Carlyle Group invests in Philly refinery

The Carlyle Group, the District-based private equity firm, announced last week that it is investing several hundred million dollars in a Sunoco oil refinery in Philadelphia. Carlyle managing director Rodney S. Cohen, 46, who is the point man on the deal, said he plans to tap into the vast reserves of U.S. oil and natural gas, which are available through new drilling technology, to turn the plant into a profitable, state-of-the-art facility.

Cohen talked to us after disclosing the deal:

Why did you get in the refining business?

Part of our premise is that there is a change going on in the United States right now, and it’s twofold. There is cheap natural gas available, and cheap natural gas reduces energy costs for those who can use natural gas in the refining process. For example, building a natural-gas-fired co-generation power plant would reduce the cost of running the refinery. There are also other natural-gas-based products that fit very well at this refinery.

We are also trying to change the [types of crude oil] that are used in the refinery as domestic production increases. For example, as with the Bakken oilfield in North Dakota, there is an opportunity to vastly increase the amount of domestic consumption and decrease our reliance on imported crudes.

Are there other advantages of using Bakken oil instead of North Sea crude or West African crude, where much of the Sunoco’s oil currently originates?

Although the price varies, Bakken crude tends to be cheaper than imported crudes.

Why didn’t Exxon or one of the big supermajors buy this refinery?

My own belief is that for most of the supermajors, oil exploration and production is more attractive. They may not perceive the same yield on a refinery investment as they would get from finding new reserves.

Do you need high gas prices to make money in this business?

The answer is no — not specifically. A refinery’s profits are dictated by the difference between its crude costs and the value of its refined products in a particular region, less its operating costs.

And he’s off

Justin Nicholson, 27, has a galloping business.

He quit Georgetown Law to start a thoroughbred horseracing syndicate six months ago called Ninety North Racing Stable, which is based in Bethesda.

He already has harnassed a stable of seven horses, which he keeps at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., which horseracing enthusiasts would recognize.

You can buy a share of one of Nicholson’s horses for as little $1,000, which can be just 2.5 percent of the animal’s value.

“The goal is to change the idea that it has to be the sport of kings,” said Nicholson, who worked at The Hudson Institute for a year. “We want to bring the sport to the average guy or gal.”

Nicholson has been around horses since the age of 8. The sport has been the passion of his father, who runs a successful real estate company called Bay Management, based in New York.

So far he has about 25 clients who have bought in for shares of horses, and accumulated a six-figure pool.

Car show

heatht@washpost.com

This is the all-electric MyCar, manufactured by McLean-based GreenTech Automotive, founded by Virginia Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe. At press time, McAuliffe — a former Democratic National Committee chairman — was planning to host his friend, former president Bill Clinton, as well as former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour at a July 6 ceremony at the GTA plant in Horn Lake, Miss. McAuliffe tells us the new company created more than 400 jobs. The base price for the new two-seater, all-electric, American-made vehicle is $15,000, but that can rise to $29,000 fully loaded. Depending on the battery pack, MyCar has a driving range between 50 and 115 miles on a full charge. The car uses a standard electrical outlet. The 376,000 square-foot facility in Horn Lake will produce 10,000 cars annually to start. A second plant is under construction in Tunica, Miss.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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