The eruption of the Lucas Gusher at the Spindletop oil field in January 1901 established Texas as a major oil source and signaled the beginning of a significant economic boom to the state. The new town of Port Arthur benefited tremendously from its proximity to the oil field.
In early 1901, a consortium of men from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, formed the J.M. Guffey Petroleum Company to finance and develop an industry for the oil from its Spindletop leases. In need of refining facilities and a sales organization, the consortium chartered the Gulf Refining Company on November 10, 1901, and built a refinery at Port Arthur for the purposes of making the crude oil into a usable commodity.
Early products of the refining company included gasoline, kerosene and engine oil. In 1907, assets of the J.M. Guffey Petroleum and Gulf Refining Companies were merged into the Gulf Oil Corporation. At the end of 1910, Port Arthur was the company's lone refinery until a second was built in Fort Worth the following year.
Innovative production, refining and retailing techniques after World War I kept the company on solid economic footing. Expansion continued after World War II, and by 1955, Gulf Oil was the nation's largest producer of ethylene. By 1960, the Port Arthur facility was refining 270,000 barrels of crude oil per day into 600 different products.
Gulf Oil became part of Chevron in 1984. In 1995, Clark Refining took ownership of the Port Arthur plant, and in 2000, Clark's name was changed to Premcor. Upholding an excellent safety record, the Port Arthur refinery has been a significant factor in the city's development as a major petrochemical center.