Lying idle since 2012, the refinery on the south shore of Saint Croix has been used as a terminal in recent years.

The Government of the Virgin Islands and Atlantic Basin Refining also signed a detailed operating agreement to rebuild and restart the refinery as well as pay more than $1.6bn to the government over the life of the accord.

The engineering analysis and a restart plan for the refinery are likely to take nine to 12 months whereas construction and rehabilitation is expected to complete in 24 months and would cost more than $1bn.

Additionally, the new buyers will pay into a site restoration fund for the deconstruction and take-down of the refinery and remediation of the site.

The US Virgin Islands Governor John de Jongh said: "This will ensure that, whatever the circumstances, if there is not to be an operating refinery, we will not be left with an eyesore and a wasting asset."

The operational agreement would be for 22 years and can be extended for two additional 10-year terms.

Jongh said: "After the restart, the refinery is expected to employ over 700 workers, with over 500 full-time employees and over 200 contractors. Once restarted, the refinery will provide a tremendous boost to the St. Croix economy and generate hundreds of additional jobs to support the refinery’s operations and employees."