The Portland Gas and Coke Company is currently located in Portland, Oregon, and services Oregon and Southwest Washington under the business name NW Natural. As a supplier of energy, Portland Gas and Coke Company initially started out making gas by carbonating coal. As technology changed, so did the company, changing from coal-based gas to oil-based gas. Starting in 1956, natural gas started getting delivered via pipelines in the distribution chain, and today NW Natural is thriving as a natural gas supplier to communities in and around Oregon.
The History of Portland Gas and Coke Company
The Portland Gas and Coke Company was founded as the Portland Gas Light Company in 1859 by H. C. Leonard and Henry Green. As its name indicates, the company was originally formed to bring gas light to Portland, which it successfully did by 1860. In 1892 the company merged its east and west gas systems of Portland and changed the company name to Portland Gas Company.
As the company expanded from providing streetlights to supplying energy to home and businesses, it became Portland Gas and Coke Company in 1913. After another shift in the production and supply of energy, Portland Gas and Coke Company became NW Natural Gas Company in 1957. In 1997 it changed its name to NW Natural, and that is still how it operates today, providing energy to more than half a million customers.
Natural gas is less polluting than its predecessors of coal and oil. Although NW Natural has a reduced impact on the environment by using natural gas, it also offsets its carbon footprint through its program called Smart Energy. Customers are encouraged to participate by contributing a portion of their monthly gas bill to the program, which currently converts the greenhouse gas methane into a renewable energy resource called biogas.
Portland Gas and Coke Company operating as NW Natural claims to be committed to providing safe and reliable energy to its clients. They are involved with various community organizations and dedicated to addressing communal needs.
Portland Gas and Coke Co and Asbestos
During the majority of the last century, the mineral called asbestos was chosen as an insulator in cases where flames or excessive heat was a risk. Therefore, it was usual for chemical plants such as Portland Gas and Coke Company to be built with materials that contained asbestos. Along with being flame-proof and heat-proof, certain forms of amphibole asbestos are also especially resistant to reactive chemicals. As a result, asbestos was used in work surfaces, safety clothes and coating materials. There is no doubt that asbestos was great at protecting against flames and high temperatures. This ability, however, was accompanied by a horrible price in terms of human health.
For the most part, amosite was the kind of asbestos used. Amosite is one of the amphibole forms of the asbestos family of minerals and is generally considered more likely to cause health problems than the serpentine form. Although it was outlawed in building materials in the 1970s, this amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was used for many years in laboratories, oil refineries and chemical plants throughout the US.
Asbestos transite possessed properties similar to cement; it could be sprayed onto pipes and ductwork and laminated. As long as it remained solid, this form of asbestos posed almost no risk. With age, however, transite with asbestos-containing material (ACM) becomes prone to crumbling, allowing tiny particles to flake off into the atmosphere. That is, such asbestos is friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. The insulation lining of industrial kilns also often were fabricated with friable asbestos.
Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad
When friable, asbestos fibers are easily released into the environment. Diseases such as asbestosis and cancer are known to result from being exposed to airborne asbestos. Another rare, but generally deadly, asbestos-related disease is mesothelioma. The pleural form of the disease, one which attacks the tissue that lies between the lungs and the pleural cavity, is the most prevalent. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as happens if those tiny particles float in the air and fall on food or in drinks, may lead to pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.
In the past few decades scientists and researchers have uncovered much information about the risks associated with asbestos exposure; as a result there are stringent guidelines regulating its use. Asbestos use was much more commonplace, however, when Portland Gas and Coke Company was first operating. And in too many cases people worked with asbestos-containing materials when they did not have the protection of respirators or other safety gear.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
Asbestos cancer, in contrast to typical work-related injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the incident, can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to appear. When a former worker begins developing symptoms such as chronic coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath (also known as dyspnea), his or her physician may not at first identify asbestos as a cause, leading to a delay in diagnosis. Hence, it is vital for folks that worked at or lived near sites like Portland Gas and Coke Company to notify their doctors about the chance of asbestos exposure. Such information can assist physicians make accurate diagnoses; especially with mesothelioma, the sooner it is diagnosed, the higher the chances of survival or at least of improved quality of life.Sources
NW Natural - About Us, Company Overview
Salem Online History - Commerce, Local Businesses, Northwest Natural Gas Company
Smart Energy - About Climate Change, Biogas
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal