Newhall Refinery

Newhall Refinery in 1959 (photo from

About the same view on 2/13/2010


Historical Photos
2009 Photos
Through the Years in Aerial Photos

Here is the limited information I have found about the Newhall Refinery listed by year. Warning: the refinery, including Beale's Cut, is on private property. Even as late as 1988, the refinery was fined for excessive sulfur dioxide emissions so there are hazardous wastes there.

Joseph Otto Moffett (1890-1964, a one-time mayor of the City of San Fernando) apparently founded the San Fernando Refining Company with headquarters in San Fernando. The company's refinery was in Newhall. This is the date that A.B. Perkins stated (in The Story of Our Valley) that the refinery started. The first photo on the historical photos page has a date of 1931 on the back supporting a start-up date of 1930. An aerial photo from the 1930's also show a refinery.

The Report of the California State Board of Equalization for 1933-1934 under state taxes levied against motor vehicle fuel distributors (schedule R) shows that Moffett, J.O. (San Fernando Refining Co.) distributed 756,801.9 gallons for a total tax of $22,477.01 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1933 (p. 147).

In "Hydrocarbon Processing & Petroleum Refiner", Volume 14, the San Fernando Refining Company is listed with its plant location in Newhall. The superintendent was William D. Parks.

Stewart v. San Fernando Refining Co.

Gasoline taxes paid in November 1937 by oil companies reporting sales of more than 300,000 gallons: J. O. Moffett (San Fernando Refining Co) 372,962 gallons actually sold, 372,948 net taxable gallonage (Palos Verdes Peninsula News, December 31, 1937).

In the "California Oil World Directory", J.O. Moffett is listed as the proprietor of the San Fernando Refining Company (PO Box 310 San Fernando, Ca). William D. Parks was the general superintendent and E. Ericson was the purchasing agent. The company had a refinery near Newhall with an annual refinery output 3,500,000 gallons.

In the International Pertroleum Register of 1939 it is stated for the San Fernando Refining Co: "Personnel: J.O. Moffett, Gen. Mgr.; L. Goddard, Sales Mgr. (service stations); E. Ericson Pur. Agt. Marketers: Serves 69 service stations in Calif. only; 5 owned trucks, 8 leased. Fuel oil dealer."

Bulletin No. 118 (Geologic Formations and Economic Development of the Oil and Gas Fields of California, 1943) from the Division of Mines states that "The San Fernando Refining Company, located at the [San Fernando] Pass, processes the crude from this general area."

The Newhall refinery was purchased by employees William Parks and A.E. Ericson. They became an important local employer. Ownership records state that the owners were William Delaney Parks (1903-1963), Ivalle Parks (his wife, 1900-1991), Edward Arthur Ericson (1895-1979), and Vena Ericson (or La Vena, his wife, 1896-1988). According to a Daily News article (8/29/1989), Parks used his and his wife's life savings. The refinery could process 3,500 barrels a day at full capacity. 20 men worked their. The San Fernando Refining Company was still listed in the International Petroleum Register for 1947, although whether it was actually operating anymore seems doubtful. The new company's address was:

Newhall Refining Co Inc
22674 N Clampitt Rd
Newhall, CA 91321
tel: 805-259-2660

On August 12, 1944, fire demolished the Newhall refinery. A laboratory flame ignited fumes from a burst naphtha line and in seconds a 10,000 gallon tank of naphtha blew up. Flames shot up nearly 2000 feet into the sky and storage tanks exploded. James Breckenridge died in the hospital from burns suffered in the first explosion and William Taylor was seriously burned while dragging Breckenridge from the flames. Flames and heat from the burning tank ignited others, and one by one, tanks began blowing up. At one time, 18 of the 25 tanks were burning. See the LA Times story from 8/13/1944 here and photo below. Read another story here from the Tucson Daily Citizen from 8/12/1944. Also see here on the SCV History website for a British Pathe video that shows the fire.

Donald A. Shaffer (1906-1990) had moved to San Fernando in 1939 and was hired as a truck driver by the San Fernando Refining Company. After serving in the US Army during World War II, he returned to work as a truck driver for the same company, now called the Newhall Refining Company (info from his obituary). This shows to me that when Parks and Ericson bought the refinery, the San Fernando Refining Company ceased to exist.

