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Gulf Oil returns to Houston, branding 50 stations

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by Simone Sebastian

The Gulf Oil logo is coming to Houston, as the fuel supplier launches plans to rebrand 50 gasoline stations in the area, according to executives.

Gulf Oil, a Massachusetts-based fuel wholesaler, has contracted to rebrand 50 ExxonMobil service stations beginning mid- May. Gulf Oil is partnering with Petroleum Wholesale LP, a distributor based in The Woodlands, to supply the stations.

The move is part of Gulf Oil’s aggressive move to expand the brand’s presence across the country, said Rick Dery, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

The company’s logo had been absent from Texas for decades, but returned to the state last year when it branded five stations in Austin. The company was launched in 1901 in Beaumont.

“We are very excited about the re-emergence in the Houston market,” Dery said. “We are going to come back in a much more significant way. The excitement here is bursting.”

The company stores and  distributes branded fuels. It currently supplies 3,000 Gulf Oil and other stations, Dery said.

The Gulf Oil-Petroleum Wholesale partnership plans to brand at least 15 new fueling stations each year for the next decade, Dery said.

Gulf Oil is a  fuel retailer and distributor, without refining operations. The company is expanding its presence at a time when retailers with refineries  are struggling against stagnant fuel demand and competitive pressure.

“Margins have been tight with $4 gasoline and retail customers are becoming hyper sensitive to price,” Dery said. “It’ll get challenging for retail operators, the publicity for our industry isn’t the best.”

Source

Gulf Oil History

1909-1919  When the company that was to be known as Gulf was born in 1901 with an oil discovery in Spindletop, Texas, the primary commercial fuel was coal. By 1903, the age of mechanization had arrived and it was now up to the petroleum industry to keep pace, for the age could not proceed without it. Gasoline development, into which Gulf invested millions of dollars, responded to advances in automotive technology to make the modern motorcar possible. Within a dozen years of Spindletop, Gulf scored notable firsts with the world’s first drive-in service station, complimentary Gulf road maps and over water drilling at Ferry Lake. In 1917, the Gulfstream went into World War I service, along with the rest of Gulf’s tanker fleet.

1920-1949  Gulfpride – the World’s Finest Motor Oil was manufactured and first marketed in 1928 and by the early Thirties, Gulf was a major U.S. corporation. In 1949, William Larimer Mellon, a founder and active head of Gulf for 45 years, died at 80, just 17 months after his retirement, as the company moved into eighth place among the largest manufacturing concerns in the United States

1950-1974  As Gulf entered its second half-century, the needs became more diverse and technologically ever more sophisticated. By 1960, it was clear that Gulf’s growth rate during the 1950s had been twice that of the United States as an economic entity. During the 1960s, Gulf mounted vigorous exploration, production and marketing programs including several new refineries, petrochemical and polyethylene plants, the construction of six mammoth tankers, a joint development with the Holiday Inns of America and the redesign of the Orange Disc to make it more clearly identifiable.

1975-1985  In 1975, Gulf was restructured into seven separate operating companies. By year’s end, the Company evaluated 48 of 82 Gulf of Mexico tracts acquired since 1972, resulting in seven major discoveries and nine less significant discoveries. Gulf ended its 75th year facing new patterns of relationships abroad, and prepared to devote increased attention to interests in the U.S. and Canada.

1986-2009   In 1986 Cumberland Farms acquired the naming rights to the Gulf Oil brand from Chevron to be used in eleven northeast states.  But it wasn’t until 1993 that Gulf Oil Limited Partnership was formed after Cumberland Farms entered a joint venture with Catamount Petroleum LP.  In 2005, Cumberland acquired the company in full and brought in CEO Joe Petrowski, who charged the company with “reinventing” the brand.  Since then, a renewed commitment to the Gulf brand has been established with the introduction of new minimum standards and image requirements.

January 12, 2010 – Present  On January 12, 2010, Gulf Oil acquired all rights, title and interest to the “Gulf” brand in the U.S.  This acquisition enabled Gulf to expand its use of the Gulf brand throughout the U.S. for the first time since it acquired certain rights to the brand in 1986.  Under the leadership of Gulf Oil President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Sabia and Gulf Oil Senior Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Rick Dery, thousands of service stations proudly fly the Gulf flag, carrying on the tradition of a quality product line and friendly service. Gulf Oil Limited Partnership, now based in Framingham, Massachusetts is a wholesaler of refined petroleum products. Gulf distributes motor fuels through a network of more than 2,000 Gulf branded gas stations and service stations, as well as heating oil, diesel fuel and kerosene.

