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This article is about the U.S. oil company. For the unaffilated Canadian oil company, see Suncor Energy.
Not to be confused with Sonoco, a packaging products company.
Sunoco Inc.
Subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners
Traded as NYSE: SUN
Industry Oil and gas
Founded Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. (1886 (1886) as Sun Company Inc.)
Founder Joseph Newton Pew
Philip Pisano
Edward O. Emerson
Headquarters Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Area served
Key people
Robert W. Owens President and CEO[1]
Products Petrochemical
Revenue US$ 44.58 billion (2011)
US$ -1.68 billion (2011)[2]
Total assets US$ 11.98 billion (2011)[2]
Number of employees
10,500 (2011)
Sunoco service station, Ypsilanti, Michigan

Sunoco Inc. is an American petroleum and petrochemical manufacturer headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, formerly known as Sun Company Inc. (1886–1920 and 1976–1998) and Sun Oil Co. (1920–1976). Sunoco is one of the largest gasoline distribution companies in the United States, with Sunoco brand gasoline being sold in over 4,700 outlets spanning 26 states,[3] just over a third hosting convenience stores.[4] Since 2012, Sunoco has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, based in Dallas, Texas.

Sunoco is a Fortune 100 Company. In 2011 it was ranked as the third largest company by revenue in Pennsylvania, after AmerisourceBergen and Comcast.[5] Its headquarters are located in the BNY Mellon Center in Center City Philadelphia.[6] In 2011, the company decided to exit the oil refinery business.[7]

In Canada, Sunoco was formerly operated by Suncor Energy, a separate Canadian entity. In 2010, all Canadian Sunoco outlets were converted to Petro-Canada outlets.


1800s to 1900s: founding and growth[edit]

The integrated oil company now known as Sunoco began as The Peoples Natural Gas Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1886, its partners – Joseph Newton Pew, Philip Pisano and Edward O. Emerson – decided to expand their gas business with a stake in the new oil discoveries in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Four years later, the growing enterprise became the Sun Oil Company of Ohio. Sun Oil diversified quickly, active in production and distribution of oil as well as processing and marketing refined products. By 1901, the company was incorporated in New Jersey as Sun Company and turned its interest to the new Spindletop field in Texas. Pew's sons, J. Howard Pew and Joseph N. Pew, Jr. would take over the company after their father's death.

Newspaper ad for Sunoco motor oil, then known as Sun Oil Tulsa Daily World (November 1, 1922)

With a growing portfolio of oil fields and refineries in hand, Sun opened its first service station in Ardmore, Pennsylvania in 1920. The name changed back to Sun Oil Company in 1922 and, in 1925, Sun became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Sunoco ranked 39th among United States corporations in the value of World War II production contracts.[8] Sun expanded internationally following the war. Its first Canadian refinery was built in 1953 in Sarnia, Ontario, home to a burgeoning new petrochemical industry. Sun established a facility at Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo in 1957, which produced over a billion barrels (160,000,000 m3) before the operation was nationalized in 1975.

Custom blending[edit]

Sunoco is perhaps best known to consumers for its "custom blending" pumps, an innovation that, beginning in 1956, allowed customers of Sunoco service stations to choose from several octane grades through a single pump. Sunoco stations offered as many as eight grades of "Custom Blended" gasolines from its "Dial A Grade" pumps ranging from subregular Sunoco 190 to Sunoco 260, the latter a super-premium grade of 102 octane that was advertised as the "highest octane pump gas" and very popular with V8-powered Muscle Cars of the 1960s.

1960s to 2000s: acquisitions and branding[edit]

In 1967, Sun established its Great Canadian Oil Sands Limited facility in northern Alberta, Canada, to help unlock the estimated 300 billion barrels (48 km3) of recoverable oil in the Athabasca oil sands.

