Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO /ˈɑːrk/ AR-koh) is an American oil company with operations in the United States, Indonesia, the North Sea, the South China Sea, and Mexico.[1] It has more than 1,300 gas stations in the western part of the United States,[2] and recently (as of 2017) five gas stations in northwestern Mexico.[3][4] ARCO was formed by the merger of East Coast–based Atlantic Refining and California-based Richfield Oil Corporation in 1966. A merger in 1969 brought in Sinclair Oil Corporation.[1] In the 1970s and 80s, ARCO was one of the largest companies in the world, consistently a top 20 company of the Fortune 500.[5] After its subsequent fracture in the late 1980s and early 90s, ARCO became a subsidiary of UK-based BP plc in 2000 through its BP West Coast Products LLC (BPWCP) affiliate.[6] On August 13, 2012, it was announced[7] that Tesoro would purchase ARCO and its refinery for $2.5 billion. However, the deal came under fire because of increasing fuel prices. Many activists urged state and federal regulators to block the sale because of concerns that it would reduce competition and could lead to higher fuel prices at ARCO stations (ARCO stations make up more than half of all stations with the lowest fuel prices in California).[8] On June 3, 2013,[9] BP sold ARCO and the Carson Refinery to Tesoro for $2.5 billion. BP sold its Southern California terminals (Vinvale, Colton, San Diego, Hathaway, and Hynes) to Tesoro Logistics LP, including the Carson Storage Facility. BP will continue to own the ampm brand and sell it to Tesoro for Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada. BP exclusively licensed the ARCO rights from Tesoro for Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.

Atlantic Richfield Company
Private (subsidiary of Marathon)
IndustryOil & Gas Extraction
Founded1966 (1966)
HeadquartersLa Palma, California, U.S.
Number of locations
Area served
United States
Key people
Robert Orville Anderson, founder
Gregory J. Goff, CEO of Andeavor
ParentBP (2000–2013)
Andeavor (2013–2018)
Marathon Petroleum (2018–present)

ARCO is known for its low-priced gasoline compared to other national brands, mainly because of an early 1980s decision to emphasize cost cutting (cash/debit-only policy) and alternative sources of income (ampm). ARCO is headquartered in La Palma, California.[10][11]

Tesoro was renamed Andeavor in 2017, and was acquired by Marathon Petroleum in 2018. Following the acquisition, Marathon hinted at keeping the ARCO brand name in Mexico as well as select US markets while rebranding the rest either as standard Marathon stations (for franchised locations) or Speedway locations (for company-owned locations); it is not known what will happen to the stations still owned by BP.[12]


  • The Atlantic Petroleum Storage Company's heritage dates back to 1866. It became part of the Standard Oil trust in 1874, but achieved independence again when Standard Oil was broken up in 1911.
  • In 1915, Atlantic opens its first gas station on Baum Boulevard in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • In 1917, First Richfield Oil Company of California gas station at Slauson and Central Avenues in Los Angeles, California. Richfield Oil Company of California logo is an Eagle trademark.
  • The Atlantic Refining Company was headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • In 1921, Sinclair Oil Company opens first modern service station in Chicago called "Greasing Palace No. 1". Sinclair gets into trouble with Teapot Dome scandal.
  • In 1966, Atlantic merges with the Richfield Oil Company of California. The first CEO was Robert Orville Anderson. The new company boasts a new trademark, a red diamond shape called the ARCO Spark designed by Bauhaus artist, designer, and architect Herbert Bayer.
  • Commercial oil exploration started in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in the 1960s and the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field, North America's largest oil field, was discovered on March 12, 1968, by Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) and Exxon with the well Prudhoe Bay State #1. Key employees with ARCO Alaska were Marvin Mangus John M. Sweet, and William D. Leake, chief project engineer for the Alaska pipeline. The Richfield Oil Company of California had purchased the drilling rights to the land where the discovery well was located. British Petroleum had drilling rights near the discovery well.
  • ARCO acquired Sinclair Oil Corporation in 1969, but later divested certain Sinclair assets during the mid-1970s, resulting in Sinclair returning as a private company.
  • In 1978, ARCO opened the first of its AMPM convenience stores in Southern California.
  • In 1987, ARCO Chemical Co. was taken public. Key figures included ARCO Chemical CEO Harold Sorgenti and ARCO Chemical CFO William Magee.

Presence in Southwest U.S.

