Two pipelines that went in both directions up and down the river fed oil to the refinery for processing. Initially, the plant produced oil-based products, but by the 1930s the refinery had taken part in the growing gasoline business, producing the fuel for Keystone. The grandson of Fredrick Bannerot later said that:
“we practically had every mom-and-pop grocery store in the state with a Keystone pump out front.” 5
During the Second World War, the plant added a polymerization unit, and by the 1950s it was capable of producing explosives, plastics, and synthetic rubber.6 In 1952, Harry A. Logan sold his interests in the company to the South Penn Oil Company (later to be known as Pennzoil). At the refinery's peak, it was producing 5,000 barrels of crude oil a day processed by the plant's 160 employees. By 1965, Bannerot's son followed the same path of his father's former business partner and sold his interests to Pennzoil, giving complete control over the refinery to the larger company.
In the early 1980s, production at the refinery had dropped significantly to 500-600 barrels a day of crude oil. This drop in output, along with the hefty cost of $15-20 million in expenses related to modernizing, caused Pennzoil to close the refinery in 1982 and shift most of the production to their facility at Ashland, Kentucky. Robert Harper, a spokesman for Pennzoil, said this about closing the refinery:
“It really has to do with the fact that it’s a very old refinery, we had conducted a study to determine what it would cost to upgrade the refinery, and it's not feasible.”5
The plant's closure marked the beginning of a significant economic slide for the nearby town of Clendenin, leaving an industrial vacuum that still has not been filled.
Traveling to the town of Falling Rock today, one can see remnants of the Elk Refinery on the far side of the Elk River. With no work being done to preserve the site, all that remains is an area covered with a few abandoned buildings and debris. However, the most prominent feature is a smokestack that can be seen by drivers on Route 119 from the other side of the river. There is no nearby bridge to the old site. To access it requires traveling to Clendenin and then heading back down on the other side of Elk River to reach the former refinery site.