In 1968, Sun Oil merged with Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Sunray DX Oil Company, which refined and marketed gasoline under the DX brand in several midwestern states, and included several refineries including one in Tulsa that was operated by Sun until its sale was completed in June 2009 to Holly Corporation of Dallas, Texas.[9] This move expanded Sun's marketing area into the mid-continent region.

Sun Oil continued marketing its petroleum products under both the Sunoco and DX brands through the 1970s and into the 1980s. In the late 1980s, Sun began rebranding DX stations in the Midwest to the Sunoco brand and even introduced the high-octane Sunoco ULTRA 94 gasoline to stations in that region, but by the early 1990s, they pulled out of virtually all areas in the southeastern U.S. and west of the Mississippi, resulting in the closing and rebranding of service stations and jobbers to other brands in those areas, notably Sinclair in Oklahoma.

With increased diversification, Sun Oil Company was renamed Sun Company in 1976. In 1980, Sun acquired the U.S. oil and gas properties of Texas Pacific Oil Company, Inc., a subsidiary of The Seagram Company, Ltd., for US$2.3 billion—the second largest acquisition in U.S. history to that date.

Through the 1980s, Sun developed oil interests in the North Sea and offshore China and expanded its holdings in both oil and coal with additional U.S. business acquisitions. In 1983, consumers saw the arrival of Sunoco ULTRA 94, the market's highest octane unleaded gasoline. Then in 1988, Sun undertook a major restructuring to segregate its domestic oil and gas exploration and production business and the focus the company on its refining and marketing business. This led to the acquisition of Atlantic Refining and Marketing (and, in effect, that company's convenience store chain, A-Plus), including its Philadelphia refinery which was later merged with the former Gulf Oil refinery next door that Sunoco acquired from Chevron.

By the 1990s, Sun had departed the international exploration business and was fully dedicated to its branded products and services. In 1994 Sunoco acquired the Philadelphia Chevron Oil refinery consolidating operations with its own adjacent which it had acquired with Atlantic. Sun sold its remaining interest in Canada's Suncor Energy in 1995, but markets product from two refineries – one in Toledo, Ohio, and the other Sarnia, Ontario – in joint ventures.[10] In 1998, Sun Company, Inc. became Sunoco, Inc. In 2011 the Toledo facility was sold to PBF Energy.

By 1998, Sun had acquired Allied Signal, Inc. chemical plants. Allied Signal, Inc. being on the stock exchange sold half of the company to Honeywell, Inc. and the other half to Sunoco, Inc. The chemical portion of the business was called "Sunoco Chemicals, Inc."

In 2003, the Speedway SuperAmerica chain of gas stations and convenience stores exited the Southeastern United States and sold most of their operations to Sunoco. Shortly prior to this, Sunoco acquired many service stations from Coastal Petroleum, especially its stations in Florida. This has led to the reintroduction of the Sunoco brand to areas it pulled out of ten years earlier. Coincidentally, Speedway would later re-enter the Southeast with its purchase of Hess Corporation's downstream operations in 2014, mirroring that of Sunoco's return to the Southeast.[11]

Sunoco fuel supply truck at 2010 NASCAR race

In 2004, Sunoco replaced ConocoPhillips' 76 brand as the official fuel of NASCAR.

After ConocoPhillips abandoned the marketing of the Mobil brand name in the Washington, DC, area, Sunoco purchased these rights, and has since been converting Maryland and Virginia Mobil stations to the Sunoco brand, bringing the A-Plus convenience store with them – prior to this, these stations had convenience stores under the Circle K or On the Run brands.

In September 2009, Sunoco announced the sale of its retail heating oil and propane distribution business to Superior Plus Corp for $82.5 million in cash.[12]

In October 2009, Sunoco announced it will idle and possibly permanently shut down its Eagle Point/Westville, NJ plant, laying off over 400 employees.

