Groton oil terminal ownership change not likely to leave customers cold

Groton - This week's cold blast occasioned a flurry of calls to the area's heating-oil retailers, forcing some of them to scramble a bit to meet greater-than-usual demand.

In some cases, customers reported taking delivery of relatively small amounts of oil or of running out, despite contracts that called for larger, regular deliveries.

Some wondered whether shortages had anything to do with the change in ownership of the Hess terminal on Eastern Point Road, which supplies many of the region's retailers.

Last week, the Hess terminal became the Buckeye terminal.

Buckeye Partners L.P. closed Dec. 11 on an $850 million purchase of 20 liquid petroleum products terminals from Hess Corp., all but one of them located in the United States. Most of the domestic terminals are in major metropolitan areas on the East Coast.

Most local retailers said they don't expect the change in the terminal's ownership to affect them.

"Nothing will really change, except the name on the building," said Dan Drago, general manager of Andersen Oil Co. in Ledyard. "(Buckeye) will continue to be a wholesaler and we'll be able to go there as normal and load up."

Andersen has other suppliers in the area and doesn't need to depend on a single facility to provide it with oil, he said.

Customers, Drago said, should experience "zero interruptions" in service.

An employee at the terminal Wednesday provided a reporter with a telephone number for Buckeye Partners' corporate offices in Pennsylvania. Phone and email messages left with executives there and at Buckeye's headquarters in Houston were not returned.

The employee said that as far as he knew, the wholesale business will continue as usual at the terminal. None of the Hess markings there had yet been removed.

Shortly after noon Wednesday, trucks from Uncasville Oil and Anytime Fuel Oil in New London were taking on loads at the terminal.

At least one of the region's heating-oil retailers, dissatisfied with Hess, now relies on a New Haven terminal for most of its supply.

"There's been turmoil at Hess, so I kind of got away from them the last couple of years," said Richard Fabricant, owner of Mohegan Oil in Mystic. "So (the change in the Groton terminal's ownership) doesn't really affect me too much."

Fabricant said trucks need to be specially equipped to take on fuel at the New Haven terminal operated by Magellan Midstream Partners L.P. and that many of the trucks that operate in this part of the state don't have the equipment.

He said Hess was "monopolistic and antagonistic" toward retail dealers.

"I had a saying about them," Fabricant said, "'They treat everybody the same - like dirt.'"

"I have access to all the oil I need," he said. "I'm sure the other dealers are getting all they need, too."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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