Philadelphia Energy Solutions CEO Mark Smith said Friday’s fire at the company’s South Philly refinery “made it impossible” to keep the plant open, so it will be permanently shut down next month. Mayor Kenney said the company didn’t have the money to repair the plant. He said it’s unclear what will happen at the site. Tom Kloza, an analyst for Oil Price Information Service, said when refineries shut down, they are typically repurposed as storage facilities. A portion of the 1,300-acre PES site currently includes a tank farm.
The 1,300-acre refinery produced a little more than one-quarter of the fuel consumed on the East Coast and employed roughly 1,000 workers. The plant was Philadelphia’s single-largest source of particulate pollution, looming over a neighborhood that had among the highest asthma hospitalization rates in the city.
After Friday’s explosion and fire released clouds of black smoke and fumes across the city, officials said public health wasn’t threatened. But nearby residents expressed increased concern about the plant’s emissions, and on Tuesday, about 40 people attended a rally and demanded that the plant close.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the city pledged to support the roughly 1,000 workers at the plant and other businesses that will be affected. Smith said as the company winds down operations, it will prepare the complex for sale. PES includes two separate refineries — Girard Point and Point Breeze, which Sunoco merged into one refinery in 1995. The fire took out the Girard Point facility but the Point Breeze part of the plant has continued to operate since the explosion. Together, the two facilities had the combined capacity to process 335,000 barrels of crude oil a day. AAA Mid Atlantic said drivers should expect to see “modest increases” in the price of gas as demand rises leading up to the Fourth of July holiday.
“We are also retooling the plans of the working group led by the City’s Managing Director and Fire Commissioner to focus efforts on determining the future of the refinery, assisting PES to transition the site safely, communicating with local residents, and supporting the employees impacted PES’ decision,” Kenney said.