ConocoPhillips to demolish Trainer refinery if no buyer found by March

Update, 5 p.m., Tuesday—One analyst thinks ConocoPhillips may choose not to demolish its idled oil refinery in Trainer, Delaware County, because of the environmental remediation costs it would have to pay.

Update, 5 p.m., Tuesday

Allen Good, equity analyst for the financial research firm Morningstar, said he would be surprised if ConocoPhillips chooses to take on the environmental remediation costs it will have to pay if it demolishes the plant.

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Good says instead of trying to compete with cheaper imported fuel, the shuttered refineries could very well end up repurposed as distribution terminals, delivering that fuel to local markets.

“I find it difficult to believe [ConocoPhillips will] find a buyer anytime soon, and much less likely that they’ll ever reopen as a refinery, which I think ultimately is what the unions will be most interested in, given that that will require the most manpower.”

ConocoPhillips says it will demolish its idled oil refinery in Trainer, Delaware County, if it fails to find a buyer by the end of March. Union representatives say they got the word in talks last Thursday with the company.

Denis Stephano, who heads the local chapter of the United Steelworkers Union says the threat of demolition came as a surprise. 

“It the first time it was ever mentioned, ever discussed,” Conahan said.Plant manager Dave Erfert at the talks said razing the refinery had been discussed for a year and a half among company officials. He said Conoco is ready to hire a demolition team March 30, if no buyer is found.  

Rich Johnson, a spokesman for the Houston-based energy company said the company continued to seek buyers for the refinery. The company idled the Trainer, Pa. plant in September.

The refinery employed more than 400 hundred people, plus an additional 240 contractors.

At the time of the shutdown, the company said it would take six months to try and sell the refinery. Johnson said only that without a purchaser by the end of March the company “would make a decision on what to do with the equipment and the property.”

A response team from Gov. Corbett’s office arrived in Trainer on Monday for a briefing.

The ConocoPhillips refinery has struggled financially in the face of lower oil prices. Another refining giant in the region, Sunoco, has also put its facilities in Marcus Hook and Philadelphia up for sale.

“I don’t think they’ve shown good faith in trying to really find a buyer and trying to make it advantageous for a buyer to come in,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Pa.), whose district includes several of the idled plants.

Speaking after a closed meeting with officials from ConocoPhillips and Sunoco at the end of last year, Brady complained the companies did not seem interested in working with legislators and had not sent their decision makers to meet with lawmakers. 

The House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee will hear public comment in Harrisburg Tuesday on safety concerns and emergency preparedness around the idled industrial plants.

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