GIRARD ESTATES — The fire at this Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery shortly after 4am, June 21, was seen for miles and changed Philadelphia history.
For now, the plan is for PES to shut down and sell it, laying off more than 1,000 workers.
That devastating fire happened to follow another that happened just ten days earlier, at the Passyunk Avenue refinery, located across the Schuylkill River and expressway (I-76) from Oregon Avenue and Girard Estates.
This recent article has many details of the PES situation and its long-troubled history, and contains links to more archives.
According to and quoting from the company’s website — which mentions nothing of the fire — the PES Philadelphia Refining Complex has been “part of the neighborhood” in South Philadelphia for over 150 years and is closely tied to the growth of the American oil industry in the 19th century.
The complex consists of Point Breeze, which Atlantic Petroleum Company established in 1866. Atlantic installed its first petroleum refining units in 1870, changed its name to Atlantic Refining Company and soon became Philadelphia’s largest employer.
The other refinery is Girard Point, built by Gulf Oil in 1920. That was 12 years after Henry Ford announced the arrival of the Model T, making it increasingly practical for the “average person” to own his own car.
In 2012, Philadelphia Energy Solutions was formed after a series of sales. PES separated the combined refineries into separate business units and operated as a refining complex made up of the two domestic refineries – Girard Point and Point Breeze.
Before the fire, PES processed approximately 335,000 barrels of crude oil per day, making it the largest oil refining complex on the Eastern Seaboard and tenth-largest refiner in the U.S.
The fight over clean energy versus jobs has been taking place around the country for years and last week, it appeared as a nasty debate on Nextdoor.com in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, north of the Art Museum and far from the refinery.
This is the angry back-and-forth, containing several dozen posts, minus everybody’s names (assuming some are real). I do keep referring to the “Original Poster” who came up with the title of the string.
June 26 was not a good day for Philadelphia.