The spiderweb of pipes and rusting towers loom large alongside Route 295, a familiar sight for commuters winding through West Deptford.
They won’t be a familiar sight much longer.
Eagle Point’s refinery complex, closed down permanently since early 2010, will be gone within three years, scrapped for parts or hauled to a Pennsylvania landfill, as Sunoco and demolition firm NCM, a national company that’s brought down everything from stadiums to coal-fired power plants, embark on a huge, $11.5-million operation, as detailed in permits filed with the township Feb. 6.
“It’s a major, major project,” township construction official Phil Zimm said, likening it to the demolition of the former Huntsman chemical company site on Mantua Grove Road.
Eagle Point’s demolition is even more large-scale and complex, though, with the two major phases detailed in the permits.
The first will be $4.5 million in removing asbestos-containing material from tanks, pipes and towers at the refinery site, which totals more than 500,000 square feet of insulation and other products. Zimm said the initial work has started on that, and at least some, if not all of that phase could be done within a month or so.
Once all the asbestos-containing material is removed, inspected by a third party and deemed OK by the township, the major demolition work can take place: NCM will take out 22 units, which make up the bulk of the shuttered refinery, in a $7 million operation that will last between 18 months and three years.
In total, the permits detail 1,714,600 square feet of property that will be cleared of buildings, pipes and equipment, down to the bare concrete foundations, leaving nothing behind above ground.
The permits indicate no work will be done to the foundations or any underground installations at the refinery, however. A 225-megawatt power station adjacent to the refinery will also be untouched.
Sunoco spokesman Thomas Golembeski said the plan is to pave the way for new investment at the Eagle Point complex.
"We've been saying for a while now that we're trying to sell the remaining equipment,” he said.
That remains the plan, Golembeski said, and the company will sell as many pieces as possible, and scrap the rest along with the unsalable portions of the demolished refinery.
Leveling the refinery doesn’t mean Sunoco is divesting itself of the 1,100-acre property, some of which was sold to subsidiary Sunoco Logistics last year, Golembeski said.
"It is still a very important part of our investments," he said.
Specifically, Golembeski pointed to the terminal facility at Eagle Point as being a key component of the site’s value. There is the possibility Sunoco could use Eagle Point to store and transport ethane, one component of natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale formation in central and western Pennsylvania, though Golembeski wouldn’t say specifically whether Eagle Point or one of the company’s other river properties would be the primary destination for ethane.
West Deptford officials said Sunoco has been closed-mouth even with the township as to the future possibilities for the property.
“It really depends on what Sunoco’s future plans are with it,” township administrator Eric Campo said. “Hopefully the markets change, and that will bring about some viability there.”
Mayor Ray Chintall called the demolition of the refinery “a shame,” but said it’s mostly out of the township’s hands at this point.
“It’s their property, we can’t decide for them,” he said.
Still, Chintall said the fact Sunoco still plans to use the property as a storage and terminal facility gives at least some hope—and leaves some ratables.
“They’ll still be part of the community, which is a plus, rather than just completely pulling out and leaving it vacant,” he said.
Prior to its shutdown, the Eagle Point refinery refined around 150,000 barrels of sweet crude oil, processing the raw product into everything from gasoline to jet fuel to home heating oil, as well as petrochemical products such as toluene and xylene.
Sunoco cited increasing costs and greater global refining capacity as the major reasons for idling Eagle Point in October 2009, before closing the gates forever just four months later.
Similarly, the oil giant has announced plans to sell or shut down its Marcus Hook and Philadelphia refineries by July, citing similar economic pressures that led to the Eagle Point shutdown. Marcus Hook has since been idled since that initial announcement.
Eagle Point was also rumored to be for sale, potentially to investors in India, though company officials have denied those reports since they first surfaced.
Sunoco, which bought the Eagle Point property for $111 million in 2004, and former owners Coastal/El Paso have also battled West Deptford over the property tax assessment at the site.
A tentative settlement has been reached on Sunoco’s appeals, though terms of that settlement have yet to be released. Chintall said negotiations are ongoing with both Sunoco and Coastal/El Paso to resolve those disputes.