Okmulgee Business Complex: From Refinery to Brownfield to Industrial Park
Updated: Oct 31, 2022
The Okmulgee Business Complex (OBC) is a multi-zoned business property on the southwest corner of Highway 75 and Fairgrounds road that was designed to attract commercial and industrial clients and is owned by the Okmulgee Area Development Corp, otherwise known as the OADC.
This property is one of the oldest industrial parks in the entire state. From the early 1900s, this property was an oil refinery; the standard operations of refineries of days gone by left it polluted and it was abandoned in the early 1980s. Those that grew up here will recall the deterioration of the land and equipment; it was not only an eyesore but it was a hazardous site.
However, thanks to the insight, vision, dedication and partnership collaboration between the OADC, City of Okmulgee, Okmulgee County, PSO, ConocoPhillips and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) in the mid to late 90s, this property rose like a phoenix from the ashes so to speak into a remediated brownfield that is perfect for industrial and commercial development. This partnership was not typical and happened in a relatively short period of time, resulting in a Certified Brownfield No Action Necessary site. All that (brownfield) really means is that the land is cleared for industrial and commercial development and that all required Phases of due diligence and remediation have been done.
1953 AERIAL VIEW OF REFINERY AT HIGHWAY 75/FAIRGROUND ROADS
1960 AERIAL VIEW OF REFINERY AT HIGHWAY 75/FAIRGROUND ROADS
Do you remember the refinery’s original entrance on Box Ave. just west of the railroad tracks behind the Love’s Truck Stop? The refinery occupied most of that half section all the way to the corner of Highway 75 and Fairgrounds Road as the Phillips 66 Refinery.
In the interest of recognizing the history and looking to the future - we’d like to share a timeline of the history of the former refinery….
1906 - 1930: The refinery operated under various owners and operators.
1930- 1982: Phillips purchased the refinery and operated it until 1966 when it sold to OKC Refining Company, which operated it until 1980 when OKC Refining Company sold it to Basin Refining Company. They operated it until 1982 when it was then permanently closed and abandoned.
1984-1995: The State requested that the site be referred to the Superfund Program. A series of assessments and inspections were made. Before the property ended up on the National Priorities List that the media calls the Superfund List, Phillips Petroleum stepped forward to help address environmental issues on the site. This was a very providential action, as the community of Okmulgee did not want to be branded as a superfund site city due to multiple long-lasting negative connotations.
1996: The OADC was formed. Very quickly, the new leadership of OADC reached out to Basin Refining Company (who had not paid taxes on the property) and requested that the company consider donating the site to the OADC, a 501 (c) (3) private organization. They agreed, and within a short time that transaction was done. Phillips 66 agreed to conduct the clean-up and remediation of the property, but they also wanted this to benefit the local community.
1997: OADC partnered with Phillips Petroleum Company and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) in an official signing of an Environmental Investigation, Remediation and Settlement Agreement.
1997-2004: Hazardous chemicals and asbestos was removed from the refinery superstructure and buildings, and then dismantled. Once the land was cleared, Phillips conducted the soils, groundwater and surface water examination at the site, and a Risk Assessment.
2009: Two of the large parcels planned for redevelopment were released by the ODEQ and a Notice of Remediation was filed in the County Land Records and a “No Further Action Required” letter was issued. This meant that the parcels were cleared for redevelopment. However, the potential land sales during this time frame had stalled when a lending institution was not willing to lend due to the fact that it was a former refinery. OADC and Phillips agreed to enter ODEQ’s Brownfield Program to obtain a release from liability, to enable the property to be developed.
2009: Holiday Inn Express purchased the first lots in the remediated property.
2012: ODEQ issued OADC a Brownfield Certificate of No Action Necessary and in November of that year, the OADC Board voted to name this new development area “Okmulgee Business Complex”.
2013: ODEQ issued a “Covenant Not to Sue” for the site
2015: The Okmulgee Business Complex project and the OADC won two Phoenix Awards (for top brownfield projects, which is a program through the EPA and the International City/County Management Association. This project won the regional award for Region 6 (NM, TX, LA, AR and 66 tribes). When representatives attended the award ceremony in Chicago, they learned that they also won the top national Prize of being the best brownfield project in the US.
2016: Additional commercial parcels were sold to Harlan Ford and Tractor Supply.
The clean-up of the refinery was a long-term effort and Phillips 66 invested tens of millions of dollars. The entire refinery infrastructure, including the cracker, many storage tanks as well as miles of pipe both above and below ground had to be demolished and disposed of.
324,948 cubic yards of impacted soil was excavated . Chemicals and wastes were removed.
400 truckloads of asbestos removed
250 truckloads of tank bottoms removed
300 gallons of hydrofluoric acid removed
12,000 plus truckloads of impacted material removed
The OADC is pursuing funding to put in infrastructure so that this land is ready to attract industrial and commercial clients. There will be 3 retail pad sites, 8 commercial lots and 40 acres of industrial land initially available. We have been in conversations over the past year with several companies that are very interested in bringing their manufacturing operations to Okmulgee and this infrastructure will help make that happen.
While the effort to reclaim this land may have started with a somewhat imprecise vision for what was possible, however, the end result is remarkable. We can thank the leadership efforts of the newly formed OADC of 1996 and all of those organizations/entities that came together. Their foresight and early efforts will ultimately result in a beautiful industrial park, new capital investment, well-paying jobs, more employees to fill local restaurants and set a new trajectory for Okmulgee in the years to come.