Construction crews are returning to Husky Energy's refinery in Superior after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the $750 million rebuild in March.
Husky spokesperson Kim Guttormson said in an email to the News Tribune that with added social distancing, cleaning and sanitation stations, work on rebuilding the refinery, badly damaged by an explosion and fire in April 2018, can restart.
"We have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and after careful evaluation, which included the advice of medical experts, have resumed limited work on the rebuild," Guttormson said. "We’re starting to bring some local contractors and craft back, working at three locations on the refinery site to ensure appropriate physical distancing."
Guttormson noted there will also be "some earth moving" at the Mariner Retail and Business Center where equipment will be staged. In January, Husky said it was leasing a section of the building and parking lot during the refinery's reconstruction.
The company spent about $43 million in the first quarter rebuilding the Superior refinery, which was severely damaged in an April 2018 fire and explosion, before halting work.
In its fourth-quarter earnings report in April, Husky told investors that the estimated cost of the Superior rebuild had grown nearly 90% from its initial prediction of $400 million to a revised $750 million price tag. Most of the rebuild cost is expected to be covered by insurance, the company said.
The 2018 explosion and fire at Husky's Superior refinery injured 36 people and led to the evacuation of much of the city, largely fueled by the fear of a potential release of hydrogen fluoride. None of the facility's supply of the toxic gas was found to have escaped.