A former Russian energy minister has emerged as the sole bidder for the Coryton oil refinery in Essex, which supplies about 20% of fuel for London and the South East.

Igor Yusufov, the energy minister in Vladimir Putin’s first term as Russian president, was revealed as sole bidder in a report in the Financial Times after the government refused to provide state support to Coryton.

Price Waterhouse Coopers, Coryton’s administrator, declined to comment on Yusufov’s interest. It said late last month it had failed to find a buyer for the refinery after four months of talks.

But Richard Howitt, Labour European Parliament member for Essex, confirmed to the Financial Times that Yusufov was a genuine bidder.

“I am aware of his bid, and have been assisting it,” he said. “It did stall for a while, but I put some efforts in trying to encourage the talks to get going again. The talks, certainly, as of Thursda (June 14), are proceeding.”

“I am not commenting on the integrity of the bid, or the bidder. Other people have to assess it,” Mr Howitt added. “I’m supporting it because, as the local representative, this appears to be the only option around that would keep Coryton as a working refinery and would keep the jobs.”

Unite the union also claimed on Wednesday that there was a possible buyer for Coryton but refused to name the bidder.

In addition, administrators are understood to be looking at a deal that would convert the refinery into a storage terminal, though that would entail several hundred job losses.

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