Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection Thursday issued a renewed pollution discharge permit for ConocoPhillip's idled refinery in Delaware County.

ConocoPhillips, based in Houston, announced last September it was looking to sell its Trainer facility in Trainer, Pa., not far from Philadelphia.  Otherwise, it would most likely demolish it.

Trainer has an 18 million barrel capacity. It processes light, low-sulfur crude oil mainly from West Africa and Canada. The company hasn't said it's been approached by any bidders.

Trainer takes the crude and turns it mostly into transportation fuels including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The refinery also produces heating oil and liquefied petroleum gas.

The renewal of this permit continues to protect an important environmental asset, the Delaware River Estuary, DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said in a statement. Renewal is a necessary and critical step in putting the refinery in a position to be acquired by a new operator, which we hope will happen.

The Pennsylvania State Impact newspaper reported the refinery closure cost the Philadelphia region 1,200 jobs.

High cost, plus processing foreign-sourced crude oil that's more expensive than domestic crude, have made operating along the East Coast difficult. Low consumer demand for gasoline in recent months has also cut into refineries' profitability, prompting the closures.

Refineries along the Eastern seaboard must import most of their crude because there's not enough pipeline connecting the refineries to the oil hubs in the Midwest, notably Cushing, Okla.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has warned the ConocoPhillips closure, coupled with the idling of another two refineries by Sunoco in the state, will most likely cause a shortage of heating fuels in New England. 

The EIA reported in December 40 percent of gasoline sales and 60 percent of petroleum distillate sales in 2010 came from East Coast refineries in general. Of those percentages, more than half came from Trainer and two other idled refineries.

Shares of ConocoPhillips traded down 1.5 percent at $72.29 on Thursday.