ARCO once had a presence in the Southwestern U.S.—a stretch of Texas State Highway 225 east of Loop 610 in Houston, Texas, had an oil tank farm once painted with the ARCO logo. Lyondell-Citgo would rebrand the oil tanks in the 1980s. ARCO's global corporate headquarters were in the ARCO Plaza in Los Angeles at the corner of 5th and Flower Streets, the site of Richfield's former headquarters. ARCO's Oil & Gas division headquarters were in downtown Dallas, Texas. The headquarters' building was a 46-story office building designed by architect I.M. Pei, the ARCO Tower. ARCO closed the Dallas office and sold the building in the mid-1980s. Today, ARCO operates about 1,100 stations in five Western states: California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona.[14]


ARCO merged with Anaconda Copper Mining Company of Montana in 1977. Anaconda's holdings included the Berkeley Pit and the Anaconda, Montana Smelter. ARCO founder Robert Orville Anderson stated "he hoped Anaconda's resources and expertise would help him launch a major shale-oil venture, but that the world oil glut and the declining price of petroleum made shale oil moot".[15] The purchase turned out to be a regrettable decision for ARCO. A lack of experience with hard-rock mining and a sudden drop in the price of copper to below seventy cents a pound, the lowest in years, caused ARCO to suspend all operations in Butte, Montana. By 1983, only six years after acquiring rights to the "Richest Hill on Earth", the Berkeley Pit was completely idle. By 1986, some ARCO properties were sold to billionaire industrialist Dennis Washington, whose company, Montana Resources, operates a much smaller open-pit mine east of the defunct Berkeley Pit.


In 1985, the Atlantic brand was spun off for ARCO's East Coast stations as Atlantic Petroleum. Atlantic was acquired by Dutch trader John Deuss, who later sold it in 1988 to Sunoco. The ARCO brand is now used on the West Coast. ARCO specializes in discount gas by removing many frills, among them forcing prepayment for fuel, not accepting credit cards at most locations, and charging 35 cents[16] for the use of debit cards. In most locations, it is co-branded with ampm convenience stores, also a division of BP West Coast (ARCO introduced the AmPm concept in 1979).


ARCO financed EASTLUND in the beginning of the 1990s for High Auroral Active Research Project (HAARP Project). In March 1997, ARCO also leased almost all the gas stations of the (now) Santa Fe Springs, California based independent Thrifty Oil[17] group of 250 stations found throughout California[18] after a damaging price war which the independent Thrifty was unable to win.[19]


On April 18, 2000, ARCO was purchased by BP America and completely merged into BP operations. There were two exceptions due to FTC requirements: ARCO Alaska was sold by BP to Phillips Petroleum, and ARCO Pipe Line Company was acquired by TEPPCO, a subsidiary of Duke Energy. ARCO as a subsidiary no longer exists.

Over the course of 2004 and 2005, ARCO signs have been replaced. New signs still have the ARCO spark, but BP's Helios (BP's new white, yellow, and green "sunburst" mark named after the Greek Sun god, replacing the old British Petroleum shield mark)[20][21] is also located on the sign. A new tagline "ARCO—part of BP" has also appeared on some signs and advertisements. ARCO was known for sponsoring the ARCO Arena (now Sleep Train Arena) in Sacramento, California,[22] with a license fee of $750,000/year through 2007.[23]

Research Laboratory

For the last third of the 20th Century, ARCO operated a highly significant research and development center in Plano, Texas, on land purchased in 1964 by the Atlantic Refinery Company. [24]. Its golden age was arguably in the early to mid 1980s, when it was led by Robert L. Hirsch. A standout example of ARCO’s research at that time was the pioneering study on 4D seismic surveying by Robert Greaves and Terry Fulp. This consisted of repeated 3D seismic surveys which successfully mapped the effects of enhanced oil recovery processes as a function of time. [25] This work was recognized for its seminal importance over 20 years later by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.[26] Besides Greaves and Fulp, the laboratory produced a number of other distinguished alumni during this golden age, including scientists John Castagna, Michael Batzle, Geoffrey Dorn, and Marius Vassiliou. In later years the laboratory experienced significant contraction. It finally closed shortly after the 2000 acquisition of ARCO by BP.

Superfund site

ARCO is the responsible party (by its ownership of Anaconda Copper at the time operations were terminated) for the largest U.S. Superfund site—a site that takes in the towns of Butte and Anaconda, and 120 miles (190 km) of the Clark Fork River including Milltown Dam. The region's water and soil were polluted by a century of mining and smelting. Chemicals of concern include many heavy metals and arsenic. On 7 February 2008, the United States Environmental Protection Agency announced that prolonged litigation with ARCO ended when ARCO agreed to pay $187 million to finance natural resource restoration activities.[27] Anaconda still nominally exists, but only as a massive environmental liability for ARCO.

In the media

George Romero's 1978 film Dawn of the Dead features a zombie wearing a red baseball jersey that read "Bach's Arco Pitcairn".

