Occidental started construction of the refinery in 1972. It built about twenty oil and product storage tanks, a 137 metre high concrete chimney for the furnaces and a deep-water jetty. Construction work stopped in 1975 when, having invested £55 million, economic studies demonstrated that the proposed refinery was unlikely to be profitable. This was a consequence of the Middle East oil crisis of 1973-4 when the price of oil increased from $2 to $11 per barrel between 1970 and January 1974, and the consequent slump in demand for petroleum products.
The 1973 oil crisis began in October 1973 when the members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries proclaimed an oil embargo. The embargo was targeted at nations perceived as supporting Israel during the Yom Kippur War. By the end of the embargo in March 1974, the price of oil had risen from US$3 per barrel to nearly $12 globally. The embargo caused an oil crisis, or "shock", with many short- and long-term effects on global politics and the global economy. It was later called the "first oil shock", followed by the 1979 oil crisis, termed the "second oil shock."
Meanwhile local residents formed the Refinery Resistance Group which campaigned to stop hazardous industrial developments.
In 1980 the Occidental Petroleum Corporation revised its plans and proposed to build a 60,000 barrel (9,539m3)/day residue-upgrading refinery on the site. This aimed to 'satisfy the requirements of the planning and safety authorities as well as our own economic criteria'. But this proposal too was not developed, a consequence of the Iranian revolution and the Fall of the Shah, when the oil price increased from $13 to $34 per barrel between 1979 and 1981. No further work was undertaken by Occidental on the Canvey site.