Hess union widens buyer search for New Jersey refinery

The union representing employees at Hess Corp.’s 70,000 b/d Port Reading, NJ, refinery has expanded its search for a new owner. Hess announced Jan. 28 that it plans to close the plant at the end of February and complete its withdrawal from the refining business after losing money there in two of the last 3 years.

“The gigantic gasoline price spikes hitting customers are a direct result of the closing of the Port Reading refinery and similar industry actions,” said Bruce Klipple, president of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE).

“Our early outreach to interested firms who could continue operation of the refinery is promising,” he reported on Feb. 25. “Within 1 week of the start of our campaign, we have half a dozen interested parties who have consulted with UE. We expect more to come forward.”

When it announced the sale, Hess said the refinery is comprised solely of a fluid catalytic cracking unit, and it primarily manufactures gasoline and heating oil blending components.

“The financial outlook for the facility is expected to remain challenged due to the requirement for future expenditures to comply with environmental regulations for low-sulfur heating oil and the weak forecast for gasoline refining margins,” the company said in late January.

Workers at the plant are represented by UE Local 106. “The news media tell us day after day that [gasoline] prices are skyrocketing,” said Chris Townsend, the UE representative heading up its plant sale efforts.

“Consumers see this every day at the pump. But somebody has to do something about it,” he continued. “Our union is taking action. We are going to find a buyer to continue operations of this critically important refinery. The public should contact their lawmakers and tell them to help our effort, before prices go even higher.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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