Exit from refinery business[edit]

In December 2010, Sunoco sold its refinery in Toledo, Ohio to PBF Energy for US$400 million.[7] Effective 6 September 2011, Sunoco announced that it would exit the crude oil refining business and seek to sell its Philadelphia and Marcus Hook refineries by mid-2012.[7] The company has said that its cost for exiting the refining business could be as high as US$2.7 billion.[7] According to one report, the company had lost some US$800 million on refining operations since 2009;[1] an earlier report provided a figure of US$772 million.[7] On December 1, 2011, Sunoco announced it would accelerate closure of the Marcus Hook facility, with a target completion in 90 days.[1] The Marcus Hook facility, founded in 1902 and covering 781 acres, was dedicated exclusively to the processing of light sweet crude oil;[1] this processing focus combined with volatility in crude oil prices are considered contributing factors to both this refinery's closure and Sunoco's exit from the refinery business.[13]

Joint venture with Carlyle Group[edit]

After weeks of negotiations, it was announced that Sunoco would be forming a joint venture with the Carlyle Group, allowing for the continuation of operations at the Philadelphia refinery, and saving over 800 jobs.[14] The joint venture began in late 2012.

Sale to Energy Transfer Partners and merger with Susser Holdings[edit]

In 2012, Dallas-based energy company Energy Transfer Partners purchased Sunoco, making Sunoco a wholly owned subsidiary.[15] As Energy Transfer Partners was more interested in Sunoco's pipeline and refining business that the company was originally planning on exiting, it led to speculation that Energy Transfer Partners would eventually spin-off Sunoco's retail business or sell it outright to a competitor.[16]

In 2014, Energy Transfer Partners announced its purchase of Susser Holdings Corporation, the parent company of Stripes Convenience Stores, and plans on merging it into Sunoco.[16] Upon completion of the merger, Sunoco will be placed into a limited partnership called Susser Petroleum Partners L.P., in which Energy Transfer will have an ownership stake. The deal saw the arrival of the Sunoco brand in Texas, where it replaced Valero at the Stripes locations; Stripes and A-Plus remain separate brands.

In 2015, Sunoco entered into an agreement to purchase MD America operations in east Texas.[16] That same year, Sunoco became a Subway franchisee by opening Subway at the North Midway Service Plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Bedford, Pennsylvania.

Gasoline sales[edit]

Sunoco is the only major gasoline retailer to sell four grades of gasoline in the U.S., due to its proprietary pumps which blend regular with Ultra93 to obtain the mid-grades, with octane ratings in parentheses:

  • Regular (87)
  • Plus (89)
  • Premium (91)
  • Ultra93 (formerly Ultra94; Sunoco began phasing out the 94 octane gasoline in the first decade of the 21st century).

Sunoco also once sold Economy unleaded, an 86 octane slightly cheaper than regular, in all of its markets until the mid-1990s when it was withdrawn from Pennsylvania and a handful of other states, and was phased out altogether in 2003.

Up until the early 1980s, Sunoco used a numbering system to market its then-five grades of leaded gasoline, and a rotary lever on the pump was used to select the grade and blend the lowest-octane gasoline with the highest-octane gasoline to obtain the proper octane, with the resulting octane (R+M/2 method) in parentheses (originally, the "missing" grades were available, too - 210, 230, and 250):[17]

  • 190 - Economy (87)
  • 200 - Regular (89)
  • 220 - Plus (92)
  • 240 - Premium (94)
  • 260 - Super 260 (96; originally 97.5)

Exclusive deals[edit]

In addition to their sponsorship deal with NASCAR, Sunoco also has exclusive deals as the gasoline supplier at the travel plazas along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, New Jersey Turnpike, Atlantic City Expressway, Palisades Parkway, and Delaware Turnpike. In 2011, Sunoco acquired the rights to operate the nine plazas on the Garden State Parkway,[18] and also signed a new contract to operate the 16 plazas on the Ohio Turnpike beginning in 2012.[19] Also, the two newly renovated service areas on Interstate 95 in Maryland - Chesapeake House and Maryland House - also offer Sunoco as their gas offerings. Sunoco also operates some of the filling stations on the New York Thruway.

