The visionary who rescued a key Philadelphia industry

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on February 10, 2015

It was only a few short years ago that the Point Breeze and Girard Point oil refineries owned by Sunoco in South Philadelphia were about to be abandoned. Along came visionary Phil Rinaldi who saw something that Sunoco did not see – irreplaceable assets sitting in the middle of a major metropolitan region whose residents and businesses provided a ready market for the products produced by these assets. The refineries are in an area with excellent infrastructure – two deep-water navigable rivers with ocean access, rail service and interstate highways, and the potential of someday processing Marcellus shale natural gas that is only 100 miles away. With the financial backing of The Carlyle Group, Rinaldi formed a new company, named it Philadelphia Energy Solutions and purchased the two refineries.

During my interview with Rinaldi, he exuded a quiet determination, a sense of confidence in what he and his team at Philadelphia Energy Solutions and other stakeholders were accomplishing by reestablishing this important industry in Philadelphia. He saw possibilities, where others saw obstacles that could not be overcome. He saw the glass as half full, while others saw it as half empty.

Rinaldi spoke of the opinions of the “experts” at the time, who felt that oil refining did not have a place in the “new economy” and that gasoline, heating oil and other refined products could be refined elsewhere and shipped here. Rinaldi stated that there was a view that perhaps the refineries should be bulldozed and the condominiums built on these sites.

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