Penreco knows value of quality chemical products

Jan. 1, 2003
SEVEN truck loading racks dedicated to outbound product and five for inbound contribute to the efficiency of Penreco's 28-acre Dickinson, Texas, facility.

SEVEN truck loading racks dedicated to outbound product and five for inbound contribute to the efficiency of Penreco's 28-acre Dickinson, Texas, facility. The infrastructure supports the facility's production of specialty chemical and petroleum products that require meticulous handling.

“Quality is our top concern,” says Darin Williams, plant manager at the Dickinson facility. “Penreco is dedicated to providing unique chemical specialties. We tailor our products for customers who require precise standards.”

Although the Dickinson facility is just one in the Penreco chain, the operation is typical of the company's other facilities, all of which strive to provide quality products for customers.

The newest loading rack, built in 1988, was designed to have an attachment that links to a stationary overhead coupling. A drop-down platform with safety railing rests on top of the trailer so the operator can reach the domelid. Smith and Brooks Instruments meters and Viking pumps are part of the loading equipment.

Storage capacity at the plant totals 4,000,000 gallons. The majority of the storage tanks hold the company's manufactured product while others store inbound products.

Some of the company's specialty products have foodgrade certification, such as those bound for edibles, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Others are added to products such as household cleaners and candle gels that require pristine components. Even more make their way to the ink and aluminum industries, and are applied in metal-working facilities and telephone cables.

Penreco produces and markets white mineral oils, petrolatums, high-purity specialty hydrocarbon fluids, natural petroleum sulfonates, cable-filling compounds, refrigeration oils, foodgrade compressor lubricants, and gelled products.

Manufacturing plants are located in Karns City, Pennsylvania; and in Dickinson. Other facilities are in Franklin Park, Illinois, and Lake Charles, Louisiana. A distribution center is in Los Angeles, California.

Another division of the company, research and development, is based in The Woodlands, Texas, where work goes on in three laboratories, each for end-product applications — personal care and household care, fragranced products, and industrial products.

Company roots

Penreco's roots reach back to 1878 when John and George Beck founded Pennsylvania Refining Company. The Beck brothers manufactured motor oils, specialty petroleum products, retail gasoline, and eventually refined petrolatum.

After mergers and acquisitions through the years, the company became a partnership between Conoco and Pennzoil. In 2001, M E Zukerman Energy Investors Inc purchased Pennzoil's 50 percent share in Penreco. Recently-merged ConocoPhillips continues to own the other 50 percent stake.

The history of the Dickinson plant dates to the 1940s when Marathon Morco was established by two former Penreco employees. In 1985, Penreco purchased Marathon Morco.

Today, about 45 percent of Penreco production leaves plants by truck, the rest is handled by rail. The majority of incoming product arrives via rail with only about 10 percent delivered by truck.

Although Penreco has no hazardous materials products going out of the plant and only one coming in, it has its own emergency response team. As part of its emergency response program, the company conducts training drills with the local fire department.

Security measures are high at the plant as part of the effort to maintain product quality. A fence surrounds the area, and gates are equipped with remote controlled electronic-entry systems for company personnel. Carriers gain entry by using a telephone at the gate to contact the person on duty.

Because of the special handling considered necessary for its products, the company chooses core carriers that meet specific standards. In addition to insurance, rates, contracts, and other typical shipper requirements, the carrier selection process includes Penreco inspections of prospective companies' terminals and wash racks.

Oversees program

At the Dickinson Penreco facility, Fred Racey oversees the carrier selection program, and meets with prospective carriers' managers, dispatchers, and sales staffs. He says that carrier billing procedures have to conform to Penreco specifications. Emphasis is placed on the standards required to maintain the purity of the products.

“I explain our criteria so that there is no misunderstanding about our requirements,” Racey says. “I will be talking to them regularly, if the carrier is chosen, so it's important that we get to know each other. I believe in communication.”

At the carrier wash racks, he checks out results — looking for tank trailers that are clean, dry, and odor-free. Carriers also supply the names of cleaning facilities that they use other than their own so that Penreco can authorize them. Kosher standards also are met as required by some Penreco customers.

A few customers use their own equipment to haul Penreco products, and requirements are the same for them. Other carriers bring in feedstock to the plant, but they are selected by shippers that supply those products.

Tank truck carriers that have won Penreco outbound business at the Dickinson plant include Quality Carriers Inc, Tampa, Florida; Schneider National Bulk Inc, Green Bay, Wisconsin; Superior Carriers Inc, Oak Brook, Illinois; and Erickson Transport Corp, Springfield, Missouri.

Penreco products are transported to customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado.


If product handling is the number one priority at Penreco, just-in-time deliveries are a close second.

“We make a lot of different products with different grades, and we don't have the capacity to store everything,” says Racey “Our customers insist on timely deliveries, as well. Some need our product right away, and that's happening more and more. We have to be sure our carriers can meet our schedules.”

Racey partly attributes the situation to the downward trend in the economy that prompts customers to enhance the bottom line by reducing inventories — which results in demand for more time-critical deliveries.

As a result of the market demand, Penreco, based in Houston, Texas, applies its just-in-time requirements for carriers throughout its system.

Penreco employees handle all loading and unloading of bulk tank trailers, as well as product blending. Outgoing product is toploaded. Employees inspect dome lids and valves for cleanliness before flushing the empty trailer with the product it will be hauling. The flush is then tested for purity before loading begins. In addition, two samples are taken and tested while product is being loaded.

“The load can be rejected at any of these stages,” Williams says.

When the loading procedure is completed, seals are affixed at domelid and valve. Typically, loading is completed in about 45 minutes for a 6,000-gallon tank trailer.

Employees are forbidden to enter any tank trailer. One reason is that inbound shipments may contain nitrogen blankets. If there appears to be a contamination problem with any tank trailer, it is sent to a wash rack for additional cleaning.

The special care required by Penreco for its carriers, and the process conducted in its plant assure that the products will reach the customer in a pure state.

About the Author

Mary Davis