Texas Refinery Corp’s new state-of-the-art lubricants plant at 500 Airport Drive in Mansfield has been up and operating since November, churning out thousands of gallons of oils, greases and protective coatings during that time.
The first batch of industrial grease, the company’s signature product, was concocted in the new plant back in June 2015.
It is finally time, TRC chief executive officer Chris Pate said, to relax, celebrate the new and salute the veteran Fort Worth firm’s history with a 94th anniversary barbecue for 200 invited guests on Sept. 9.
The move to Mansfield was a big – historic even – step for the folks at Texas Refinery Corp., which has kept its North Side Fort Worth roots throughout the decades.
The legacy company began operations in 1922 as Panther Oil & Grease Manufacturing Co. and was located just a few blocks northeast of the current headquarters at 840 N. Main St. in “a little tin building” at 500 E. 20th St., Pate says.
A.M. Pate Sr., Chris Pate’s great grandfather, founded the company with partner Carl Wollner and the two began making grease for wagons and other equipment.
“We were the first residents of ‘Panther Island,’ back in 1922,” Pate said. TRC officers say their company was the first in the area to use the word Panther in its name, decades before the current development plans were created to turn the area into the Panther Island entertainment, business and residential project.
“It was a busy location even back then,” said Patrick Walsh, co-executive vice president. “There were a number of oil companies located along here, and this was an active little area. There were a couple of different rail lines that ran through here.”
That original Panther Oil & Grease logo is displayed today on the north wall of Texas Refinery’s headquarters. The site includes the office building and the recently vacated manufacturing facility behind it.
After Wollner died in 1947, the name of the business was changed to Texas Refinery Corp. and Pate Sr. began to increase its product lines, which now include 3,000 products that are shipped to all seven continents.
Pate Sr. died the following year, 1948. By then, the company had established Texas Refinery Corp. of Canada, a network of warehouses to get products to Canadian customers fast. International sales began soon after.
A.M. Pate Jr. took over as CEO and served until his death in 1988. Sebert Pate, A.M. Jr.’s brother, stepped in until the business transitioned to A.M. Pate III in 1999. Chris Pate, son of A.M. III, has been CEO and sole owner since 2010.
A commissioned sales force of about 500 agents in the United States is the company’s key to servicing customers, some of whom are third generation, Walsh said.
TRC manufactures aerosols, fuel improvers, hydraulic and industrial oils, cleaning products, gear and transmission oil, protective coatings, engine oils, greases and specialty products.
Its products are used in agricultural, construction, excavating, industrial, manufacturing, marine, logging and timber, mining, oil and gas, power, water, recycling and waste disposal, landscaping, transportation and trucking industries.
Though Chris Pate is continuing quite a legacy, his executive vice presidents Dennis Parks and Patrick Walsh say he is more than simply another family member in the firm.
“One of the things he brings to the table is that he has managed a lot of businesses outside the realm,” said Parks, who is coming up on his 46th year with TRC. “He brings new insight from outside the company. He brought fresh ideas, and yet knows the company inside and out.”
“I was in property management with Holt Hickman and involved in the revitalization effort in the Stockyards,” said Pate.
He was also involved in the mortgage banking industry, investment firms and health care business management.
“The thing I learned in those 20 years is that business is business anywhere,” Pate said. “It’s how you communicate with your employees and customers, and that’s universal.
“It gave me a good, broad business sense,” he said. “It was the right time to step in and start building on the already great reputation that the company had.
“The new factory is probably the single largest business endeavor we’ve taken on in the life of this company.”
Texas Refinery Corp. employs 55 office employees at the headquarters and 20 at the factory and lab in Mansfield.
No jobs were lost in the move to a more technology-rich facility, Pate said, “Jobs didn’t go away, but with more space and new equipment, the jobs changed in more efficient ways.”
Walsh, a 32-year TRC veteran, said planning and building the new plant took 10 years, with the bulk of the work done in the last 18 months.
It took a year just to build up excess stock in the company’s warehouses to cover the transition.
They didn’t intend to leave Fort Worth when they built a new factory. “We wanted to relocate in Fort Worth, and we looked far and wide” for an appropriate site, Walsh said.
The new plant needed to be remote from neighborhoods, schools and churches for safety’s sake, and it had to meet stringent code standards for a business that involves flammable and caustic chemicals.
Mansfield had the requirements and was a good fit for TRC.
After scouting out locations, the firm bought a building in an industrial park at 500 Airport Drive in Mansfield and set to work enlarging and improving the site. General contractor was Systems Integration Inc. of Arlington.
The original 60,000-square-foot facility, a former window factory, now has a total of 89,000 square feet in two buildings.
“While we bought an existing facility, we changed, we added, we tore down,” Parks said. “That original building doesn’t exist now.”
There are separate storage areas for flammable, caustic and corrosive substances, and three fire suppression systems (one with water, another with inert gas, and a third that can fill a building with foam in five seconds). An air scrubbing system neutralizes fumes and airborne pollutants.
Since the conversion of the plant took a decade, safety and environmental regulations changed and had to be met several times.
“It’s turned out to be the envy of our industry,” Walsh said, especially in terms of cleanliness and safety.
There are 29 custom tanks in the outdoor “tank garden,” and each one holds 154,000 gallons, representing a 4 million-gallon tank capacity. Computers control the flow of product from delivery trucks into the tanks, eliminating error and spills. Four large shipping docks handle outgoing product.
During construction, it took 16,000 hours of work to install the six miles of piping inside the production areas, and there are 10 miles of air, gas and water pipes. The two-level production areas include four large tanks fitted with mixing paddles called “kettles” to make greases, five kettles to make liquid lubricants and 12 holding kettles for a total of 40,000 gallons of holding capacity.
Fort Worth-based partners A&G Piping Inc. and Joe White Tank Co. Inc. “really came through for us,” Parks said.
A 22,000-pound kettle can make 15,000 pounds of grease. The four kettles can total 60,000 pounds of grease each day. Tubing equipment can package 50 to 70 tubes of that grease per minute.
“We make grease like nobody makes grease,” Pate said. “It’s our No. 1 product.”
Since the Pate family has long been involved in Fort Worth’s cultural life, TRC made “a sizeable donation” to help kick off Mansfield’s newest attraction, The LOT Downtown at 110 S. Main St. The two-acre open amphitheater opened in May and hosts concerts, theater productions
and family-friendly movies to bring Mansfield residents together. It’s a first step to becoming a community partner in Mansfield as well as Fort Worth.
“It has helped us redefine what our company is,” said Walsh. “Not just new technology or a new place. There really hasn’t been a plant built like this in the United States.”