By Erwin Seba
HOUSTON (Reuters) -The United Steelworkers union (USW) said in a letter to members it was misled by Lyondell Basell Industries about possible buyers for the company’s Houston refinery, which the company has set for permanent closure late this year.
“The International Union has been approached by buyers who say not only are they willing to buy the refinery at a fair market price but have been trying to do so since before the closure notice,” the USW said in a letter seen by Reuters on Saturday.
The letter was sent on Friday to members who work at the Lyondell refinery.
According to the letter, the union said it would contact government officials about the would-be buyers of the refinery and take further actions involving union members in the future.
Lyondell spokesperson Nick Facchin said the company “disagrees with the allegations” made by the union.
“Lyondell Basell is working to retain as many of its Houston refining employees as possible through a phased redeployment process, which we recently announced,” Facchin said.
Offers made on the refinery when Lyondell was weighing a possible sale in 2021 fell short of the refinery’s value, he said.
The letter was signed by Marcos Velez, assistant to the director for USW Region 13, which includes Texas.
Velez said on Saturday Lyondell “flat-out” refused to offer redeployment when it announced in April 2022 that the 263,776 barrel-per-day refinery would close by the end of 2023.
“Now only because staffing is so low that they cannot safely run the facility are they discussing potential redeployment to other sites,” Velez said.
Petrochemical maker Lyondell began the attempt to find a buyer in 2021 because the refinery is no longer a necessary part of its global plastics manufacturing operations.
In a July 2022, Lyondell Chief Executive Peter Vanacker said the company was considering “very large investments” at the site after the refinery closes to make it part of a recycled plastics manufacturing system in the Houston area.
Sources familiar with the matter said Kinder Morgan Inc, which operates a terminal near the refinery, approached Lyondell about a possible sale.
Kinder Morgan spokesperson Amy Baek declined to comment on Saturday.
Lyondell told Kinder Morgan it wasn’t interested in selling, the sources said.
After a purchase, Kinder Morgan planned to operate the refinery’s logistics while an undisclosed partner would manage production.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba, Editing by Franklin Paul and Grant McCool)