Capeco files for bankruptcy
Caribbean Petroleum Corp (Capeeco) has filed for bankruptcy protection nearly a year after the tanks at its fuel depot exploded, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people.
The company has at least US$500 million in debt and seeks to sell all its facilities, including six pipelines and a non-operational crude oil refinery, according to court documents filed late Thursday in Delaware.
The company's operations were nearly paralysed by the October 23 explosion that destroyed 21 of the depot's 40 tanks and sent tremors across the capital of San Juan, the documents stated.
No one was injured, but more than 1,500 people were evacuated as a plume of toxic smoke rose from the fire, which burned for two days.
The United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board blamed the explosion on a broken fuel gauge that prevented workers from discovering that one of the tanks was overflowing, before the fuel vapours ignited.
Court documents also state that Puerto Rico's treasury department is seeking US$20.9 million in taxes from Capeco in a dispute that has not been resolved.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took over cleanup efforts earlier this year, after it said the company claimed it could not afford to do so.
The EPA has said it would seek to recover the costs, although an estimate has not been provided.
Capeco supplies Gulf gas stations across the US Caribbean territory and operated a refinery at its plant west of San Juan until 2000.