Petrobras considers selling Pasadena refinery

Petrobras is considering the sale of a Pasadena refinery that got caught up in recent corruption scandals and that environmental groups believe is among the worst polluters in Texas.

Brazil’s state-run oil company may sell the facility, about 15 miles east of Houston, as part of a plan to divest $21 billion in assets over the next two years, it said in regulatory documents filed on Wednesday.

The announcement comes as Petrobras is still reeling from revelations of widespread corruption and a severe economic recession in Brazil that forced the company to find outside cash to pay down its ballooning $120 billion in debt.

The company didn’t say how much it expected to get for the refinery, but it appears likely to be far less than $1.2 billion that Petrobas paid for it. Brazilian prosecutors have alleged that the plant’s previous owner, the Belgian company, Transcor Astra Group, paid bribes to Brazilian and Petrobras officials to secure a massive overpayment in the refinery’s acquisition price.

The $1.2 billion, paid between 2006 and 2012 was a 3,000 percent premium to the $42.5 million Transcor Astra paid in 2005, authorities alleged.

Whoever buys the refinery also will likely face the legal entanglements of two separate lawsuits filed this spring by Harris County and environmental groups against Petrobras’ Pasadena Refining System Inc., which runs the facility.

“That plant probably needs a whole lot of work,” said Rock Owens, managing attorney of the Harris County Attorney’s Office environmental group. “They probably want to get rid of it.”