Gulf Oil History.

GULF OIL CORPORATION

Official Gulf Oil Corporation photos from a pr...

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GULF OIL CORPORATION. The Gulf Oil Corporation was an expansion of the J. M. Guffey Petroleum Company, which was organized in May 1901, and which acquired the interests of Anthony F. Lucas and John A. Galey in the Spindletop Oilfield. In this company, organized to exploit the new oil discovery, Guffey had a seven-fifteenths interest, while A. W. and R. B. Mellon and some of their associates including James H. Reed, William Flinn, J. D. Callery, T. H. Given, and Joshua Rhodes owned the balance. Later in the same year the same men organized the Gulf Refining Company of Texas for the purpose of refining and marketing the crude oil produced by the Guffey company, and a refinery was built at Port Arthur. By the fall of 1902 approximately $6 million had been invested in the two companies, and the dwindling production at Spindletop made necessary a reorganization. W. L. Mellon was placed in active charge of the Guffey and Gulf operations, although J. M. Guffey remained the nominal head for five years more. Only the most efficient management kept the two companies from going bankrupt during the period 1902 to 1907, when Texas crude production continued to decline. In January 1907 the Gulf Oil Corporation was formed with A. W. Mellon as president, and Guffey’s interest was purchased for about $3 million. The Gulf Oil Corporation then built a 400-mile pipe line from Port Arthur to the Glenn Pool field in Oklahoma, which had been discovered in 1906, and began refining Oklahoma crude in September 1907. A subsidiary, the Gypsy Oil Company, was organized under Frank A. Leovy to handle production operations in Oklahoma. Altogether the reorganization and expansion program required an additional investment of $7 million, but by the end of 1908 Gulf’s position had become relatively strong. In less than two years following the opening of the Glenn Pool pipeline Gulf’s production had more than doubled and had exceeded the refinery throughput of 11,000 barrels daily. During the next twenty years Gulf’s growth was steady, the company expanding its production operations into nearly all of the major oilfields in the United States and into Mexico and Venezuela. In West Texas Gulf became the leading producer. A network of pipelines connected Gulf’s production with refineries at Port Arthur, Fort Worth (built in 1911), Bayonne, New Jersey (1925), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1926), and Sweetwater, Texas (1928). By 1928 the company’s assets had grown to an estimated $232 million, while crude production rose to 78 million barrels annually.

Gulf’s organization was characterized by integration from production of crude to retailing of refinery products. In 1929 it was decided to expand the retail business, which had been concentrated in the south and east, into Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. At the beginning of the Great Depression a $90 million expansion program was undertaken, which included the building of refineries in Cincinnati, Toledo, and Pittsburgh, the construction of an 800-mile pipeline from Oklahoma to Ohio, and the acquisition of more than 400 marketing facilities. Partially because of the expansion program the depression severely affected Gulf; for the first time in its history the company operated at a loss in 1931. The depression period brought about retrenchment and some internal reorganization of the company. In general the policy of maintaining and operating service stations was abandoned in favor of leasing them to independent operators, and each of the four major departments (production, transportation, refining, and marketing) was placed on a separate accounting basis. By the mid-1930s the company began to prosper again, and the dramatic increase in demand for oil during World War II further fueled the company’s expansion. In 1950, with a capital investment of $1,075,000,000 and owned by more than 32,000 persons, the Gulf Oil Corporation had 43,000 employees, carried on extensive production in the United States, Venezuela, Kuwait, and Canada, operated 10,000 miles of pipelines and a large fleet of tankers, and sold the products of its refineries through more than 36,000 service stations in the United States and nearly as many others in foreign countries. In 1951 Gulf Oil Corporation completed one of the world’s largest (at the time) catalytic cracking units in Port Arthur, Texas, and in the same year began construction of plants in Port Arthur for the manufacture of ethylene and isooctyl alcohol, a major move in developing its petrochemicals capacity. While the Fort Worth, Sweetwater, and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) refineries were dismantled in the 1950s after the facilities had become obsolete, the Port Arthur and Philadelphia refineries continued to expand and the Toledo and Cincinnati refineries were modernized. New refineries were built or acquired in the United States, with additions at Purvis, Mississippi, Santa Fe Springs, California, and Venice, Louisiana.