A chart in the book "The Nature of Competition in Gasoline Distribution at the Retail Level: A Study of the Los Angeles Market Area" by Ralph Cassady, Jr. and Wylie L. Johns (University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1951) showed that the Newhall Refining Company supplied 42 gas stations in 1947. This was 0.62 percent of all service stations supplied by all companies in the Los Angeles area (which was 6805). The largest supplier was the General Petroleum Corporation, which supplied 11.5 percent.

It was reported the the Newhall Refinery Company owned 7 producing oil wells in Placerita Canyon which produced about 61,000 barrels of oil for the year.

"In February, 1959, Pauley Petroleum acquired Newhall Refining Co. Inc., of California owning a refinery, present capacity 4,000 barrels daily." (Red Book of the Oil Industry, Walter R. Skinner, 1961, p. 464.) Pauley Petroleum was founded in 1958 by Edwin W. Pauley.

On 6/24/1961 William C. Crockett, 60, a workman was killed when he fell 25 feet from a condenser platform at the refinery. He had climbed up a ladder to tighten some bolts when he slipped and fell. (From the Independent, Long Beach, Ca, 6/26/1961.)

L. J. Campbell, 47, was appointed president of Newhall Refining Co. succeeded William D. Parks. Parks will remain as board chairman. (From the Los Angeles Times, 2/27/1963.)

A welder's spark touched off a fast moving fire that threatened Newhall Refinery Co. property south of Newhall was contained in less than an hour by Los Angeles County and U.S. Forest Service fire fighting units shortly after 1 p.m. yesterday. The fire erupted in a sump area where refuse and oil was dumped. Vapors in oil lines caught fire and raced for lower ground to reach the sump. Flames also spread to a 150-barrel oil tank and scorched another 200-barrel tank. Fireman were able to control the blaze before it spread to more than a dozen oil tanks located on a hill nearby. Damage was estimated at approximately $1000 to tanks and refinery equipment. (Van Nuys Daily News, 12-8-1964)

Howard M. Brock of Chatsworth died of burns he received when jet fuel spilled on his clothing and ignited. Brock was a maintenance supervisor working on a pipeline connection when a leak soaked some of his clothing with fuel. The fuel was then ignited by a nearby heater. Brock had been an employee for 21 years. (From the LA Times of May 3, 1966)

The Newhall Refining Company, a subsidiary of Pauley Petroleum, was sued by scores of insurance companies for homeowners. It was claimed that they "negligently and in violation of the law set fire to, allowed fire to be set to and allowed such fire and permitted fire burning upon property owned and controlled by defendants to escapt to property of others without using or exercising due or any diligence to control such fire." See 1975 below.

The refinery was forced to shut down temporarily due to damage from the 2/9/1971 Sylmar earthquake. There was damage to storage tanks and pipelines. At that time, the refinery was a 5500 barrel per day plant producing asphalt, road oils, and jet fuels. When the quake occurred, two men on a tower were bruised, but not seriously injured. The bottom of one jet-fuel storage tank buckled, and there were scattered leaks elsewhere at the refinery. The main problem was a lack of water. Both sides of a pump on the water line leading to the refinery were ruptured. There was also some minor damage to testing equipment in the laboratory. The refinery had about 400,000 barrels of tank storage. Three 20,000 barrel tanks, 60 feet in diameter by 40 feet high were full of jet fuel and had buckling on one side. Two 120 foot in diameter by 40 feet high tanks had no damage.

Approximately $250 in damages were reported from a fire at the refinery caused by a ruptured boiler. The fire erupted yesterday (9/27) at about 10am and was quickly brought under control by four engine companies and a tanker dispatched to the scene. No injuries were reported. (From the Van Nuys News of September 28, 1971)

A proposed zone change to allow for the expansion and modernization of the existing refinery was sent back to the Regional Planning Commission for an environmental impact report and a review by the Air Pollution Control District. Two bus loads of Santa Clarita residents made the trip downtown to fight the zoning change. Company officials said that the project would actually result in the decrease in annoying odors and that the refinery's capacity will not be increased but will allow it to product a greater variety of fuels. (Valley News 3/15/1974)

Newhall oil refinery worker Walter Fritchner, 43, was burned Tuesday when he was sprayed with hot oil. He was listed in fair condition at the Sherman Oaks Community Hopital Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation with second-degree burns over 20% of his body. Fitchner was cutting a pipe to a crude oil heater when vibration caused a valve to open spraying his legs and thighs with hot oil. (From the Van Nuys News of October 30, 1975)

