The Elk Refinery

Elk Refinery

This 44-acre site was located in Falling Rock, right on the Elk River near Clendenin WV,  and served as a refinery known as Elk Refining Co. from 1913 until its closure in 1982. Beginning in 1983, Hannah Lumber Co. leased a portion of the property and operated a wood chipping facility.  There is nothing left today but scraps and a couple of small buildings.  

Elk Refining sold many products including gasoline which in turn was sold at Keystone Service Stations.  In 1952 South Penn (Pennzoil) purchased a controlling interest in Elk Refining. In 1955 the balance of the purchase was completed and Elk Refining Keystone stations were distributing Pennzoil lubricants. By the mid 60’s the Pennzoil name had no trouble standing alone, and the Elk supplied stations were rebranded from Keystone to Pennzoil.

Elk Refinery
A west view of the Elk Refinery during its heyday taken from the hill just above the Falling Rock Creek bridge.

Elk Refining
An Early photo of Elk Refining

Elk Refining

Elk Refinery WV

Elk Pennzoil
When the Cox-Morton Service Station opened on Virginia Street just down from the Courthouse in 1937, they sold products from the Elk Refinery.  Soon however, they switched to Esso and Mobiloil products.

Elk Refinery

Other Refinery Products

Elk Refinery

Elk Refinery

The man that started it all

Elk Refinery


The Elk Refinery was a major employer in the area and during its sixty years of existence, petroleum products of all types were refined and distributed throughout West Virginia. There was little space for expansion and since usable real estate was a valuable commodity in the narrow valley, a foot bridge was constructed spanning the Elk River to connect the refinery with the north bank at a location that employees could park and walk across to work.

The peak years were during the World War II era into the 1950s. By the 1970s, the plant was still operating and generating on average nine carloads each of rail traffic on three weekday stops with variances owing to supply and demand. In 1983, Pennzoil elected to close the refinery primarily due to obsolescence as the facility was dated and would have required extensive and expensive upgrading. This closing was a major blow to the region economically and to the railroad.

In the early teens, “ELK REFINING COMPANY” was founded in Falling Rock EV. Elk seems to have been formed as an affiliate company of United.

1925-1929 ~ Extensive expansions to the United and Elk refineries allow for the production of gasoline and fuel oil, adding this to their ever growing lubricants business.

1929 ~ The stock market crashes,  and Elk refining is getting ready to enter the retail gasoline and automotive lubricant business through branding and distribution. They are packaging their automotive lubricants as “Elk” and begin marketing Elk Gasoline. “KEYSTONE” is deemed the brand name of United’s retail gasoline, and the end of the 30’s the Elk refining stations are selling Keystone branded fuel as well.

1952 ~  At this time, a controlling interest of Elk Refining Company,
who operated a chain of service stations in West Virginia under the Keystone brand,  was sold to South Penn Oil Co, adding Keystone stations to South Penn’s lineup as they were expanding their lube market and concentrating on their successful Pennzoil lubricant line. This marks the beginning of the end for Keystone Gasoline as far as the Elk Refining Co. goes.  In 1955 the balance of the purchase was completed and Elk Refining Keystone stations were distributing Pennzoil lubricants. By the mid 60’s the Pennzoil name had no trouble standing alone, and the Elk supplied stations were rebranded from Keystone to Pennzoil.
By 1960 the Pennzoil Gasoline company was stagnant, a regional producer that was primarily known for its Pennzoil motor oil, and this facility finally closed in 1983

The Elk Refinery was dismantled during the mid 1980s. The demolition proved to be controversial for health and environmental reasons due to asbestos contamination.

 Pennzoil is now owned by Shell.

In 1963, South Penn was bought by Hugh Liedtke and William Liedtke of Zapata Petroleum and Stetco Petroleum, two Midland, Texas oil firms. After the Liedtke purchase, South Penn Oil was renamed Pennzoil, and the corporate offices eventually moved to Texas.

Elk Refinery History

Elk Refining

Elk Refining

Elk Refining


This section is necessary due to the chemical spill which affected 300,000 people in January of 2014 in a large area and surrounding area of  Charleston WV.  The chemical came from the old Pennzoil Bulk Plant, which sold their tank farm to a private concern for the purpose of storing chemicals many years earlier.

Freedom Industries Bulk Plant

The former Pennzoil Bulk Plant which was owned by Freedom Industries in 2014
This tank farm is located on Barlow Drive on the Elk River in Charleston WV.

Elk Refinery Bulk Plant

In the late 40s, the Elk Refinery Bulk Plant was located on Charleston's West Side at Watts Street. The local neighborhood didnt care for this and demanded the plant move.  But  Elk Refining had already located a piece of land on the Elk Rive at Barlow Drive and started construction.

Elk Refining
Notice that this permit is for a "garage and repair shop".  It's beyond the city limits and yet needs a city permit to build.  Nothing is mentioned yet about the tank farm that will be built here.  A pipe was run from the Elk Refinery down the river to the bulk plant to keep it filled.  Another Elk bulk plant was located on Rt 60 where the Charleston Moose Lodge is today. It was sold to Amoco when the new Elk bulk plant was completed.

Elk Refinery

The refinery property today near Clendenin.

Elk Refinery

The Quaker State Oil Refining Co. was organized by merging 20 firms on July 1, 1931.

Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. sold the combined 4.9-acre tract to Etowah River Terminal LLC for $600,000 in December 2001, according to county records.

The former bulk storage facility for gasoline and diesel apparently required remediation work. Kimberly Windon, a spokeswoman for Shell Oil Co., which now owns Pennzoil-Quaker State, said the company sent environmental cleanup crews to the current Freedom Industries location in 2002 and "voluntarily remediated the site" after it sold the parcel.

Quaker State moved its corporate offices to Texas in 1995.


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