Calumet, community come togetherThe Community Advisory Panel that has kept the lines of communication open between Murphy Oil and the community since 2000 got a chance to meet the soon-to-be owners of the Superior refinery.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The Community Advisory Panel that has kept the lines of communication open between Murphy Oil and the community since 2000 got a chance to meet the soon-to-be owners of the Superior refinery.
Officials from Calumet Specialty Products Partners L.P. were in Superior on Thursday night to meet with the citizen panel.
The panel had the chance to hear Calumet’s plans for Murphy Oil’s smallest refinery.
The deal announced in late July and expected to close in late September has been in the works since last fall, said Jennifer Straumins, Calumet’s president and chief operating officer.
“We started out as a family owned company — two families in Indianapolis — and took the company public in 2006 to allow us to do deals like this,” Straumins said. The company is traded as CLMT on NASDAQ.
She said several things about the Superior refinery appealed to the company — its size, the ability it provides to diversify Calumet geographically, location as the first U.S. refinery on the crude pipeline and access to that crude.
Calumet will acquire the refinery, operating assets and inventories for $475 million. According to Murphy Oil, the refinery itself sold for $214 million.
Dave Podratz, refinery manager, said Calumet is purchasing Murphy Oil’s marine terminal in Duluth, byproducts terminal in Esko, asphalt terminals in Crookston, Minn. and Rhinelander, Wis., lease terminals for asphalt in Nebraska and Utah, and 100-plus Spur stations in addition to the Superior refinery.
“We think there are things we can do at the refinery that Murphy Oil wasn’t interested in doing,” Straumins said.
Founded in 1990 in Indiana, Calumet owns five refineries in the United States. Other facilities are located in Karns City, Pa., Dickinson, Texas, and Cotton Valley, Princeton and Shreveport in Louisiana. All of the facilities were acquired by purchasing them from major oil companies like Kerr-McGee, Pennzoil and ConocoPhillips as those companies left niche refinery operations.
“We’ve just been around to pick up the leftovers from the majors,” Straumins said.
Murphy Oil USA announced last year it would cease refining operations and put its refineries in Milford Haven, Wales, England Meraux, La. and Superior up for sale.
Tim Barnhart, Calumet’s vice president of operations, said he understands the stress the sale creates for the community and employees. After all, he worked for Pennzoil when Calumet acquired its Shreveport facility in 2001.
“I have a lot of empathy for that,” Barnhart said. As stressful as the process is, he said, “this is a great company to work for or I wouldn’t be sitting here. I would be doing something else.”
He said the company still has a family-owned feel about it.
“We’ve got over 1,000 different specialty products that we produce at our five facilities and sell to 2,200 customers,” Straumins said. She said like BASF, Calumet’s products — solvents, waxes, lubricants, gels and a variety of oils — make products people buy better. The company also produces fuels, jet fuels and asphalt.
She said one of the things that drew Calumet’s attention to the Superior refinery was its ability to meet needs other companies can’t or don’t in the region.
“We plan on taking the products that come out of Superior and selling them in different markets or further processing them into our specialty applications either at this location or other locations,” Straumins said.
The meeting gave the Community Advisory Panel the opportunity to welcome Calumet to Superior, promote the area and ask questions about the refinery’s future.
“One of the positive things about this area is our workforce; we are fortunate to have a very good workforce,” said Douglas County Board Chairman Doug Finn. “Anyone can attest to that.”
Calumet plans to retain the refinery’s 150-plus employees once the sale is complete.
“Everyone I’ve had the opportunity to come in contact with, I’ve been very impressed with,” Straumins said.
“What do you need from the community?” asked Dave Minor, president and chief executive officer of the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce. “You’re making a significant investment in this area. How can we help you with what you need? We are well traveled to Madison. They know us ... don’t hesitate to call.”
Podratz said it was the community lobbying effort, Superior Days, that helped educate legislators when then-Gov. Jim Doyle proposed a tax on oil revenues in 2009. He credited the community with defeating legislation that would have wiped out the refinery’s profit margin.
“I think it was a great meeting,” Podratz said Friday morning. “I think getting the new owners up here to kind of outline their vision for the refinery … they’re not going to make any immediate changes, I think it’s important for the community to hear that. … I also think it was important for Calumet to hear from the community, quite frankly, a lot of offers of support. ‘We want you to succeed here in Superior. We’re glad you’re coming. What can we do for you?’
“Calumet’s new and they don’t know what a great place Superior is yet.”