No buyer yet for North Pole refinery

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Have bills to pay, must sell: A North Pole refinery and two associated terminals, 3 percent ownership of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and 29 convenience stores. Now accepting offers.

That's how a classified ad might read for Williams' Alaska properties, which the cash-strapped company announced it was selling in 2002.

Company officials say the process may have be been slowed as Williams focused on selling other assets.

Earlier, the company reported it wanted to sell the properties by the end of first quarter 2003, said Kelly Swan, a Williams spokesman at the company's Tulsa, Okla., headquarters. Barring any big surprises, that time frame won't be met, but Williams is pleased with the interest the refinery has generated and is confident the sale eventually will happen.

''Basically, from Williams' standpoint, it comes down to making sure that we get the best bid,'' Swan said. ''We're in a cash mode right now and every dollar counts.''

Between now and 2004, Williams faces about $4 billion worth of debt, Swan said. Also, the company is shifting its focus to natural gas pipelines, natural gas drilling and production.

''Even though Alaska has been a very good business for us and a very good market, it just doesn't fit that natural gas focus,'' Swan said.

About 60 percent of the refinery's production is jet fuel, said Jeff Cook, vice president of external affairs for Williams Alaska.

We're the only state in the union that consumes four times more jet fuel a day than gasoline,'' he said.

The refinery generates about 155 jobs. About 300 people work in Williams Alaska's retail stores, Cook said.

According to a company news release, Williams refinery paid more than 65 percent of the property tax revenues in 2002 collected for the city of North Pole.

In late 2002, Williams found a buyer for its Memphis refinery for about $465 million.

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