Asbestos Exposure at Oil Refineries

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Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor

Oil refineries convert crude oil, or petroleum, into refined products such as gasoline. Refineries used many asbestos products, including pipes, insulation and gaskets to provide heat and chemical resistance. Asbestos exposure caused many refinery workers to develop diseases, such as mesothelioma.

01. Asbestos Use at Oil Refineries

How Was Asbestos Used at Oil Refineries?

Asbestos was used for many years in petroleum refineries. Petroleum is highly flammable and can cause explosions. As such, oil refineries required use of fireproof materials. Asbestos provided heat and chemical resistance at refineries.

Asbestos could be found throughout oil refineries, oil ships and oil platform facilities. Common asbestos-containing products found at refineries include construction products, refinery equipment and flame-resistant materials.

Asbestos insulation, gaskets, valves and other asbestos-containing materials were also produced specifically for use in petroleum facilities.

Product Highlight: Asbestos Gaskets

Asbestos gaskets were especially common in oil refineries. Until 1980, gaskets often contained asbestos because the mineral does not break down quickly. Some oil refineries may have old pipes or machinery that still contain these asbestos parts.

When gaskets are disturbed or removed for repair, asbestos dust can be released into the air. This can expose workers to hazardous airborne asbestos fibers.

In addition to asbestos use in construction products and equipment, workers also faced exposure from protective clothing. Fireproof clothing, such as gloves, often contained asbestos to protect workers from burns and dangerous chemical reactions.

Although the mineral was useful to protect otherwise flammable materials, it is a dangerous carcinogen. The mineral is not banned entirely in the United States and old asbestos materials may still be in use. As a result, thermal insulation and other structural asbestos materials may still be found in old buildings.

Common Asbestos Products at Oil Refineries

Individuals risk exposure when working on or removing asbestos products. Oil refinery workers exposed to the airborne fibers are at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses, including lung cancer and mesothelioma cancer.

02. Notable Companies

Notable Companies That Used Asbestos in the Oil Industry

Many petroleum companies used asbestos products. This includes well-known, modern-day oil companies, such as Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil. However, they often did not manufacture these products.

Other asbestos companies produced products to sell to petroleum producers. This includes the A.W. Chesterton Company, Armstrong International, Owens Corning, Quigley Company and North American Refractories Company (NARCO).

A.W. Chesterton Company

A.W. Chesterton Company was founded in 1884 and continues to operate today. The company manufactured asbestos gaskets, seals and packing. Its asbestos products were used in many industries, including the petroleum industry.

Quick Facts
  • Years of Operation: 1884 – Present
  • Location: Groveland, Massachusetts

Asbestos began appearing in A.W. Chesterton products in the 1920s. Many of the company’s products included asbestos for heat resistance and chemical durability. This asbestos use ceased in the mid-1980s.

The company has been named in many lawsuits as an asbestos component manufacturer.


ExxonMobil was founded in 1999 through a merger of two oil companies. Exxon’s predecessors were Exxon (formerly Standard Oil Company of New Jersey) and Mobil (formerly Standard Oil Company of New York). Today, it is one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies.

Quick Facts
  • Years of Operation: 1999 – Present
  • Location: Irving, Texas

ExxonMobil’s predecessor companies can be traced back to 1870 with John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. As a result of this long history, ExxonMobil has inherited many asbestos lawsuits.

Asbestos exposure at ExxonMobil, or any of its predecessors, could have happened on oil ships, in shipyards or at refineries. These companies used asbestos in ship construction, building construction, refinery equipment and safety clothing.

Texaco, Inc.

Texaco, Inc., also known as The Texas Company, was founded in 1902 in Beaumont, Texas. It is a subsidiary of the Chevron Corporation, one of the world’s largest companies.

Quick Facts
  • Years of Operation: 1902 – Present
  • Location: San Ramon, California

Texaco, Inc. used asbestos products in its oil tankers and oil refineries. The company used asbestos to coat pipes, reinforce concrete, insulate refineries and provide a durable seal in gaskets.

As a result of this asbestos use, the company continues to face many asbestos lawsuits. It is often named as a defendant alongside product manufacturers such as A.W. Chesterton Company and Atlantic Richfield Corporation.

Other Oil Companies That Caused Exposure

Many petroleum producers used asbestos products. These products were often manufactured by other asbestos companies. As a result, there are many potential asbestos exposure sites related to the oil and gas industry.

