2011-10-06 / Local & State

Officials Optimistic About Deals On Pa. Refineries

By Patrick Walters

MARCUS HOOK, Pa. (AP) – Elected leaders and union officials said Wednesday they are optimistic about finding buyers for three Philadelphia-area refineries that will be closed if they don't sell.

Earlier this month, Philadelphia-based Sunoco Inc. announced it was getting out of the refining business and planned to sell its refineries in Philadelphia and suburban Marcus Hook and focus on its pipelines and retail gas stations. Another company, ConocoPhillips, also is seeking a buyer for its oil refinery in nearby Trainer.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Republican from suburban Philadelphia, along with Reps. Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah, both Philadelphia Democrats, held a private meeting with oil company officials, union leaders and others at a community center in Marcus Hook on Wednesday. Combined, officials estimated that the facilities employ 1,950 full-time workers, along with hundreds of daily contractors.

Potential buyers have “kicked the tires” on some of the facilities, Meehan said, but he didn't know how many. “We're looking for ways that we can work together to find purchasers,” he said. “We're going to get it done.”

Even though the economy is down and there are concerns about the oil industry,

Meehan said, the demand for oil in the region and across the country will increase as the economy strengthens. The country needs to keep its production up, he said.

“We're surrendering this industry to Nigeria, to China and to India,” Meehan said, adding that deals would likely need to be struck in the next six months to a year.

A Sunoco spokesman said after the meeting that the company would rather sell its facilities than shutter them.

“Selling the refineries is the preferred option for Sunoco,” said spokesman Joe McGinn, who added that the company is actively talking to potential buyers. Sunoco would idle the facilities in July 2012 if it can’t sell them before then, McGinn said.

ConocoPhillips spokesman Rich Johnson said the company was beginning the process of idling its plant, but would maintain the equipment there in case the facility can be sold. If it cannot be sold within the next six months, Johnson said, it would be closed.

Union leaders who attended the meeting said they also were trying to remain optimistic that someone would buy the facilities and keep them open.

“We hope that somebody will step up,” said Jim Savage, a union leader who represents steelworkers at Sunoco’s Philadelphia refinery.

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