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Asbestos was used heavily in oil refineries built in the 20th century. The material was suited for the high-heat environments of purifying crude oil, and it was widely utilized for its ability to withstand high temperatures, as well as its fireproofing qualities and durability.

Though asbestos isn’t found as abundantly on oil refinery sites today, workers may still be at risk of exposure from lingering use of asbestos in old buildings and machinery. With 164,959 people working in the oil refinery industry in 2016 alone, thousands may have been exposed during their time working at oil refinery jobsites across the United States. Exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.


Asbestos Use at Oil Refineries

Since petroleum is highly flammable, it was essential that fireproof materials were utilized on refinery sites. Asbestos was most commonly found in gaskets, fireproof clothing and other construction materials in oil refineries. Commonly used to seal pipes or other pieces of machinery, gaskets often contained asbestos because the mineral does not break down as quickly as other materials. When gaskets are removed for repair or otherwise disrupted, asbestos dust can be released into the air, exposing workers to hazardous airborne asbestos fibers. Gaskets stopped being produced with asbestos in 1980, but some oil refineries may have old pipes and machinery that still have these asbestos-containing parts.

Similar to chemical plants, asbestos was used in protective clothing to prevent workers from burns and other dangerous reactions. The mineral could also be found in cement, asbestos insulation and other refinery equipment to prevent fires that could easily occur when working with large amounts of oil. Although the mineral is fireproof, it is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a toxic substance. Since it is not banned entirely in the United States, thermal insulation and other structural asbestos materials may still be found in old buildings.

Below are oil refineries in the United States that have utilized asbestos and led to exposure:

Alabama
  • Coastal Mobile Refinery
  • Hunt Oil Company
  • Shell Chemical
  • Southern Cotton Oil Company
Alaska
  • Arco Chemical Company
  • Petro Star Company
  • Tesoro Alaska Company
  • Williams Alaska Petroleum
Arkansas
  • Berry Petroleum
  • Cross Oil
  • Lion Oil Company
  • Williams Energy
California
  • Anchor Refining
  • Arco Oil Refinery
  • Atlantic Richfield California
  • Bakersfield Refining Company
  • Chevron Oil
  • Equilon Enterprises Llc
  • Exxon Mobil Refining & Supply
  • Greka Energy
  • Huntway Refining
  • Kern County Refining, Inc.
  • Los Angeles Refining Company
  • Martinez Refining Company
  • Mobil Oil Refinery
  • Occidental Oil Company Refinery
  • Paramount Petroleum
  • San Joaquin Refining
  • Shell Oil Refinery – Martinez
  • Tosco Refining California
  • Ultramar Diamond California
  • Union Oil Company
  • Union Oil Cracking Plant
  • Union Oil Refinery
  • Union Oil Refinery – El Segundo
  • Union Oil Refinery – San Pedro
  • World Oil Lunday-Thagard Company
Colorado
  • Conoco Oil Refinery
  • Gary Williams Energy
  • Ultramar Diamond Colorado
Deleware
  • Delaware City Refinery
  • Motiva Enterprises Delaware
Georgia
  • Young Refining
Hawaii
  • Chevron Hawaii
  • Tesoro Hawaii
Illinois
  • Citgo Petroleum Illinois
  • Clark Illinois
  • Equilon Illinois
  • Marathon Oil Illinois
  • Mobil Oil Illinois
Indiana
  • BP Amoco Indiana
  • Countrymark Cooperative
  • Laketon Refining
Kansas
  • Farmland Industries
  • Frontier Oil Kansas
  • National Cooperative
Kentucky
  • Marathon Refinery Kentucky
  • Somerset Refinery
Louisiana
  • American International
  • BP Amoco Louisiana
  • Calcasieu Refining
  • Canal Refining
  • Cit-Con Oil
  • Citgo Refinery Louisiana
  • Conoco Refinery Louisiana
  • Convent Refinery
  • Exxon Louisiana
  • Marathon Refinery Louisiana
  • Mobil Oil Louisiana
  • Murphy Oil Louisiana
  • Norco Refining Company Louisiana
  • Orion Refining
  • Pennzoil Refinery Louisiana
  • Placid Refining
  • Shell Chemical Louisiana
  • Valero Energy Louisiana
Maryland
  • Crown Central Petroleum
Michigan
  • Marathon Refinery Michigan
Minnesota
  • Koch Petroleum Minnesota
  • Marathon Refinery Minnesota
Mississippi
  • Chevron Mississippi
  • Ergon Refining Mississippi
  • Southland Oil
Montana
  • Cenex Harvest States
  • Conoco Montana
  • Exxon Montana
  • Montana Refining
Nebraska
  • Philips Petroleum Fertilizer Plant
Nevada
  • Foreland Refining
New Jersey
  • Amerada-Hess New York
  • Tosco Refining New Jersey
  • Valero Energy New Jersey
New Mexico
  • Giant Refining New Mexico
  • Navajo Refining
North Dakota
  • BP Amoco North Dakota
Ohio
  • BP Amoco Ohio
  • Clark Refining Ohio
  • Marathon Ohio
  • Sunoco Ohio
Oklahoma
  • Conoco Oklahoma
  • Sinclair Oil Oklahoma
Oregon
  • Paramount Oil Refinery – Portland
Pennsylvania
  • Kendall Refining
  • Pennzoil
  • Sunoco Pennsylvania
  • Sunoco Philadelphia
  • Tosco Pennsylvania
  • United Refining
Texas
  • AGE Refining
  • BP Amoco
  • Chevron
  • Citgo
  • Clark Refining
  • Coastal Refining
  • Exxon
  • Fina Oil
  • Koch
  • Lyondell-Citgo
  • Marathon
  • Mobil Oil Texas
  • Motiva Enterprises
  • Phillips Pride Refining
  • Port Arthur
  • Shell Deer Park Refining
  • Specified Fuels
  • Ultramar Diamond
  • Valero Energy
Utah
  • BP Amoco Utah
  • Chevron Utah
  • Inland Refining
  • Phillips Petroleum
  • Standard Oil Refining
Virginia
  • BP Amoco Virginia
  • Yorktown Refinery
Washington
  • Atlantic Richfield
  • Equilon
  • Puget Sound Refining Company
  • Shell Oil Refinery – Anacortes
  • Sound Refining
  • Tesoro West Coast
  • Tosco Refining
  • US Oil and Refining
West Virginia
  • Ergon – West Virginia
Wisconsin
  • Murphy Oil USA
Wyoming
  • Frontier
  • Little America Refining
  • Sinclair Oil
  • Standard Oil Refinery – Casper
  • Texaco Oil Refinery
  • Wyoming Refining

Oil Refinery Workers and Mesothelioma Risk

Engineers, boiler operators, machine operators and maintenance workers all may be exposed to dangerous asbestos while on the job. When asbestos products break down and asbestos dust is released into the air, the fibers that are inhaled may cause mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses. In 1968, researchers found that 90% of oil refinery workers came into contact with asbestos, whether it was directly or from secondary exposure, which leaves them at high risk of developing mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set laws and regulations to protect workers from exposure, such as requiring that a jobsite be assessed and monitored for asbestos particles prior to trained professionals working in the area, and that respirators be worn in areas of concern. Laws are also in place to prevent workers from wearing asbestos-containing protective equipment and clothing, further protecting them from risk of exposure.

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