01. History of Asbestos Use
Atlantic Richfield Company History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1966 – present
- Location: La Palma, California
- Production: Oil
- Asbestos Trust: No
Atlantic Richfield Company, or ARCO, formed in 1966 through the merger of California-based Richfield Oil Corporation and Pennsylvania-based Atlantic Refining Company. The new company operated oil refineries and ships using the facilities and resources of its two predecessors.
The newly formed company inherited many facilities from its predecessors, some of which used asbestos. In particular, Atlantic Refining Company operated an oil facility in Port Arthur, Texas since the 1920s, prior to the establishment of ARCO. Workers at this refinery were exposed to asbestos, which ARCO assumed responsibility for after the merger.
The company used asbestos products to coat and seal high-heat pipes. ARCO incorporated various products from other asbestos companies into its ships and equipment, including insulation and packing. Third-party manufacturers included Garlock Sealing Technologies, among other companies.
Asbestos use was common in the oil industry. A 1968 study revealed 90% of oil refinery workers were exposed to the mineral.
In addition to refining oil for industrial and civilian use, ARCO also searched and drilled for oil. In 1968, the company discovered oil in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. After the discovery, ARCO expanded to Alaska and other areas. The company also acquired Sinclair Oil Corporation in 1969.
Until the 1980s, asbestos was used frequently by petroleum companies for its ability to withstand high-heat conditions.
The company’s success continued in the 1970s. ARCO helped develop the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and diversified its offering into the metal and coal mining industries. During this expansion, the company continued to use asbestos in its ships and refineries. Different jobsites and vessels used a variety of asbestos products.
For instance, ARCO’s Cherry Point Refinery used asbestos insulation. Court documents show asbestos insulation was installed on site in 1971, exposing workers to the mineral. This, along with asbestos use at other ARCO sites, resulted in asbestos-related claims several years later.
In 2000, ARCO was acquired by British Petroleum Amoco (BP Amoco). The acquisition made BP Amoco the second-largest oil company in the world. BP Amoco sold ARCO in 2013. ARCO changed ownership once more before merging in 2018 with Marathon Petroleum.
Today, ARCO is part of Marathon Petroleum. The company continues to be named in asbestos claims and still operates in the oil industry.
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02. Asbestos Products
Atlantic Richfield Company Asbestos Products
ARCO did not manufacture asbestos products. However, the company’s ships, machinery and refineries contained asbestos parts. These products were provided by other asbestos companies, including Metalclad Insulation Corporation and Garlock Sealing Technologies.
ARCO ships’ boilers, engines and pipes contained asbestos insulation. Oil pipelines were also constructed with asbestos to prevent corrosion and secure pipeline insulation.
Records indicate ARCO’s refineries also used asbestos. According to court documents, the company’s Cherry Point Refinery was linked to asbestos exposure in the early 1970s. Asbestos was used in these settings for heat resistance because oil is highly flammable.
ARCO machinery and equipment containing asbestos includes, but is not limited to:
- Oil machinery
- Oil refineries
03. Occupational Exposure
Atlantic Richfield Company and Occupational Exposure
The oil industry utilized asbestos in multiple applications. ARCO exposed employees to asbestos in its ships, refineries and machinery.
On ships, employees risked exposure when working in engine rooms or while performing maintenance. Engine rooms contained boilers, engines and pipes, all of which used asbestos insulation. The insulation was replaced frequently due to general wear, exposing workers to asbestos dust.
Pipefitters were also at high risk of asbestos exposure. Some pipes used in oil lines were coated with asbestos, and asbestos gaskets were commonly used to provide a tight seal. When workers serviced these parts, asbestos became airborne and exposed workers and others in proximity to the asbestos-containing products.
04. Asbestos Litigation
Asbestos Litigation Against Atlantic Richfield Company
ARCO’s asbestos use exposed workers across several industries. As a result, many former employees and their families have filed asbestos exposure claims against the company.
In one case, Darrow Tritt worked as a mechanic and maintenance man aboard ARCO ships for 23 years. Tritt’s work occurred largely in the ships’ engine rooms, where he worked directly with engines, boilers and heating systems.
This machinery required large amounts of asbestos insulation, which Tritt was responsible for removing and replacing. These actions put him in regular contact with asbestos fibers, which became airborne once disturbed.
This workplace exposure caused Tritt to develop an asbestos-related disease. Tritt filed claims against several asbestos companies, including his former employer, ARCO. To provide compensation for his medical bills and suffering, Tritt received an asbestos lawsuit settlement from ARCO.
Cases against ARCO continue to be filed. While many lawsuits have alleged exposure from ARCO’s ships, various claims have also focused on exposure at the company’s Port Arthur, Texas refinery.
Myra Burns filed a claim on behalf of her husband, Carl. Burns was exposed to asbestos at the Port Arthur refinery and later developed asbestos-related lung cancer. Several other asbestos companies were also mentioned in the claim, including Foster Wheeler, Texaco and Minnesota Mining.
Michael Haynes also filed a claim against multiple asbestos companies. In 1967, Haynes worked as a pipefitter at the Port Arthur refinery. He was diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer in 2017. Haynes’ claim included ARCO, Chevron USA and ExxonMobil.
The company has not established an asbestos trust fund to handle these claims. Successful claimants are paid with the company’s own funds.