invited by Sinopec and subsidiary Unipec, China’s United International United Petroleum & Chemicals Co., to discuss increasing the capacity of oil storage facilities from 13 million barrels to “the north side” of 50 million barrels within two to three years.

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This move would include the building of new storage tanks and related work that would require more local manpower, the governor added.

Mapp explained the tanks currently on site and the processing units are under review to determine their capacity and ability to function.

“The company’s intention is that some level of refining will be needed at the St. Croix facility,” he said, adding that the statement should not be seen as an announcement of the company’s decision to “turn on the refinery.”

“But with all the discussions … and plans for the lending of crude and storage, there is a great possibility that the south shore refinery will be restarted,” Mapp said.

Meanwhile, ArcLight has committed to building a buoy system in the channel leading to the refinery that would allow for the use of ultra large crude carriers that could bring in 2 million barrels of crude in a trip. Mapp said Tuesday that setting up the system would include dredging the channel to a depth of 70 feet that would enable the carriers to get closer to the facility to offload the oil, a move that would also require more manpower.

Mapp said after the press conference that plans to use local workers were negotiated with Chinese officials, who also said they would be providing a list of their employment needs.

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