Imperial Oil Limited is putting its refinery in Dartmouth, N.S., on the auction block.
"This is a difficult decision," Imperial Oil CEO Bruce March said in a news release.
"We recognize the refinery's long history of supplying customers in this region and we know that these jobs are important to the community."
Approximately 200 employees and 200 contractors are employed at the refinery and related terminals.
Gilles Courtemanche, Vice-President of Imperial Oil, said the company has no choice but to look for a buyer because Europe is buying less gasoline than it did in the 1970s. The Dartmouth refinery has been losing tens of millions of dollars over the past few years despite a recent switch to making diesel.
Courtemanche said there are currently 10 refineries on the market, so his optimism for a sale is guarded.
"The Dartmouth refinery operates in the highly competitive, over-supplied Atlantic basin, which â?”as you all know â€” is open to significant global competition."
If there is no buyer, the refinery could be converted into a terminal that could supply fuel to the airport, harbour and military. But that would only require 25 workers.
Premier Darrell Dexter said the possible closure of the refinery would be a major blow to the area. It would also mark a historic close to the company's long history on the shores of Halifax Harbour.
"They have employed literally generations of people from that community," he said.
"At one point in time they had literally their own time that was associated with the Imperial Oil Refinery so to say that this is the loss of an economic asset is one thing but the fact of the matter is, it's more than that. It would be the loss of a very significant contributor to our community over a very long period of time."
Dexter said his government will leave the sale of the refinery up to Imperial Oil because he said it has the expertise necessary to make a sale if one is possible.
The terminals related to the refinery â€” in Dartmouth, Sydney, N.S., Corner Brook, N.L., Sept-Iles, Que. and Cap aux Meules in the Magdalen Islands â€” are included in the potential sale.
The Dartmouth refinery began production in 1918 and has a capacity of about 88,000 barrels a day. It produces a wide range of petroleum products including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, home heating fuel, marine fuel, heavy fuel oil and asphalt.
Imperial Oil is a major producer of crude oil and natural gas, Canada largest petroleum refiner and a key petrochemical producer in addition to running a coast-to-coast supply and retail service station networks.
Copyright 2012 Roll Call, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2012 CBC. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published May 17, 2012, by CBC News.)