(Reuters) - One bidder remains as a possible buyer for Murphy Oil's 130,000 barrels-per-day Milford Haven refinery in Wales but the process is close to collapse, a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday.
The refinery, operated by U.S. oil and gas company Murphy Oil (NYS:MUR) subsidiary Murco, is the latest British plant to face closure as the industry battles lower demand and increased competition from new, modern refineries in the Middle East and Asia.
Britain's Sunday Times said it "understood" the company was looking at closing the plant after a three-year search to find a buyer was unsuccessful. The paper did not name or identify its source.
Officials at Murphy Oil were not immediately available for comment. The source told Reuters a last bidder was still in the running to buy the plant as a going concern although the bid was seen as having little chance of success.
Many analysts believe the plant is likely to be turned into a storage terminal.
Last month, Scotland's 210,000 bpd Grangemouth refinery won a last-minute reprieve from owners Ineos, after workers and the Unite union accepted the company's proposed changes to their pay and benefits, ending a long-running standoff.
Grangemouth is the only refinery in Scotland, which holds a political referendum on independence from Britain next year. The closure of Milford Haven with the loss of hundreds of jobs would have political ramifications in Wales.
A spokesman for the Welsh government was quoted in the WalesOnline website as saying: "We maintain regular contact with Murco and will continue to communicate with them about their operation in Wales."
Industry insiders are watching closely to see which UK plant might close next due to perceived overcapacity and flat to negative margins after the closure in 2012 of Coryton in the East of England after its owner Petroplus (PNK:PEPFF) collapsed.
Milford Haven is one of two oil refineries in Wales.
The Sunday Times said Murco had offered a "dowry" worth "tens of millions" of pounds to potential buyers, but without success.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York and David Sheppard and Simon Falush in London; Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Barry Moody)