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

  • Coastal Mobile Refinery
  • Hunt Oil Company
  • Shell Chemical
  • Southern Cotton Oil Company
  • Arco Chemical Company
  • Petro Star Company
  • Tesoro Alaska Company
  • Williams Alaska Petroleum
  • Berry Petroleum
  • Cross Oil
  • Lion Oil Company
  • Williams Energy
  • 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
  • Conoco Oil Refinery
  • Gary Williams Energy
  • Ultramar Diamond Colorado
  • Delaware City Refinery
  • Motiva Enterprises Delaware
  • Young Refining
  • Chevron Hawaii
  • Tesoro Hawaii
  • Citgo Petroleum Illinois
  • Clark Illinois
  • Equilon Illinois
  • Marathon Oil Illinois
  • Mobil Oil Illinois
  • BP Amoco Indiana
  • Countrymark Cooperative
  • Laketon Refining
  • Farmland Industries
  • Frontier Oil Kansas
  • National Cooperative
  • Marathon Refinery Kentucky
  • Somerset Refinery
  • 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
  • Crown Central Petroleum
  • Marathon Refinery Michigan
  • Koch Petroleum Minnesota
  • Marathon Refinery Minnesota
  • Chevron Mississippi
  • Ergon Refining Mississippi
  • Southland Oil
  • Cenex Harvest States
  • Conoco Montana
  • Exxon Montana
  • Montana Refining
  • Philips Petroleum Fertilizer Plant
  • 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
  • BP Amoco Ohio
  • Clark Refining Ohio
  • Marathon Ohio
  • Sunoco Ohio
  • Conoco Oklahoma
  • Sinclair Oil Oklahoma
  • Paramount Oil Refinery – Portland
  • Kendall Refining
  • Pennzoil
  • Sunoco Pennsylvania
  • Sunoco Philadelphia
  • Tosco Pennsylvania
  • United Refining
  • 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
  • BP Amoco Utah
  • Chevron Utah
  • Inland Refining
  • Phillips Petroleum
  • Standard Oil Refining
  • BP Amoco Virginia
  • Yorktown Refinery
  • 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
  • Murphy Oil USA
  • Frontier
  • Little America Refining
  • Sinclair Oil
  • Standard Oil Refinery – Casper
  • Texaco Oil Refinery
  • Wyoming Refining
03. Who Is at Risk?

Who Is at Risk of Exposure at Oil Refineries?

Individuals exposed to asbestos on the job are among the highest population at risk for mesothelioma.

A 1991 study reported 90% of oil refinery workers came into contact with asbestos.

When asbestos products break down, asbestos dust may be released into the air. Anyone in the area may inhale these fibers and risk asbestos-related illnesses.

This could include anyone who worked hands-on with asbestos-containing materials, such as welders, insulators, mechanics and pipefitters. However, industrial workers were not the only ones at risk for occupational asbestos exposure.

In one study, researchers examined asbestos disease incidence among maintenance workers in refineries. This study revealed between 96 and 100% of their mesothelioma cases were attributable to workplace asbestos exposure. The researchers also found 42 – 49% of lung cancer cases among the oil refinery maintenance workers were attributable to asbestos exposure.

Prolonged periods of work at refineries are more likely to lead to an asbestos-related disease. Various studies demonstrate this increased risk of asbestos illness, including:

  • A 2007 study found individuals who worked at a refinery for 10 or more years were twice as likely to develop an asbestos illness than employees who worked for one year.
  • A 2017 study of more than 200 industries found refinery workers had one of the highest malignant mesothelioma mortality rates.

Individuals working around asbestos may also unknowingly expose their loved ones and families to the mineral. Fibers can remain on their clothing and personal belongings, even after they have left an asbestos worksite. As a result, loved ones may experience secondary asbestos exposure.

Exposure of any kind can cause asbestos diseases, such as asbestosis or asbestos lung cancer.

To mitigate the risk of occupational exposure, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set laws and regulations to protect workers. This includes issuing protective equipment to employees working in areas with an asbestos concentration.

These laws typically center around safely handling and disposing of the mineral.

04. Asbestos Lawsuits

Asbestos Lawsuits and Compensation

Many individuals were exposed to asbestos by the oil industry. They may be able to receive compensation for diseases tied to exposure from asbestos companies.

Some companies have set up asbestos trust funds to compensate victims. If a company does not have a fund, asbestos victims may be able to pursue a lawsuit or mesothelioma settlement.

$25 Million Asbestos Verdict Against ExxonMobil

Rubert “Bert” Minton was a repair supervisor on commercial ships between 1966 and 1977. During this time, Minton worked on 17 Exxon oil tankers. There, it’s suspected Minton was exposed to asbestos in insulation, gaskets, seals and pumps.

As a result of this exposure, Minton developed mesothelioma. In 2009, Minton sued ExxonMobil. The judge ruled in Minton’s favor. The verdict award consisted of:

  • $12 million in compensatory damages
  • $12.5 million in punitive damages
  • $430,961 in medical expenses, plus interest

An experienced mesothelioma lawyer will often provide a free consultation to help victims figure out which legal option is right for their situation.