Oil Refinery Tour

by Coryn Wolk, Clean Air Council, E.D.G.E (Encouraging Development of a Green Economy)



Tour of the industrial oil refining complex that runs along the Lower Schuylkill River.

Philadelphia has a history with the oil industry that dates as far back as the 1860's. With navigable waterways and early railroad infrastructure it was no wonder the lower Schuylkill River became a hub of industrial activity. Coryn Wolk, from Clean Air Council and E.D.G.E, gives an on-the-water kayak tour of the refinery complex located near the confluence of the Schuylkill and the Delaware River.


Locations for Tour

1942 Land Use Map at current PES Refinery location

Oil transport and refining has been a part of the Lower Schuylkill River landscape since the 1850’s when oil drilling began in Titusville, located in Western Pennsylvania. The Lower Schuylkill area houses one of the oldest continuously operating…

North Rail Yard

The rail yard is located in the Northern section of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions complex. Both CSX Transportation, a Class I railroad in the United States, and PES own sections of this area. In 2013 PES received $25 million in state subsidies,…

Oil Trains

Over last two years, crude oil prices dropped making the prices for domestic crude about the same as African crude, which was the refinery’s previous supply. After the Dakota Access Pipeline was completed oil trains could no longer compete and Bakken…

Oil Train Blast Zone for Phialdelphia, PA

Philadelphia is unique in that due to its industrial history rail road infrastructure is crisscrossed throughout the city. Rail routes pass through neighborhoods, along the river, underneath historical buildings like the Philadelphia Museum of Art,…

Great Blue Heron flying by oil train

Oil is generally transported in “unit trains” which are train cars carrying all of the same cargo and stretching about a mile long. The North Rail Yard has the capacity to unload up to four of these “unit trains” a day. However, all of the “unit…

Franklin Fire Boat

The Franklin fire boat was built in 1950. The other on-the-water fire station is the much newer United States Coast Guard site located along Columbus Boulevard on the Delaware River. There used to be 13 marine stations but budget cuts (whose budget…

Philadelphia Gas Works Gasometer

Philadelphia Gas Works forms a wedge between North Yard and the refinery section of the complex. The web of pipelines visible on the Petrochemical Infrastructure Map connect the North rail yard with the refinery, much of the PGW property is vacant.…

Pipeline Signage in Tidal Mudflat

The signs along the West bank of the Schuylkill River are markers for Philadelphia Energy Solution’s (PES) crude pipelines and Philadelphia Gas Works’ (PGW) natural gas pipeline. Pete DeCarlo and his team from the DeCarlo Group, part of the DARRL…

Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery

Philadelphia Energy Solutions was formed in 2012 when local, state and federal government petitioned Carlyle Group to salvage the refinery in order to save 750-900 union jobs. Carlyle Group bought a majority share and Sunoco is still a minority…

The "Oil Refinery" tour is sponsored in part by the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club and hosted by Bartram's Community Boathouse.