Hermes Consolidated Inc. does business as Wyoming Refining Company in Newcastle, Wyoming. As a petroleum refinery, Wyoming Refining produces approximately 12,500 barrels per day of butane, diesel fuel, jet fuel, fuel oil, gasoline and propane. At various times in its history the company was known as Gray Oil Company, Sioux Oil Company and Tesoro Crude Oil Company.
Wyoming Refining Company deals with environmental pollutants on an on-going basis. In 1997 they needed to install containment systems for hydrocarbons that were found in the groundwater. They installed additional systems to capture and reduce NAPL (non-aqueous phase liquids) as well. The upgrades were fully installed and operating by April 2005.
In order to address further environmental issues of lead and other wastes, including wastewater sludge, Wyoming Refining Company implemented a Boundary Control System. The system was put in place to address the same issues at three different sites and was fully operational by March 2009.
Clean Air Act Settlement
A settlement was reached on February 10, 2009, between the EPA and Wyoming Refining Company for violations at its Newcastle, Wyoming, refinery. The civil fine was $150,000, and another $14 million was agreed upon as expenditure to upgrade the refinery for better pollution control. The Clean Air Act compliance upgrades are to be in place by 2012.
The EPA is very serious about nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution that comes mainly from refineries because of the health effects, such as severe respiratory problems and childhood asthma, as well as smog and haze and other environmental effects. Wyoming Refining's new pollution control will result in less air contamination of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter.
Asbestos in Oil Refineries
In the greater part of the 20th century, in cases where extreme temperature or fire was a danger, various forms of asbestos were used as an insulator. Oil refineries like Wyoming Refining Company, as a result, were often made with materials containing asbestos. Resistance to reactive chemicals is one of the other properties of some kinds of asbestos. Floor and ceiling tiles, insulation, work surfaces, even protective garments, therefore, often were made with the fibrous mineral. The ironic thing about asbestos is that while it does a fine job of protecting lives and property from the harm associated with combustion or extreme heat - it is one of the most effective insulators known and has been used for the purpose for centuries - at the same time it poses significant risks to human health.
Most of the asbestos was the form called amosite. The brownish tint of amosite comes from iron molecules in its chemical composition; this also makes amosite resistant to acidic chemicals like those used in facilities like Wyoming Refining Company. Used for many years in the form of asbestos transite in chemical plants, oil refineries and laboratories throughout the country, amosite was finally prohibited from use as a construction material in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and laminated just like cement could. Generally, new items formed from transite were safe because the asbestos fibers were encapsulated in the transite. As transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) ages and become prone to crumbling, however, lethal, microscopic particles are able to flake off into the air. In other words, such asbestos is friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. Laboratory and chemical plant ovens also almost always were fabricated with friable asbestos in insulation linings.
Why Is Friable Asbestos a Problem?
When they are friable, asbestos fibers are easily released in the air. When someone inhales these particles, they can harm the lungs, resulting in asbestosis. In addition, exposure to asbestos is the leading causal factor of pleural mesothelioma, a rare but often deadly disease affecting the mesothelium, which is the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, which can occur if those tiny particles float in the air and fall on food or in beverages, may be the cause of pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.
Mounting pressure from medical researchers and news media resulted in regulations controlling how to use asbestos. However, when places like Wyoming Refining Company were first operating, the use of asbestos was much more common. Any asbestos that remains from that time can still pose a health hazard if people are not careful during demolition jobs.
A Ticking Bomb
Unlike typical job-related injuries, which are easily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, asbestos-related diseases may take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to develop. When a former employee starts showing signs such as a chronic cough and pain in the chest, his or her doctor may not at first identify asbestos as the culprit, leading to delays in diagnosis. Men and women who worked at or spent much time near plants such as Wyoming Refining Company therefore should tell their physicians about the chance of exposure to asbestos. Such information can assist doctors to make accurate diagnoses; especially with mesothelioma, the earlier it is caught, the higher the chances of survival or at least of enjoying an improved quality of life. The mesothelioma survival rate traditionally has been low, yet early diagnosis and consistent treatment such as mesothelioma radiation can improve the prognosis for this disease.
Department of Environmental Quality, State of Wyoming - Current Remediation Status: Wyoming Refining Company, Newcastle, Wyoming, June 1, 2009
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
US Environmental Protection Agency - Civil Enforcement, Wyoming Refining Clean Air Act Settlement
US Environmental Protection Agency - Compliance, Civil Enforcement, Wyoming Refining Co. Clean Air Act Information Sheet