A $1.7 million settlement was accepted by 35 insurance companies seeking recovery from Newhall Refining Co. and Pauley Refining Co. of home damage claims paid out in the 1970 Chatsworth-Newhall fire. The 35 insurance companies had initially sought $4.5 million from the two refineries on the grounds the fire was started by faulty wiring in the Newhall refinery. (Santa Ana Register 12/5/1975)

Pauley Petroleum reported that net imcome for the third quarter and nine month periods ending May 31 more than doubled that reported from comparable periods last year. President William Pagen said that a substantial increase in throughput at the Newhall refinery was the major factor in the strong sales figures posted by the company. (Star-News, Pasadena, CA. 7/25/1976)

"A second stage of modernisation of the Newhall Refinery is budgeted at $20mn, and should be completed in 1979, primarily to upgrade refinery products. First phase of modernisation was completed in 1977 at a cost of $10mn." (Oil and Gas International Year Book, Financial Times, 1978)

"Willam R. Pagen, president of Pauley Petroleum, Inc. announced recently that $5,000,000 in bonds have been issued by the California Pollution Control Financing Authority for construction of pollution control facilities at the company's refinery in Newhall, California. The bonds, issued November 30, 1978, bear an average interest rate of 6.071 percent." (California Business, volume 14, 1979)

A refinery truck drive was in critical condition Saturday from burns received during a pumping accident. The refinery driver, Jesse Sutton, was at the Sherman Oaks Community Hospital burn center with third-degree burns over 75 percent of his body. Sutton was injured Friday night at the Newhall Refinery while pumping a sulfur-hydrogen liquid from a collection tank into his truck. Sutton told firemen the fuel overflowed and flashed when it hit hot metal. His vacuum truck was destroyed at an estimated loss of $55,000. The refinery sustained no damage. (Santa Ana Orange County Register, 8-16-1981)

Pauley Petroleum announced that its Newhall refinery is on the auction block again and that preliminary negotiations are under way. About 1 1/2 years ago, the company was close to selling the independent refinery, but the deal fell through. Pauley declined to identify the new prospective buyer except to say it was a private investor, not another oil firm. The refinery produced 5.2 million barrels of petroleum products last year and generated most of the company's 1983 revenues. (Orange County Register, Santa Ana, CA, 9/5 and 9/7/1984)

Pauly Petroleum rejected two buy-out offers. Neither offer from Strata-Carner Partners, an oil and gas investment group. was adequate, especially since refining margins have improved. Strata-Carner offered to pay $8 a share for all of Pauley's assests except its Newhall refinery, or $15 a share including the refinery. (LA Times 8/10/1985)

The refinery had a capacity of 23,000 barrels of oil a day. Three firms were issued violation notices by the South Coast Air Quality Management District for excessive sulfur content in their fuel oil. They said that the oil was purchased from the Newhall Refinery. Refinery senior vice president for manufacturing Hans Mangold said that all fuel oil is tested for sulfur content. He thinks that the oil was tainted by either residues in a fuel truck or from some other source. The three firms were fined.

The North Valley (Sunshine) Landfill was providing more than 1 million feet of landfill gas daily to the Newhall Refinery for use as a boiler fuel via a 6 inch line from a recovery plant at the landfill. This was ended in 1985. The pipe was originally owned by the Mobil Oil Corporation and later bought by Getty Oil (name later changed to Getty Synthetic Fuels, Inc) in 1981. In 2008, the last segment of the pipe (711 feet) under Sierra Highway was filled in with concrete in some sections and abandoned in place in other sections.

On August 29, 1986, the Los Angeles Times reported that South Coast Air Quality Management officials has issued the Newhall Refining Co. oil processing plant its 12th violation notice since April. This notice was for emitting annoying odors. Most of the other citations issued since April accused it of emitting too much sulfur dioxide (a lung irritating gas that contributes to acid rain) and with running boilers and heaters with fuel containing too much hydrogen sulfide. Each of the 12 pending violation notices are punishable by a penalty of up to $1,000. The company recognized that more violations are likely because of recent malfunctions involving a $100,000 sulfur-recovery unit the company installed in 1985 to supplement an older sulfur-control system. The company has asked the district for protection from additional citations through next March, by which time it hopes to have the equipment working properly. The refinery processes about 23,000 barrels of crude oil a day into diesel fuel and other products. The company has about 100 employees. Last year the refinery paid the air district $7,500 to settle 13 citations for various violations in 1984 and 1985. In 1984, they paid $75,000 in penalties and investigative expenses to settle a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general. The lawsuit accused the refinery of selling diesel fuel that did not meet minimum quality standards designed to protect automobile engines.

