A Phenol Plant Comes Home

Sunoco is selling its billion lb phenol plant in Philadelphia to Honeywell for $85 million. It will take a charge of $125 million to $150 million because of the sale. Sunoco sold its polypropylene business last year to Braskem. It still makes phenol, acetone, and bisphenol-A in Haverhill, Ohio. No word on the fate of that plant yet. Here’s an interesting bit of history: Sunoco bought the Philadelphia unit from Honeywell to begin with. In 1998, Honeywell, then known as AlliedSignal, sold the plant to Sunoco. Honeywell still buys about 750 million lb of phenol per year from Sunoco to make caprolactam. At the time, Sunoco wanted to integrate downstream from its cumene operations. AlliedSignal wanted to focus on nylon. (Dave Weidman, the current Celanese CEO, was running AlliedSignal’s chemical unit back then.) I do tend to remember things like this. However, this story has special meaning for me. I wrote the story of the Sunoco purchase of the plant while I was working for the Chemical Market Reporter. I had been a reporter for less than a year. I confused Sun Company with Sun Chemical, the Japanese pigments firm. In fact, I figured that the chemical business of Sun must be called Sun Chemical. Why wouldn’t it be? “Charles Valutas, Sun Chemical’s vice president…”I wrote. Turns out, Sunoco officials went bananas. They were a CMR advertiser. A special meeting of editors was called on the importance of accuracy. I wasn’t mentioned by name, but people kept on giving me uncomfortable glances. I thought I was toast. I wasn’t and it was a good learning experience. Interestingly the mistake still exists in the online version of the story to this day.

Author: Alex Tullo

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  1. Nice one, Alex. A similar thing happened to me when I was standing in for someone ill and gave the month’s market price as $x, when in fact it was that from the month previous! How was I to know that 2 major European contracts were based on our market report? The ordure hit the revolving air conditioning and how, but like you I was still further employed!