Murco’s network of filling stations could be involved in a management buyout together with the company’s threatened oil refinery at Milford Haven.

Managing director Tom McKinley has told staff he is taking a leave of absence while he works on the plan.

Brian Kelly, head of Murphy’s business development in West Africa, the Middle East and Britain, will replace McKinley and lead Murco’s negotiations with the potential buyers.

McKinley’s move came during a minimum 45-day consultation with the employees about the future the Milford Haven refinery that began in early April.

It was expected that the company might extend the 45-day deadline while McKinley developed his bid, and while there was no confirmation from Murco, neither was there an announcement of its plans for the company as the 45 day-period expired last month.

In addition to McKinley’s potential bid, sources close to the company suggested that a second potential purchaser is trying to put together a bid.

Murco’s parent company Murphy Oil has had a stated aim of selling Murco for about four years, but the consultation on the future of the refinery began after negotiations over the sale of the business broke down in early April.