Creating a Sales Bonanza from a Plant Shut Down

An innovative Example of Complex Problem Solving

A 600,000 Gallon a Day Solution – John Invents ‘Terminal-On-Wheels’

When Amoco Oil Company decided to close its Cherry Creek (Kansas City) refinery, the corporation faced one enormous problem—how to fulfill contractual obligations to area contractors with whom Amoco had agreed to supply asphalt for the coming summer’s paving season. Amoco was faced with two extremely costly and disruptive options.

The first of these options was to keep a portion of the Cherry Creek facility operational for an additional eight months, the second involved transportation of all required asphalt for its Kansas City obligations six hundred miles by truck from its East Chicago, Indiana refinery. The first option would have required maintaining a significant portion of the refinery as operational, renegotiating with the labor union, and delaying environmental remediation. The second demanded virtually every available asphalt carrying semi-trailer rig in the Midwest, at a freight cost that would have rivaled or exceeded the value of the asphalt itself.

John created a third alternative that saved Amoco from the financial drain of either of these choices. Working together with Amoco, he originated the idea of a portable, self-contained asphalt terminal that could be delivered to any road-accessible site on several semi-trailers. This facility, included a high volume railroad tank car unloading capability, portable high capacity boilers, an electric power generation system, a semi-trailer loading facility, a 120,000 lbs. state certified scale facility, and a fully functional office unit all designed to be temporarily assembled inside a railroad yard, then disassembled for transport to the next location.

Rated at 600,000 gallons per day and handling asphalt at up to 350°F, this concept first became a reality in the Kansas City rail yard of the Santa Fe railroad, serving Amoco throughout the entire asphalt season, and facilitating asphalt shipping from the East Chicago refinery location to Kansas City by rail at a small fraction of the cost of doing so by semi-trailer. The operation was so successful and cost competitive that Amoco decided to continue selling asphalt into the Kansas City market the following season, once again utilizing the temporary facility unit. The concept was later trademarked as the Terminal-On-Wheels® and marketed to other companies handling hazardous bulk liquid materials.

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