In addition, Sunoco also owns & operates a station with an A-Plus convenience store at Pittsburgh International Airport, as Sunoco has a very large market share in Pittsburgh. Due to its large presence in Western Pennsylvania, Sunoco is a longtime sponsor of the Pittsburgh Pirates, with an advertisement for Sunoco being present in left field at PNC Park.[20]

Sunoco became the official fuel of the Izod IndyCar Series (now the Verizon IndyCar Series) in 2011.[21]

Environmental record[edit]

Among oil corporations, Sunoco is listed as the most environmentally responsible in the latest version of the Sierra Club's Updated Environmentalist's Guide to Gasoline.[22] Sunoco is also the only oil company to sign the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) principal and as part of this agreement, Sunoco has made all of its environmental activities—both successes and failures—publicly available.

As a sponsor[edit]

Sunoco was Penske Racing's sponsor of choice for many years, particularly in the SCCA Trans-Am Series, where Roger Penske's Sunoco Camaros won the championship in 1968 and 1969. Sunoco also sponsored Penske Porsches in the SCCA Can-Am series, and won the Indianapolis 500 in 1972 with Penske and driver Mark Donohue.

In 1989, NASCAR team owner Billy Hagan acquired sponsorship from Sunoco for four seasons. Sterling Marlin drove the #94 Sunoco Ultra94 Oldsmobile during the 1989-90 seasons and Terry Labonte for the 91-92 seasons.

In 2013, Sunoco became official fuel partner of Marussia F1 Team.

In 2015, Sunoco became the Official Fuel of the NHRA.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d O'Sullivan, Sean (3 Dec 2011), "Sunoco to close refinery", The News Journal, retrieved 3 Dec 2011 
  2. ^ a b "2009 Annual Report". Sunoco. Retrieved 2010-12-09. 
  3. ^ Retail Marketing - Overview.
  4. ^ CSNews Exclusive: Top Chains Continue Store Growth Through Acquisition Despite Market Turmoil
  5. ^ Cable News Network. Fortune 500 2011: States: Pennsylvania Companies. CNN Money. Retrieved on: 2011-02=12.
  6. ^ "BNY Mellon Center, 1735 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA". BNY Mellon Center. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Nixon, Alex (17 Sep 2011), "Sunoco refineries could be closed", Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, TribLive Business, retrieved 20 Sep 2011 
  8. ^ Peck, Merton J. & Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School p. 620
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "Sunoco Chemicals and the Sarnia Refinery". Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  11. ^ "Speedway to Acquire Hess Retail". Marathon Petroleum Corporation. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  12. ^ Sunoco to sell retail heating oil business, Reuters, September 02, 2009.
  13. ^ Key, Peter (20 Jan 2012), "How the oil refining industry is like a casino", Philadelphia Business Journal,, retrieved 21 Jan 2012 
  14. ^ The Carlyle Group and Sunoco Agree to Form Philadelphia Refinery Joint Venture.
  15. ^ Energy Transfer Partners buys oil refiner Sunoco USA Today (04/30/2012)
  16. ^ a b c Maykuth, Andrew. "Sunoco parent buys Texas chain for $1.8 billion". Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  17. ^ Photo of restored Sunoco leaded gasoline pump.
  18. ^ Sunoco Drives Onto N.J.'s Garden State Parkway
  19. ^ Sunoco to Fuel Ohio Turnpike
  20. ^ Pirates announce affiliation renewals with team partners 05/06/2013
  21. ^ Business Wire (2010-05-27). "Sunoco to Become Official Fuel of Indy Racing League in 2011". Business Wire. Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  22. ^ Pick Your Poison: An Updated Environmentalist's Guide to Gasoline - January/February 2007 - Sierra Magazine - Sierra Club.

External links[edit]