SHELL’S Stanlow refinery will be kept open even if talks with Indian firm Essar break down before the end of February.
Negotiations with the company are at an advanced stage and a union official says employees have been told a ‘credible’ bid for Stanlow is on the table, with the terms of a handover being thrashed out.
Shell have set themselves a target until the end of March for a deal to be agreed.
Shell spokesman Ed Brady said: “We can confirm that we are in detailed negotiations with Essar for the sale of the Stanlow Refinery and we have set a deadline for the end of February to reach an agreement of the terms of sale.
“If we can not complete a deal by the end of February then we will be withdrawing Stanlow from sale and returning it to the Shell portfolio as a manufacturing complex.
“We are not considering closure and turn into a terminal.
“We can confirm that we have received an offer for the business.”
Talks have already lasted for more than a year as Shell plots to dispose of 15% of its worldwide refining capacity amid lower demand for fuels.
Existing staff would be offered employment with Essar and idea is to sell them as a going concern.
Stanlow, Britain’s second-largest refinery, can process 233,000 barrels of oil a day and analysts value it at several hundred million pounds.