HOUSTON Nov 8 (Reuters) - Alon USA Energy Inc's California refining system could be shut down through early 2015 or longer, depending on when and if the company gets needed permits to build a facility to offload U.S. crude via rail, Chief Executive Paul Eisman told analysts on Friday.
Alon had expected to receive permits for the offloading facility by the fourth quarter this year so the company could build it and begin railing in cheaper U.S. crude in 2014.
However, delays have pushed back the project, and now the company expects to receive permits by the end of the fourth quarter 2014, Eisman said.
Alon shut the 70,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) system down a year ago because its dependence on imported crude rendered it unprofitable.
"We are continuing to work the permit and we are confident we are going to get it," he said during the company's fourth-quarter earnings conference call. "We could potentially start (railing in crude) as early as 2015, but we've not made the decision on that at this point."
The California system includes plants in Bakersfield, Long Beach and Paramount that operate as one.
Eisman also said the company was "looking at options" to expand its Big Spring, Texas, refinery, which is in the growing Permian Basin oil play.
"We're looking at all options," he said of the 70,000 bpd refinery, which is slated to shut down in the first quarter next year for a plant-wide turnaround.