Business

Monday, Jan 14 2013 04:37 PM

Refinery shutdown to cost Bakersfield about 62 jobs

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

More than half of all workers at the struggling Alon refinery on Rosedale Highway are scheduled to lose their jobs over the next few weeks as part of a previously disclosed shutdown expected to last until about the end of this year.

Letters the company sent Nov. 29 to its West Coast employees say that about 62 employees in Bakersfield will be let go between Jan. 28 and Feb. 10. One of the letters additionally says that about 65 workers at sister plants in southern Los Angeles County are being laid off as well.

"This layoff is expected to be permanent and there will be no bumping rights," Bill Winters, vice president of human resources and community affairs at Paramount Petroleum Corp., wrote in a letter to all company employees in Bakersfield. Paramount is a subsidiary of Dallas-based Alon USA Energy Inc.

Qualified workers will receive severance pay and continuing medical benefits, another letter states. It says the company hopes to resume operations and increase staffing in Bakersfield in the third or fourth quarter of this year, meaning late summer at the earliest.

"Although we cannot guarantee the number of future available jobs, it is our collective goal to restructure and reinvest in the West Coast operations so that we may provide sustainable jobs and opportunities for more employees," states a letter attributed to President and CEO Paul Eisman and Glenn Clausen, Alon's vice president of West Coast refining.

The Bakersfield refinery directly employs about 100 people. It has not operated for 12 consecutive months since 2008.

Alon told investors in November that Paramount's three California oil refineries would soon close amid high crude prices, a drop in demand for asphalt and plans to reconfigure the Bakersfield plant to accept relatively low-priced oil from North Dakota and neighboring states. It did not say how many jobs would be affected.

Since 2011, the 66,000-barrel-a-day Bakersfield facility has processed only vacuum gas oil left over from its L.A. County operations, even as other West Coast refineries have switched to so-called midcontinent crude. The Bakersfield plant processed oil before Alon bought it in 2010.

Eisman and Clausen stated that they continue to have hope for the Bakersfield refinery.

"The company firmly believes in the intermediate and long-term potential of the West Coast operations and is planning to complete several projects that may allow us to resume much of our operations in the future," their letter reads.

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