On September 11, 1986, the Los Angeles Times reported that the South Coast Air Quality Management District voted unanimously to grant the refinery a variance allowing it to continue operating until the November deadline without facing fines for new violations stemming from the illegal release of sulfur dioxide. The ruling resulted from complaints by the Placerita Canyon Property Owners Association. A plant closure would cost the Newhall Refinery Co. about $30,000 a day by preventing the company from fulfilling its contracts with public agencies and private firms. The refinery has about 100 employees and processes about 23,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

On July 30, 1987, the Santa Ana Orange County Register reported that Hondo Oil & Gas Co., a New Mexico company, has agreed to merge with Los Angeles based Pauley Petroleum Co. The merger would be carried out by Pauley, which would issue 10 million new shares to Hondo, giving it slightly more than 77 % of the combined operation. Most of Pauley's business comes from its 22,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Newhall. Pauley had sought unsuccessfully three years ago to sell the Newhall refinery. This transaction would not be completed until January of 1988.

Pauley Petroleum, Inc. announced that it has completed the acquisition of Fletcher Oil & Refining Co. The operations of Fletcher's 29,500 barrels per day refinery in the city of Carson will be coordinated with those of Co.'s Newhall Refinery. (Moody's Industrial News Reports, Volume 59, 1987)

In January of 1988, Pauley Petroleum Inc. acquired the Hondo Company with a stock exchange transaction. Pauley issued 10 million new shares of common stock in exchange for all of the common stock of Hondo.

In January of 1988, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Newhall Refining Company was fined $11,250 for excessive sulfur dioxide emissions.

On Sunday January 17, 1988, at about 1 a.m., a single-engine Cessna 182L plane flying through a driving rainstorm crashed into the mountain next to the Newhall refinery narrowly missing storage tanks. All four people aboard were killed. The victims were all longtime members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The pilot was identified as Lt. Harry Parson, 50, a 27-year veteran of the department. He was traveling with his wife, Deputy Therese Pinocchio, 38, a 13-year veteran of the department. The couple lived in Long Beach. Also killed were Capt. George E. Reed, 43, commander of the Men's Central Jail, and his wife, Deputy Rosemarie Reed, 47, of Glendale. See here, here, and here for more information.

"The Newhall Refinery is a modern oil refinery in Newhall, California with a capacity of 20,100 barrels per stream day. It is a hydroskimming operation with the ability to produce diesel and light oils, asphalt, jet fuels, gasoline, fuel oil and certain other products. In addition, it has a medium pressure bydrotreater which provides the ability to remove sulfur from diesel fuel and gas oil." (Moody's Industrial Manual, volume 2, 1989)

"As many as 85 employees of the Newhall Refining Co. could face layoffs or reassignment if the plant's parent company goes through with plans to sell a sister refinery, according to Newhall's top executive. Newhall President Al Siegnr said Puley Petroleum Co.'s decision to try to sell the Fletcher Oil and Refining Co. in Carson could spell the end for Newhall's asphalt production, but will not shut down the refinery. Pauley purchased Fletcher last March and spent more than $15 million to upgrade the facility's asphalt capacity so that production could be transferred to Carson. Siegner said that if Fletcher is sold, the buyer would likely insist that Newhall get out of the asphalt market. Asphalt makes up about 40 percent of Newhall's production, Siegner said. He conceded that layoffs could be forthcoming if the company does not diversify into other aspects of oil production. Operations at the Newhall refinery, which has the capacity to process 21,000 barrels of crude oil a day, are being phased out and production shifted to the Carson refinery, he said." (Los Angeles Daily News, January 9, 1989)

"Newhall's only oil refinery is for sale for an undisclosed price, company executives said Tuesday, and city officials estimated the sale could cost the community more than 85 jobs. Negotiations are under way with several potential buyers interested in Newhall Refining Co., which processes primarily jet fuel along with other petroleum products from its refinery in the mountains along Sierra Highway. The refinery is owned by the Los Angeles-based Pauley Petroleum Co. " (Los Angeles Daily News, September 6, 1989)

The board of directors of Pauley Petroleum have approved a name change to Hondo Oil & Gas Co. to be effective January 1, 1990 (Roswell Daily Record 10-20-1989).