The song "Storm", in Godspeed You Black Emperor's 2000 album Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven uses a field recording done at the Los Angeles Airport ARCO gas station.

Sacramento band CAKE recorded the song "Arco Arena", which was about the stadium in Sacramento that Arco had purchased naming rights to.

One of ARCO's former diesel-hydraulic switcher engines, numbered 6920, was briefly shown in There Goes A Train, and one of their tanker ships, the ARCO Sag River, was featured in There Goes A Boat.

Atlantic Richfield Co and its parent BP America agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by about 700 current and former residents of Yerington, Nevada, who lived near the Anaconda mine built in 1941. The company paid in Nevada up to $19.5M for settlement. EPA tested in 2009 wells and found that 79% of the wells north of mine had dangerous levels of uranium and/or arsenic.[28]

In September 2010, the staff of KCST-FM in Florence, Oregon noticed that the station's Emergency Alert System (EAS) equipment would repeatedly unmute as if receiving an incoming EAS message several times a week. During each event, which was relayed from KKNU in Springfield, the same commercial advertisement for ARCO/BP gasoline could be heard, along with the words "This test has been brought to you by ARCO". Further investigation by the primary station transmitting the commercial revealed that the spot had been produced using an audio clip of an actual EAS header which had been modified to lower the header's volume and presumably prevent it from triggering false positive alert reactions in EAS equipment. The spot was distributed nationally, and after it had once been identified as the source of the false EAS equipment trips, various stations around the country reported having had similar experiences. After a widespread notification by the Society of Broadcast Engineers was issued, ARCO's ad agency withdrew the commercial from airplay.[29][30]

See also


  1. "Atlantic Richfield Chemical and Oil (ARCO) (American oil company)". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  2. "Official About ARCO Page". ARCO. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  3. "Andeavor Marks First ARCO® Station in Mexico with Grand Opening Celebration". Andeavor. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  4. "Tiene Arco 5 gasolineras en México". Organización Nacional de Expendedores de Petróleo (Mexico). Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  5. "FORTUNE 500: 1984 Archive Full List 1-100". Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  6. "Legal information Archived 2013-03-23 at the Wayback Machine". ARCO. Retrieved on July 7, 2010.
  7. "BP sells Carson refinery, Arco retail to Tesoro". Los Angeles Times. 13 August 2012. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012.
  8. Ronald D. White (October 9, 2012). "Tesoro plan to buy Arco gets more scrutiny amid gas-price surge". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  9. "Tesoro Corporation Closes the Purchase of BP's Southern California Refining and Marketing Business". June 3, 2013.
  10. "B P West Coast Products LLC Company Profile". Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
  11. "Atlantic Richfield Company Inc Company Profile | D&B Hoovers". Retrieved 2019-05-25.
  12. Kress, Melissa (May 1, 2018). "How Marathon Petroleum & Andeavor Merger Will Create a Retail & Marketing Powerhouse". Convenience Store News.
  13. "Welcome to ARCO Online". ARCO. Retrieved on July 7, 2010. "ARCO, 515 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, California 90071-2256".
  14. Archived August 28, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  15. Arthur M. Louis research associate Rosalind Klein Berlin (1986-04-14). "The U.S. Business Hall of Fame". Fortune.
  16. "PayQuick - ARCO". Archived from the original on 2013-10-10. Retrieved 2013-10-10.
  17. Thrifty Oil Co.: gasoline retailer goes pump-to-pump with industry giants - Top 400 Private Awards | Los Angeles Business Journal | Find Articles at
  18. Archived October 18, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  19. Douglass, Elizabeth; Cohn, Gary (18 June 2005). "Refiners Maintain a Firm but Legal Grip on Supplies". The Los Angeles Times.
  20. SignResource Delivers Its 30,000th BP Helios Archived May 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  21. "Case Studies - BP and Corporate Greenwash". Archived from the original on 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  22. "ARCO Arena Naming Rights". Archived from the original on July 1, 2015.
  23. Duane W. Rockerbie. "The Economics of Professional Sports" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-07. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  25. Greaves, Robert, and Terrance J. Fulp (1987). Three-dimensional seismic monitoring of an enhanced oil recovery process. Geophysics Vol. 52, No. 9, 1175-1187.
  27. "Atlantic Richfield Company agrees to pay $187M for Montana Superfund Cleanup | Newsroom | US EPA". 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  28. Nevada residents win $19.5m settlement in toxic waste leak lawsuit The Guardian 7 November 2013
  29. "Arco Oil Radio Ads Include False EAS Header". Radio. September 9, 2010. Archived from the original on August 24, 2014.
  30. "ARCO Commercial Trips EAS Units (Society of Broadcast Engineers)". Radio. September 10, 2010.
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