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(Adds details, spokesman’s quotes)
By Haitham Haddadin
NEW YORK, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Hovensa LLC said on Thursday exports were halted temporarily at its 500,000 barrel-per-day St. Croix refinery after the U.S. Coast Guard has shut all ports in the U.S. Virgin Islands due to Tropical Storm Erika.
But operations at the St. Croix complex, one of the largest refineries in the Western hemisphere, have not been impacted and no precautionary shutdowns are planned due to the storm, said Alex Moorhead, a spokesman for the company.
Hovensa is a large supplier of gasoline and heating oil to the U.S. East Coast markets.
“Late yesterday the U.S. Coast Guard closed all ports in the Virgin Islands to incoming traffic including the port at the refinery,” Moorhead told Reuters.
“No vessels can come in until further notice from the Coast Guard,” the spokesman added.
Tropical Storm Erika in the northeast Caribbean Sea was expected to gradually weaken during the next two days as it tracked toward Puerto Rico and then the Dominican Republic, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. [ID:nN03423911]
The system was expected to approach the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico later today.
“There’s no rain or any high winds at the moment but the storm is expected to bring some rain later today and this evening,” Moorhead said.
“However the refinery remains in operation,” he added.
Asked if there were any plans currently for a precautionary shutdown of the plant, Moorhead said, “No.”
The St. Croix refinery is a joint venture between Hess Corp (HES.N) and Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA). (Reporting by Haitham Haddadin with additional reporting by Joe Silha; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)