Gas giant’s departure fuels new landscape

Staff Writer

 Area Hess gas stations are in the process of being changed to Speedway stations.  PHOTO BY GERARD TRABALKA Area Hess gas stations are in the process of being changed to Speedway stations. PHOTO BY GERARD TRABALKA Signs, or a lack thereof, are marking the end of an era in Woodbridge. Going the way of the iconic signs on the Hess Corp.’s refinery and office building in the township are the green-andwhite signs on each of the former Hess gas stations in and around Woodbridge.

“Hess has been synonymous with Woodbridge for decades, and their benevolence and community involvement will be sorely missed,” Mayor John McCormac said.

In May 2014, the gas giant announced the sale of its retail business to Marathon Petroleum Corp. — the parent company of Speedway gas stations — for $2.6 billion.

“The sale of our retail business marks the culmination of our strategic transformation into a pure-play exploration and production company,” Hess CEO John B. Hess said at the time.

The company held title to the largest chain of company-operated gas stations on the East Coast, with 1,342 locations, according to Hess representatives.

Four of those were located in Woodbridge, with two on Route 9, one on West Pond Road and one on Route 35, according to McCormac. Another was located nearby on Amboy Avenue in Edison.

The stations are in the process of being changed over from Hess to Speedway. According to Hess, the gas station signs will be switched out over time.

As for the corporation’s sizable properties in Woodbridge, township officials have taken steps to designate the sites as redevelopment zones. Such a designation provides the township a level of control over the future use of the properties, as well as the ability to issue tax incentives.

“It’s just easier to get through the process,” McCormac said of finding a buyer for property deemed in need of redevelopment. He said a tax incentive would be necessary for the purchaser of the Hess office building, as it is a 10-story structure built for one entity.

“The building is obsolete,” McCormac said.

For it to function as a multitenant office building, the interior would have to be completely renovated, he said. Township officials plan to meet with Hess representatives on June 23 to discuss plans for the office property now that a winning bidder has been identified, McCormac said. He did not have details regarding the bidder or the potential transaction to purchase the property.

Buckeye Pipeline purchased a portion of the Hess refinery property in Port Reading last year and has dismantled that operation, which had a capacity of 65,000 barrels a day, to expand its terminal and tank storage capabilities.

“There’s still a significant portion of the refinery property that is up for sale,” township spokesman John Hagerty said.

Neither Hess nor Marathon representatives could be reached for comment on the status of the properties.

In April 2012, the federal Environmental Protection Agency hit Hess with an $850,000 civil penalty and required it to spend more than $45 million in new pollution controls to address violations of the Clean Air Act at the refinery in Port Reading.

The company was accused of violating regulations surrounding emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and benzene at the facility.

Hess announced the closure of the refinery the following January.

McCormac said the refinery was dismantled when Buckeye moved its storage facility there. He said the remainder of the site would likely be used for additional storage tanks.