The Coastal Corporation, based in Houston, is a diversified energy company involved in refining and marketing, coal mining, natural-gas transmission, and exploration and production. The company has three United States refineries and one in Europe; owns coal mines in Utah and Kentucky; drills for oil and gas in the Rocky Mountains, Mid-Continent states, and overseas; maintains a pipeline in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and other western states; conducts United States and international marketing of crude oil and petroleum products; and produces agricultural chemicals and liquid carbon dioxide. Its ANR Freight and Trucking subsidiary handles regional and long-haul freight through 228 terminals in forty states. Operations range from the United States to Canada, Europe, and Aruba.
The company began in 1951, when Oscar S. Wyatt, Jr., established a small natural-gas-gathering business in Corpus Christi. Wyatt, who had spent summers working in the oilfields as a young man, received a mechanical-engineering degree from Texas A&M, worked for Kerr-McGee and Reed Roller Bit, and was a partner in independent oil company Wymore Oil before founding Coastal. In 1955 the firm became the Coastal States Gas Producing Company, engaged in collecting and distributing natural gas from the South Texas oilfields. In the early 1960s Coastal purchased the Sinclair Oil Corpus Christi refinery and pipeline network and established a subsidiary called Lo-Vaca Gathering to supply natural gas to Texas cities and utilities. When Lo-Vaca curtailed its gas supplies and raised prices during the energy crisis of the early 1970s, customers sued Coastal. Regulators ordered the subsidiary to refund $1.6 billion in 1977, and Coastal spun off Lo-Vaca as Valero Energy to finance the settlement.
Wyatt expanded the company through a series of deals. With acquisition of Rio Grande Valley Gas he obtained a small South Texas pipeline. In 1973 he succeeded in a hostile takeover of Colorado Interstate Gas and changed its name to Coastal States Gas Corporation. Coastal also acquired the low-sulfur Utah coal operations of Southern Utah Fuel and New England pipelines through Union Petroleum in 1973, and California refining through Pacific Refining in 1976. With the acquisition of Belcher Oil in 1977, the company entered Florida petroleum marketing and transportation. Wyatt also made money on a number of other takeover bids.
In 1980 the company adopted the name Coastal Corporation, and Wyatt formed Coastal International Limited, a Bermuda corporation. Raymond M. Holliday, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hughes Tool, became president of the firm in 1981, and in 1984 Wyatt developed a plan to move company headquarters from Houston to his South Texas Ranch in Duval County. In 1985 Coastal purchased American Natural Resources of Detroit in a hostile takeover but failed in a 1989 attempt to acquire Texas Eastern. By 1987 company net sales totalled over $113 million; reserves included 26 million barrels of oil and 848 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
Before the Gulf War in 1991, Wyatt attempted to trade Coastal's refining and marketing assets for regular supplies of crude oil from Iraq. With Coastal director and former Texas governor John B. Connally, Wyatt met with Saddam Hussein and flew twenty-one hostages out of Baghdad. Wyatt was later critical of Operation Desert Storm and was investigated for possible violation of the United States trade embargo.
By the 1990s Coastal's 20,000-mile pipeline network, including the Iroquois and Great Lakes pipeline, completed in 1991, and the Empire State Pipeline, completed in 1992, transported five billion cubic feet of natural gas daily. Coastal subsidiaries operated eight refineries, a fleet of tugs, tankers, and barges, and 962 convenience stores in thirty-three states. The company also sold Next Generation and Next Generation Plus diesel and unleaded auto fuels. Sales in 1991 totalled $9.549 billion.