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Employees leave the Shell Canada refinery in Montreal last January. The company announced Friday it will close the east-end facility and convert it to a distribution centre.

Paul Chiasson/Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press

Hundreds of employees are about to lose their jobs after Shell Canada decided Friday to close its Montreal refinery.

The Calgary-based petroleum giant will convert the operations in the eastern part of the city to a distribution terminal after rejecting two "expressions of interest" that were submitted before its Tuesday deadline.

Shell didn't immediately say when the conversion will take place.

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The decision is a blow to 500 employees and an estimated 2,500 indirect jobs. Once it closes, about 30 jobs will remain at the terminal that will distribute Shell products.

The company said it will no longer pursue discussions with the interested parties whose offers represented "a significant valuation gap" from its expectations.

Shell Canada president Lorraine Mitchelmore said the two sides were "too far apart on some of the terms put forward to realistically reach an agreement on the sale of the refinery."

The company announced plans in January to close the 76-year-old refinery after unsuccessfully trying to find a buyers for six months last year. Since February, a special committee led by former senator Michael Fortier had approached potential purchasers of the facility. Three groups reportedly signed confidentiality agreements to gain access to Shell's "electronic data room."

The refinery is the largest operated by Shell in Canada. It processes more than 130,000 barrels of crude oil daily.

Its closure will leave Montreal with one operational commercial refinery, owned by Suncor Energy Inc.

Shell Canada is a unit of Royal Dutch Shell Group, the British-Dutch energy giant that is one of the world's biggest oil and gas companies, with operations spanning the globe.

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