Increasing its capital expenditures in the 1950s, Gulf joined with B. F. Goodrich Company to form a new company, Gulf-Goodrich Chemicals, Incorporated, through which Gulf maintained an important position in the manufacture of synthetic rubber from petroleum-derived feedstocks. It also acquired Warren Petroleum Corporation in 1956 and that same year increased its interest in British American Oil Company by trading Gulf’s Canadian properties for 8,335,648 common shares of British American stock, bringing Gulf’s interest in that company to 58 percent. Gulf also extended its exploration and production operations in the 1950s, including an extensive program for exploration of underwater leases in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana, which became one of the company’s leading domestic producing areas. With the conclusion of World War II, Gulf, as a 55-percent participant in Kuwait Oil Company, resumed operations in Kuwait to put into production petroleum discovered there about the time of the war’s outbreak. Production from these vast reserves climbed steadily and yielded for Gulf’s interest an average of more than 1.3 million barrels per day in 1967. Gulf owned or had an interest in twenty-two refineries in addition to those in the United States. Adding to its European refining capacity, refineries at Milford Haven, Wales, and Huelva, Spain, went on stream in 1968 and a permit was obtained for construction of a refinery at Milan, Italy, to further strengthen Gulf’s capacity to supply products for its growing European markets. Discoveries in Bolivia and Nigeria were developed in the 1960s and added significantly to Gulf’s foreign oil production. Production from discoveries in Colombia and Cabinda was expected to begin before the end of 1968, and substantial discoveries were made in Ecuador. Gulf was producing oil and gas from eleven nations as its explorations continued in thirty countries. A milestone in Gulf’s marketing operations was reached in 1966. With the acquisition in 1960 of Wilshire Oil Company of California and in 1966 of mid-continental retail outlets and storage and distribution facilities of Cities Service Oil Company, Gulf for the first time had service station representation in all forty-eight adjoining states of the continental United States. Gulf’s transportation facilities moved more than a million barrels of crude oil daily from oilfields to refineries throughout the world by pipelines and tankers. In 1968 the world’s largest ship, the 312,000-deadweight-ton tanker, Universe Ireland, was placed in service for Gulf. It was the first of six such tankers planned for use by the company to deliver Middle Eastern and West African crudes to deepwater terminals at Bantry Bay, Ireland, and at Okinawa for transshipment to European and Far Eastern refineries by smaller vessels. Refining capacity was increased along with Gulf’s expansion in other petroleum operations. The company owned full or partial interest in thirty United States and foreign refineries. In 1967 the company processed an average of 1,295,000 barrels of crude oil daily. By the 1960s Gulf had become a major producer of petrochemicals, plastics, and agricultural chemicals. In 1967 Gulf entered the field of nuclear energy. In this program it began uranium exploration and acquired the General Atomic Division of General Dynamics Corporation, renaming the subsidiary Gulf General Atomic Incorporated. At the end of 1967, with total assets of $6.5 billion owned by more than 163,000 shareholders, Gulf Oil Corporation had 58,000 employees working in more than fifty nations to provide the world with petroleum and other energy-producing products.

Gulf fell on hard times in the 1970s. Several of its key management figures were implicated in illegal political contributions in the early 1970s, and their successors, in the eyes of many in the oil community, failed to provide clear and aggressive leadership. The company’s long and valuable association with Kuwait ended in 1975, when Gulf’s operations there were nationalized by the Kuwaiti government. In spite of costly attempts to find new sources of oil, the company’s reserve supply was rapidly dwindling by the late 1970s, declining by 40 percent between 1978 and 1982. In 1983 Gulf was still the sixth largest oil company in the United States and managed to turn its oil reserve crisis around, replacing 95 percent of its reserves by the end of the year. Because of what many perceived to be its weak and excessively bureaucratic management structure, Gulf seemed a good candidate for a takeover. In August of 1983 Thomas Boone Pickens’s Mesa Petroleum Corporation, rebounding from an unsuccessful attempt to acquire General American Oil Company, began to buy up shares of Gulf Oil. After Mesa had gained control of 11 percent of Gulf’s stock, Pickens engaged in a proxy fight for control of the company. Gulf executives fought Boone’s takeover and eventually invited takeover offers from other companies and collections of investors. On March 5, 1984, the Gulf board voted to sell the company to Chevron (Standard Oil of California) for $13.2 billion. Gulf operations were merged into Chevron in what was the largest corporate merger to date.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Craig Thompson, Since Spindletop: A Human Story of Gulf’s First Half-Century (Pittsburgh: Gulf Oil, 1951). Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991).

Original Article

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