No one likes a spoiler—but sometimes it makes sense to start at the end of the story. Here’s the end of this story: On July 22, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, a company that owns and operates crude oil refineries in the Philadelphia, PA, area, suddenly went bankrupt.
But was it sudden?
Actually, no. Companies that relied on Philadelphia Energy’s oil were left scrambling, but they didn’t need to be. Because just 30 days earlier, the bankruptcy should have been on everyone’s radars. So what happened 30 days earlier, on June 21, that hinted at the eventual outcome? At 4am, alarm bells rang: The biggest oil refinery in the northeast had suffered a massive explosion and resulting fire. The blast could be felt up to 40 miles away, and the fireball could be seen from space. The incident was caught on video and also shared via social media from witnesses across the region. (You can watch the video here on YouTube.)
And yes, you guessed it: The location of the fire was a plant owned by Philadelphia Energy Solutions. This particular plant produced 335,000 barrels of oil per day (for those without context: that’s a lot), and the plant’s future came immediately into question, as it shut down with no announced plan for a restart.