Shell to shut down plant in Convent

Hundreds to lose jobs after Shell announces plans to close Convent refinery

CONVENT, La. (WAFB) - The Shell Refinery in Convent, La. will begin shutting down later in November, the company confirmed Thursday, Nov. 5.

The plant employs nearly 700 workers and 400 contract workers, and opened in 1967 as a Texaco refinery.

Shell says the move is part of a larger plan to reduce the number of its refineries as it transitions to a “low-carbon future.”

Shell says it will help its employees find work at other Shell locations if possible.

“Employees will be supported in finding alternate positions within Shell,” the company said. “Employees who are not identified for open roles or choose to leave the company will be offered a severance.”

The company says any severance will be subject to bargaining for those employees who are part of the union.

Shell plans to consolidate its assets into six energy and chemical parks, which includes the Norco site near New Orleans, The Advocate newspaper reported.

FULL PRESS CONFERENCE: Shell refinery in Convent set to close

Other sites are in Deer Park, Texas; The Netherlands; Singapore; Germany; and Canada. The new petrochemical parks are expected to be located near existing complexes, such as Shell’s Geismar site in Ascension Parish, the newspaper reported.

The refinery is designed to process nearly 240,000 barrels of crude oil daily, producing unleaded gasoline and other petroleum products.

The plant is located on 4,400 acres on parts of Ascension and St. James parishes.

The company released the statement below:

“Shell has announced the shutdown of its Convent Refinery in Louisiana. The decision is part of the company’s global strategy to invest in a core set of uniquely integrated manufacturing sites that are also strategically positioned for the transition to a low-carbon future. The shutdown process will begin mid-November. In July of 2020, we shared with staff that the Shell Convent Refinery was being marketed. Despite efforts to sell the asset, a viable buyer was never identified. After looking at all aspects of our business, including financial performance, we made the difficult decision to shut down the site. Shell will ensure a safe and responsible shutdown of the refinery with a focus on the people who are most directly impacted. That includes supporting Convent employees at this difficult time by assisting them in applying for alternate opportunities within the company, or in transitioning to a future outside of the Shell. Shell will be opening a Selective Voluntary Severance program at its Geismar and Norco facilities, subject to bargaining for union represented employees, to potentially create additional roles where Convent employees can be placed.We will retain a meaningful presence in Louisiana by way of our integrated refining and chemicals sites at Norco and Geismar, our midstream infrastructure assets, branded retail presence, Gulf of Mexico operations and our offices in New Orleans. After the shutdown process is complete, we will continue to market the Convent Refinery for divestment.”

Governor John Bel Edwards also released a statement about the closing of the facility:

"We are disappointed to learn that Shell’s Convent Refinery in St. James Parish will be closing in the near future. This is a difficult decision for Shell and a challenging time for the company’s 700 Convent employees and their families. The State of Louisiana will support them in every way we can through the Rapid Response Unit of the Louisiana Workforce Commission and through prioritized placement of these talented workers within our state.

It’s important to note that Shell is reducing the number of standalone refineries company-wide in favor of consolidated industrial sites that integrate refining and chemical operations. This decision is not due to a lack of competitiveness on the part of Louisiana’s business climate or workforce, and the company will continue to operate many vital assets here. Shell employs nearly 4,000 people in our state, with a similar number of retirees. Company holdings in Louisiana range from deepwater operations headquartered in New Orleans and conducted offshore, to the Norco refinery, the Geismar chemicals plant, the Port Allen catalysts site, pipelines and other operations.

I have asked Shell to work with us in re-employing workers of the Convent Refinery at other Louisiana locations. We also will support Shell in its efforts to sell and repurpose this important industrial site for the future benefit of St. James Parish, the River Parishes and our entire state.”

St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne also commented on the refinery’s closing, saying:

"We are saddened at the news today of Royal Dutch Shell’s consolidation of its chemical and refining operations in St. James Parish. Since 1967, this refinery has provided economic impact to St. James Parish operating under several different companies over the years. The facility has consistently been the largest taxpayer in St. James Parish, therefore its consolidation will certainly have an impact to our community and the supporting businesses who rely on industry.

The Petro-chemical industry is critically important to the St. James Parish annual budget and allows St. James Parish Government to provide essential services to our residents. We are hopeful that in the future this refinery will operate once again as its rail, pipeline, transportation infrastructure and river access are world class.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the individuals impacted by this consolidation and we are confident that Shell is committed to continue community support for our area."

Dufresne says the parish received no warning the Shell facility would be closing. He says the impact on the parish will be “detrimental." He says the plant has been the largest taxpayer in the parish for many years, meaning the loss of the facility will cause a large impact on the surrounding economy. He’s hopeful the facility will be repurposed for another facility in the future. He believes the closure may be related to COVID-19, however, the company has given no indication that’s the case.

Dufresne also says the facility will not be completely closed until February of 2021.

St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin says the facility will close gradually to allow employees time to find other opportunities.

The parish president also says he believes officials at Shell will be working closely with parish officials to soften the impact on the community as much as possible.

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