Resources for Patients and their Families

Chevron Hawaii

Chevron's Hawaiian refinery is located on the island of Oahu in the town of Kapolei, approximately five miles west of Honolulu. It is one of two refineries in this location. Currently, this facility has a capacity of 54,000 barrels per day.

About Chevron

The Chevron Corporation was one of several oil companies that were formed after the passage of anti-trust legislation in 1911 forced the breakup of Standard Oil. Although it is one of the most profitable US corporations (having recently posted earnings of over $3.1 billion), it has managed to avoid contributing to the US economy, evading tax liabilities through a series of complex pricing schemes, padded deductions and funds transfers.

About the Kapolei Refinery

This facility has been plagued with problems, partially due to typhoons and seismic disturbances. The plant was struck by a strong earthquake in October 2006 that interrupted electric power for several days. The year before, Chevron was assessed a fine for improper storage of toxic materials. The company is currently considering shutting down this refinery.

Chevron's Hawaiian Refinery and Asbestos

For the majority of the last century, when fire or extreme heat was a concern, the mineral called asbestos was selected as insulation. Therefore, it was usual for petrochemical processing plants like Chevron's Hawaiian refinery to be constructed with asbestos-containing materials. Along with being temperature-resistant as well as fireproof, various kinds of asbestos are also particularly impervious to reactive chemicals. Due to the type of work that occurs in oil refineries, asbestos, therefore, was not only used in plant structures, but also in safety clothing, coating materials and benches. And while the asbestos did well in safeguarding against the spread of fire and in protecting lives from excessive temperatures, it also exposed people who used it or worked around it to significant health risks.

For the most part, amosite was the type of asbestos utilized. When mixed with chrysotile, which is impervious to heat and bases but not as resistant to acids, the amphibole amosite creates products that are particularly good at preventing damage from corrosive chemicals. Although it was disallowed in building materials in the 1970s, amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was used for many years in chemical plants and refineries across the United States.

Like cement, asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, laminated and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. This form of asbestos did not pose a health hazard so long as it was solid. With age, however, asbestos-containing transite grows prone to becoming powdery, allowing microscopic fibers to float into the air. In this state, it is said to be friable, a term that is used for material that is easily crushed. The insulation lining of laboratory kilns also often were fabricated with friable asbestos.

Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem

When friable, asbestos particles are easily released in the air. If a person breathes these particles, they can damage the lungs, resulting in asbestosis. Another rare, and generally deadly, disease caused by asbestos is mesothelioma. The pleural variety of mesothelioma, which affects the lining between the lungs and the pleural cavity, is the most common. When the particles of asbestos in the air settle on food or drinks and are subsequently swallowed, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma can occur, though they are less common than pleural mesothelioma.

In the past few decades scientists and researchers have uncovered a lot about the risks that accompany being exposed to asbestos; as a result there are stringent guidelines regulating its use. However, when most oil refineries were constructed, the use of asbestos was more commonplace. Before present-day safety regulations were put into place, employees frequently toiled without protective equipment in environments where asbestos dust filled the air.

The Lurking Hazard of Asbestos

Asbestos-related diseases, unlike most workplace injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the incident, can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to develop. When a worker begins showing symptoms such as chronic coughing, shortness of breath and pain in the chest, his or her doctor might not immediately recognize asbestos exposure as a factor, leading to a delay in diagnosis. People that worked in or lived near plants like Chevron's Hawaiian refinery should therefore ask their doctors for mesothelioma information. Such information can enable doctors to make accurate diagnoses; especially with mesothelioma, the earlier it is diagnosed, the higher the odds of survival or at least chance for treatments such as mesothelioma surgery.



Johnston, David C. - Perfectly Legal (New York: Penguin Group, 2003)

Pelly, Scott - Amazon Crude (60 Minutes (television broadcast) Columbia Broadcast Company, 3 May 2009)

Seba, Erwin - Chevron Weighs In Shutting Hawaii Refinery (Forbes, 14 May 2009)

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal

Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog



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