BR Exclusive! What’s hidden under the rug the Steaua Romana sale: Whoever buys the 100 years old refinery will discover a EUR 100 million environment bomb

Razvan Zamfir 10/08/2018 | 13:00

History lost the respect its deserves. The oldest refinery in Romania is sold on a adds website for EUR 10 million. Its financial problems started 10 years ago and today only ruins are left of what used to be a national pride. Built in 1895, Steaua Romana refinery made it through the American bombardments during World War II but got smashed by the cruel rules of capitalism and state incompetency. What is less known is the fact that the asking price is 10 times below the minimum mandatory environment investments that have to be made at Steaua Romana.

In July 2010 in Campina, the city in Romania less than 100 km away from the state capital, the 334 employees of Steaua Romana heard the siren announcing the day shift change. It was literally the end of a century long business. All 334 employees got the layoff notification that day. In it’s best years the refinery used to employ 1.200 people.

It’s wall started in 2008, when, because of a cash flow crisis caused by the Fiscal Agency’s (ANAF) failure pay a RON 40 million VAT reimbursement, the crude oil supply was cut off. Years later, after a painful lawsuit, the refinery won in court against ANAF and got its RON 40 million but it was already too late. The production had been allready shut down for good since 2009.

History for sale by pieces

For the 49.6 hectares refinery the seller asks EUR 10.3 million. But the old oil processing factory from Campina has other issues, that makes it almost impossible to be exploited.

In April, this year, the National Environmental Protection Agency issued a document which includes a list of 5 obligations to be solved in three years.

According to the refinery officials, the most important thing is the historical pollution.

”After over 100 years of operation, however, due to the technologies of the times, a historical pollution was localized in the three warehouses of the company’s patrimony: Turnatorie Acid Tar lake, with a surface area of ​​3.3 hectares and a volume of 70,000 cubic meters, the Bucea Acid Tar lake with an area of ​​5.7 hectares and a volume of 80.000 cubic meters, the oil-field lake with an area of ​​0.5 hectares and an estimated volume of 27,000 cubic meters. In the same location there is the Pestelui lake, used up to now as the natural biological water treatment step, which has an area of ​​5 hectares and an estimated volume of 46,000 cubic meters”, refinery officials stated on the company website.

At least EUR 100 million

According to informations since 2011, the necessary investment is around EUR 100 million. Back then, the former president of the Prahova County Council and MP Florin Anghel, launched the idea that maybe the local authorities could take over at least a part of the tar lakes and rehabilitate them with European funds.

”Through the privatization contract, the owners have assumed environmental issues, including those of tar lakes. Nothing has been done. From my point of view, I think we will leave these problems to our descendants. I am thinking maybe the local administration could take over  some acid tar lakes and rehabilitate them with European funds”, Florin Anghel stated in 2011.

Closer in time, last year, in April in a General Meeting of the Shareholders of Steaua Romana was decided that in the reorganization plan to be included the participation of the refinery with the historical poluted actives at the formation of an entity with a distinct activity for rehabilitation and redistribution to the civil circuit of these actives.

The deal with the autorithies didn’t hapenned. Yet, thinks Gheorghe Sandu, the former leader of Rafinorul Union of the refinery.

”There were a lot of problems with the refinery. Some of them we have managed to solve, but, some were to complicated. Even the reimbursed VAT from Fiscal Angency was resolved. Now, they are selling actives of the refinery. If there are persons interested, they can buy parts or the whole thing. It is hard to estimate if the value is correct. Probabbly it is. Anyway, the scrap metal has its value, but in has its costs as well”, Sandu states.

The former union leader thinks that the ecologic rehabilitation is a problem which will remain attached by the administrator and the most important shareholder, Omnimpex. That is why the refinery is sold piece by piece, nobody wants a EUR 100 million wheight on his neck.

”I think that the best sollution is the involvment of the authorities. They are the only one who can take Europea funds for rehabilitations. In fact, in the past one of the acid tar lakes wasn’t included in the refinery portofolio, and as effect remain at the City Hall and now is cleaned. This is the way for all of them”, concluded Sandu.

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