Sunoco Inc. may be getting out of the refining business, but it is aggressively expanding its capacity to sell motor fuels.
The Philadelphia company has announced that in 2012 it will resume operating 16 service plazas on the Ohio Turnpike, where its contract expired in 2006 after 12 years.
The firm also announced Wednesday that it would buy 25 retail gas stations in Upstate New York from Lehigh Gas Corp., of Bethlehem, Pa.
"This purchase shows our commitment to smartly growing our retail presence in areas where we enjoy great brand recognition and have strong logistics assets," Bob Owens, Sunoco's senior vice president of marketing, said in a statement about the New York expansion. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Increasing fuel outlets fits in with chief executive officer Lynn L. Elsenhans' strategy to build the reach of Sunoco's retail brand and its logistics network while reducing its refining capacity. Falling fuel demand has reduced manufacturing profit.
Sunoco has shut one refinery and sold two others since Elsenhans took over in 2008. Earlier this month, it sold its Toledo, Ohio, refinery to PBF Energy Partners L.P. for $400 million.
The Ohio Turnpike deal solidifies Sunoco's position as King of the Toll Road.
Sunoco operates 17 fuel outlets on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, 12 on the New Jersey Turnpike, 16 on the New York Thruway, 2 on the Atlantic City Expressway, 1 on the Delaware Turnpike, and 2 on the Palisades Parkway in New Jersey. All except 14 of the Thruway outlets are company-operated.
Toll-road outlets are attractive because of their high volume of largely captive customers.
Sunoco said the Ohio service plazas sell about 35 million gallons of gasoline a year and 10 million of diesel, and generate nearly $2 million in store sales along the 241-mile turnpike across the northern part of the state.
The initial lease agreement with the Ohio Turnpike Commission runs from 2012 through 2016, with renewals available through 2026.
Under terms of the contract, the turnpike commission receives 3 cents per gallon of gasoline sold, 2.5 cents per diesel, 4 percent of nonfuel receipts at fueling kiosks, and 6 percent of convenience-store gross sales.