Newhall Refining Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Pauley Petroleum, notified employees that it anticipates the suspension of operations at the refinery before the end of the year (Roswell Daily Record 10-20-1989).

On December 15, 1989, Hondo permanently suspended all operations at the Newhall Refinery because of continuing operating losses and reclassified the cost of the property to its real estate segment. Upgrades required by environmental laws would be too costly to perform. 15 of its 86 employees will be offered jobs at Pauley's other refining unit, Fletcher Oil & Refining Co. in Carson. The rest will be laid off. The refinery has suffered losses in recent years, and future demand for the refinery's products--mostly liquid asphalt, fuel oil and jet fuel--appear "unlikely to reach sufficient levels to justify a resumption of operations in the near future," Newhall Refining said.

1990: "The Newhall Refinery, a landmark in Newhall for more than 60 years, will be torn down and its 107-acre site along Sierra Highway sold." "Hondo Oil is the parent company of Newhall Refining Co., which shut down in December after several years of financial losses. About 70 workers were laid off. The refinery's principal products were asphalt, fuel oil, and jet fuel. Officials with Hondo Oil, known until recently as Pauley Petroleum, have applied for a demolition permit from the city of Santa Clarita." (The Los Angeles Times, March 22, 1990)

1990 "Hondo Oil & Gas have announced the closure of the old Newhall Refinery with the completion of its new refining facilities at the Fletcher plant, which is believed to be one of the finest and most efficient light oil refineries on the Pacific coast" (The Economist, Vol 314, Issues 7640-7643, Economist Newspaper Limited, 1990, p. 70)

A Valley Gateway development plan for the Newhall Refinery property was adapted by Hondo. The plan included dismantling the refinery, doing the required environmental remediation of the land, and developing the land to a condition where it could be sold.

The Hondo Gas & Oil Co suspended execution of the Valley Gateway development plan for the Newhall Refinery property in September. The decision was made as a result of declines in the local real estate market and the company's limited cash resources. Hondo then to sell the property in its present condition. Hondo did conduct an environmental assessment of the refinery site and a remediation plan for the site was submitted to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and received staff approval. They requested bids from contractors to remove contaminated soil from approximately 35 acres of the 105 acre site. Hondo expected that the remediation plan would cost $2.0 million.

Lonrho Plc acquired control of Hondo.

Lonrho Plc changed its name to Lonmin Plc. Hondo reportedly sold 117 acres, including Beale's Cut to Landbank, a remediation company based in Lakewood, Colorado, for $200,000. Landbank had plans to clean up the refinery waste and make the land salable for a business park.

Refinery site considered as a possible site for a minor league expansion baseball team. See here for more information.

The property has changed hands at least once since 1999 and is basically in a limbo state. As of 3/2010, Forum Engineering and Construction owns much of the land in the Tunnel area probably including the refinery property. They had a lobbyist working for them as late as 2009 on a project at the refinery (which they called the Hondo Oil Refinery) called Sierra Gateway, probably a project similar to the old Valley Gateway project of Hondo.

The refinery property is one of the last three sites recommended for a recycling plant. See here and here.

"Three men were arrested on Saturday, 4/13/2013, at approximately 11:22am for allegedly stealing a large amount of metal from the area of Sierra Highway and Remsen Street in Newhall. This area is an old oil refinery which consists of several abandoned buildings. Over the past several years other people have been arrested for stealing metal from this area." (

The major problem for the owner is the cost for cleaning up the refinery site. However, once that is done, any development project would have to take into account Beale's Cut and the SR-14 Los Pinetos undercrossing. As a significant historical site, the cut area would probably have to be donated to the government - most likely the City of Santa Clarita. Then there would need to be an open area as an animal corridor between Sierra Highway and the Los Pinetos undercrossing. It would have to be wide enough to satisfy many different conservation groups, not an easy task. This kind of project would need a very innovative developer and probably better economic times.

The Hondo Oil Refinery was once for sale on LoopNet in 2001 and 2002

Watercolor of the Newhall Refinery by Herbert L. Kornfeld