* Sunoco says took necessary preparations for Irene
* Two Sunoco refineries operating at reduced rates
* Sources say one crude unit shut due to flooding
HOUSTON, Aug 31 The United Steelworkers union
said on Wednesday Sunoco Inc (SUN.N) gambled with the safety of
refinery workers and its 335,000 barrel per day (bpd)
Philadelphia refinery by operating through Hurricane Irene
without back-up equipment.
"Sunoco did less to protect its refining assets than the
average homeowner did to protect his or her home," said Jim
Savage, president of USW Local 10-1, which represents more than
600 hourly workers at the Philadelphia refinery, in a
"The company rolled the dice despite the very real
possibility of there being power outages, flooding and
equipment breakdowns during the storm," Savage said. "Luckily,
no one got hurt."
Irene hit the eastern seaboard at the weekend as a tropical
storm but heavy rains and a storm surge caused massive
As of Wednesday morning, Sunoco's Philadelphia and 178,000
bpd Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, refineries were operating at
reduced rates, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
Sources familiar with refinery operations told Reuters on
Monday that one of the Philadelphia refinery's crude
distillation units was shut by flooding from the hurricane.
Another crude unit had been shut by a fire the previous week.
Sunoco has said both refineries were operating at reduced
rates after Irene, but declined to discuss the status of
Company spokesman Thomas Golembeski said Sunoco followed
its plans to ready the refinery for Irene, which brought heavy
rain to Philadelphia on Sunday.
"Both the refinery leadership team and employees worked
diligently to make sure we were prepared for the effects of
Hurricane Irene," Golembeski said. "We took all appropriate
precautions to protect our people, our neighbors, the
environment, and our assets."
Savage said Sunoco could have idled the refinery or brought
in extensive back-up equipment as did other U.S. East Coast
"Sunoco did neither in preparation for the storm," he said.
"The company dodged a bullet this time around. We might not be
so lucky when the next hurricane hits the East Coast."
ConocoPhillips (COP.N) shut its 238,000 bpd Bayway refinery
in Linden, New Jersey, and PBF Energy had back-up power
generators, air compressors and steam production equipment at
its 182,200 bpd Delaware City, Delaware refinery, the union
said. PBF also put in sandbag berms to prevent flooding.
Sunoco did make preparations for power and equipment
failures, Golembeski said.
"We took into consideration the design limitations of our
equipment, as well as the expected intensity of the storm, when
making our decisions," he said. "We had extra resources on hand
and worked closely with our electric utility provider to ensure
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Marguerita Choy)