FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Gasoline production has ended at the North Pole Refinery.
Flint Hills Resources spokesman Jeff Cook said Thursday gasoline production ended at 12:01 a.m.
The move is the first step toward a shutdown of the entire refinery, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/SekCp1) reported.
Flint Hills announced in February that it would close the facility because of the high costs of doing business in Alaska and its ongoing obligations from a chemical spill that has affected local water supplies. The company said 81 of the refinery's 126 jobs would be lost.
Company spokesman Jeff Cook said Wednesday that the refinery would shut down its extraction unit at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, ending gas production.
The production of jet fuel and heating fuel will end May 24, a week ahead of the refinery's initial shutdown schedule, Cook said. Closure of the plant is months away, however.
The plant will be "decommissioned," Cook said, which he compared to winterizing a vacant building.
"The fact that we stop refinery production, that's just the start of the decommissioning process," Cook said.
Mothballing the plant carefully will allow a prospective buyer to resume production more quickly, he said.
The Alaska Legislature last month approved a tax credit bill to assist Alaska refineries. The measure could provide as much as $10 million for investment in plants.
Flint Hills has "nothing firm" to report on the search for a refinery buyer, Cook said.
Flint Hills will continue doing business in Alaska after the refinery closure. It intends to honor supply contracts with customers. The company in February said 35 employees in Fairbanks or North Pole would retain their jobs and 10 more would stay on in Anchorage.
The company will purchase products from other in-state refineries to meet obligations, Cook said.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com