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Standard Oil Refinery

The Amoco Refinery, formerly known as the Standard Oil Refinery, is an industrial oil refinery in the city of Casper, Wyoming. The facility first went into production in 1914 and continued uninterrupted until its final shutdown in 1991.

The name was changed to the Amoco Refinery in 1985 when the company's Amoco division took over retail branding for Standard Oil of Indiana.

The Site Today

The Standard Oil Refinery at Casper was once the largest refinery in the world. In 1922 it processed 1,350,000 barrels of crude and produced 615,000 gallons of gasoline per month.

Today, the site is an abandoned industrial hulk. While cleanup has removed most of the remaining structures, for most of the decade between its shutdown and first cleanup actions, the property consisted of a closed refinery, a tank farm, and a highly polluted lake owned by Amoco.

Environmental Impacts

Beginning in the 1990s, citizens' groups and environmental activist organizations mounted several investigations into the pollution at the refinery. These investigations found high levels of lead and hydrocarbons on grounds; in the adjacent lake, oil and grease, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, tetrachloroethylene and dichloroethylene were found in water and in sludge. Water samples from the lake showed low levels of chloroform and methyl-ethyl ketone.

Cleanup Efforts

A community organization called the Casper Community Facilitation Initiative gathered the parties involved, including Amoco and state and federal environmental regulators, and began a process of negotiating for cleanup and planning for the future of the site.

Some members of the citizens' group were understandably concerned with the health impacts of the pollution on the site, while local business leaders were interested in potential for redevelopment.

In June of 1996, a lawsuit was filed against Amoco because of the slow pace of the proceedings with the Casper Community Facilitation Initiative. A US District judge agreed with the claims in the suit and forced cleanup actions to commence.

Asbestos in the Standard Oil Refinery

For the majority of the 20th century, various forms of asbestos were chosen as an insulator whenever flames or extreme heat was a concern. As a result, it was typical for chemical plants like the Standard Oil Refinery in Casper to be constructed with materials made with asbestos. Along with being non-flammable as well as temperature-resistant, various kinds of asbestos are also especially impervious to reactive chemicals. As a result, asbestos was used in protective garments, coating materials and bench tops. One of the ironic things about asbestos is that while it does very well at guarding against the harm done by flames and heat - it is one of the best insulators known and has been used for this purpose throughout history - at the same time it poses serious risks to human health.

In general, amosite was the variety of asbestos utilized. Frequently called "brown asbestos", the amphibole form of asbestos known as amosite is particularly resistant to acidic chemicals like those produced in plants like the Casper Standard Oil Refinery because of the iron molecules in its chemical makeup. This amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was utilized in laboratories and oil refineries throughout the US for decades before being outlawed as a construction material in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite displayed qualities similar to cement; it could be molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork. This form of asbestos did not pose a health hazard as long as it stayed solid. Microscopic fibers of asbestos enter into the air, however, as asbestos-containing transite grows older and becomes prone to becoming powdery. Asbestos when it is in this state is considered friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. The insulation lining of laboratory kilns also frequently were constructed with friable asbestos.

Why Is Friable Asbestos Bad?

When they are friable, asbestos fibers are easily released into the atmosphere. Inhaling asbestos fibers can lead to conditions such as cancer. Mesothelioma, an unusual and almost always fatal disease of the mesothelium (the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity), has been shown to be linked with asbestos exposure. Pericardial and peritoneal mesothelioma are linked to ingesting asbestos fibers, which happens when microscopic particles become airborne and settle on food or in beverages.

Because research yielded a better understanding of asbestos' serious effects on human health, people today benefit from the protection offered by stringent rules controlling the use of asbestos. However, when facilities such as the Standard Oil Refinery in Casper were first operating, asbestos was much more prevalent. Before present-day safety regulations were put into place, workers frequently labored without respirators or other protective gear in spaces where asbestos dust filled the air.

The Time Bomb

Unlike many on-the-job injuries, which are readily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, asbestos cancer may take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to develop. It can also be hard to diagnose asbestos-related illnesses since the symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other, less serious disorders. It is extremely important, therefore, that people who worked in or spent much time near places such as Standard Oil's Casper Refinery tell their doctors about the chance of asbestos exposure. Moreover, spouses of these people are also in danger, because unless strict safety measures, such as using on-site uniforms and showers, were enforced, it was common for personnel to bring home asbestos on their persons or their clothes.

Sources

Sources

Kansas State University - Former Amoco Refinery, Casper, Wyoming
http://www.engg.ksu.edu/chsr/outreach/tosc/sites/casper.html

Trib.com - BP Amoco Timeline
http://trib.com/news/local/article_95dec472-b119-5f7d-8be3-740c6deaf8a1.html

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/ASB/acmimages3.html

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/HAZEXCEPTIONS/a.html

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