Britain's second biggest oil refinery is in crisis talks with tax officials amid fears it could be on the brink of collapse.
Bosses behind Stanlow Oil Refinery, in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, are in urgent talks with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over a £223million VAT payment.
The refinery, which has been under financial strain during the Covid pandemic, needs to start repaying the bill this week unless it can agree a new deal, according to the Sunday Times.
Owned by the billionaire Ruia brothers, Shashi and Ravi, through their company Essar Oil UK, the refinery supplies about a sixth of Britain's road fuel. It is also supplies jet fuel for Manchester and Birmingham airports.
Around 900 people are employed directly at the refinery and around 800 contractors also work on site.
It also comes as Britain faces a fuel crisis, with the petrol stations having to shut and panic buying erupting after petrol chiefs announced they would have to close pumps as a knock on from the UK’s lorry driver shortage.
Bosses behind Stanlow Oil refinery (pictured), in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, are said to be in urgent talks with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over a £223million VAT bill
Owned by the billionaire Ruia brothers, Shashi (pictured left) and Ravi (pictured right), through their company Essar Oil UK, the refinery supplies about a sixth of Britain's road fuel. It is also supplies jet fuel for Manchester and Birmingham airports.
The refinery's VAT bill built during the pandemic under the Government's Covid VAT deferral scheme.
The scheme, launched in March last year, allowed firms to defer VAT payments to help businesses stay afloat during the first Covid lockdown.
But businesses were ordered to either pay back the money by March 2021, join an interest free instalment scheme stretching to June, or make arrangements with HMRC to push back the payments.
Furious motorists were seen fighting as the nationwide rush for fuel continued yesterday, amid calls for calm from the Government because less than 100 petrol stations are empty.
Shocking footage showed panic buyers punching and kicking at each other during a violent brawl at an Esso petrol forecourt in Sidlesham, Chicester, as roads were left gridlocked and police had to be called in to marshal drivers.
Two men were seen grappling before throwing punches at one another, while another enraged motorist launched a flying kick at another man as the scramble for fuel turned violent in the sleepy West Sussex village.
Thousands of desperate drivers ignored Government pleas for calm as they jammed roads - with fears mounting over the impact of lasting fuel shortages on the economy.
Photographs yesterday online showing drivers stocking up on fuel. Just one per cent of Britain's petrol stations are empty, according to fuel bosses.
Some had multiple jerry cans in the boot of their cars and spent time filling each up while others queued for hours to reach the pump. Meanwhile, around 400 stations owned by the EG Group are limiting customers to £30 worth of petrol to give everyone a 'fair chance to refuel'.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson revealed a visa U-turn for 5,000 foreign truck drivers to try to stem the shortage.
There are currently about 8,350 filling stations in the UK and less than 100 of them have been forced to close due to shortages. However, the Petrol Retailer's Association has warned the situation could get worse before it improves.
BP said around 20 of its 1,200 petrol forecourts were closed due to a lack of available fuel, with between 50 and 100 sites affected by the loss of at least one grade of fuel.
A 'small number' of Tesco refilling stations have also been impacted, said Esso owner ExxonMobil, which runs the sites.
President of the AA Edmund King reiterated on Saturday there there 'is plenty of fuel at the source' and no need to stock up.
Essar Oil UK is said to have taken advantage of the scheme, to the tune of £356million.
It agreed a deal earlier this year