ConocoPhillips says no decision has been made about demolishing its refinery in Trainer if the company cannot immediately find a buyer.
Denis Stephano, president of United Steelworkers Local 10-234, which represents more than 200 workers at the idled Delaware County refinery, said Tuesday that the refinery's owner told labor leaders Thursday the company would demolish the plant if it is not sold by March 31.
"This is the first time the company gave us this information," Stephano said in a news release.
ConocoPhillips said in September that it would sell the refinery or shut it permanently. Rich Johnson, a ConocoPhillips spokesman in Houston, said last week that the company was focused on finding a buyer.
"If we have not identified a buyer by the end of March, we intend to permanently shut down the facility," Johnson wrote Thursday in an e-mail response to a question about rumors of the plant's demolition. "We would evaluate what to do with the equipment and property at that time."
There is a buyer's market for refineries in Philadelphia right now. The Trainer plant is one of three in the region that are on the market or will be shut down in the coming months. Sunoco owns the others, in Marcus Hook and Philadelphia. Marcus Hook was idled in December.
In addition, Sunoco is trying to sell the equipment at a fourth refinery, the Eagle Point plant in Westville, Gloucester County, which was shut two years ago. An Indian company has expressed interest in shipping the equipment overseas.
Sunoco and ConocoPhillips say they are exiting refining in the region because it is unprofitable.
ConocoPhillips idled its Trainer plant in September. Stephano said Monday the workforce had remained on site preparing the equipment for long-term preservation.
David Erfert, refinery manager at ConocoPhillips, told a legislative hearing in Harrisburg on Tuesday that the refinery's fate was uncertain.
"We have not thought a lot about demolition and whatever options there are after March 31," Erfert told the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
Despite efforts of some legislators to quiz corporate officials about the decision to exit refining, the committee's chairman, State Rep. Stephen E. Barrar (R., Chester/Delaware), confined questions to safety to remain within the scope of the panel's mission.
John Pickering, Sunoco's senior vice president of manufacturing, said it "normally takes a couple of years" to clean up and dismantle a complex industrial site such as a refinery.