Chevron's Pascagoula, Mississippi, refinery, constructed nearly 50 years ago, is the company's largest and one of the "top 10" refineries in the United States. Currently, this refinery processes 325,000 barrels per day.
Chevron was originally part of Standard Oil. In 1911, a progressive administration and Congress passed legislation that forced owner John D. Rockefeller and other corporate industrialists to divest themselves of many of their monopoly holdings. Chevron was one of seven companies that were the result of this breakup.
Since then, Chevron has had a poor environmental record around the world and has been charged with numerous human rights violations in Africa and South America. Currently, Chevron faces a potential judgment of $28 billion in a lawsuit filed by the government of Ecuador. Despite having recently posted profits in excess of $3 billion, Chevron has managed to legally avoid most of its tax liabilities in the United States.
About the Pascagoula Refinery
In a recent news article, Chevron has stated that it will be cutting back on refining capacity in the face of reduced demand and increased competition, but company officials have not yet stated how many of the 1,600 employees at the Pascagoula refinery will be affected.
Oil Refineries and Asbestos
If fire or extreme temperature was a danger, asbestos was the insulator preferred by builders in much of the 20th century. Plants such as Chevron's Pascagoula, Mississippi, refinery, therefore, were generally made using materials containing asbestos. Resistance to chemical reactions is perhaps a less well-known property of some forms of the fibrous mineral. Floor and ceiling tiles, insulation, counter tops, even protective uniforms, therefore, commonly were made with the fibrous mineral. And although the asbestos worked well in safeguarding against fire damage and in protecting people from high temperatures, the mineral also exposed people who used it or worked around it to serious health risks.
Amosite was often the variety of asbestos used in these locations. The brownish tint associated with amosite comes from iron in its chemical composition; this also causes amosite to be resistant to acidic substances like those produced in oil refineries. Although it was outlawed in building materials in the 1970s, amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, was utilized for decades in labs and oil refineries across the US.
Asbestos transite could be sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and molded into working surfaces just as cement could. As a rule, new items built with transite were considered safe since the asbestos fibers were trapped in the transite. Microscopic particles of asbestos enter into the atmosphere, however, as transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) gets older and becomes prone to becoming powdery. When it is in this state, it is said to be friable, which translates to easy to crush. The insulation lining of industrial kilns also often were fabricated with friable asbestos.
The Problem with Friable Asbestos
Asbestos fibers, when friable, are easily dispersed into the atmosphere. When someone inhales these particles, they can damage the lungs, causing asbestosis. In addition, exposure to asbestos is known to be the leading causal factor of pleural mesothelioma, a rare and often fatal cancer affecting the mesothelium, which is the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as can occur when the tiny fibers enter the air and settle on food or in drinks, may be the cause of pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.
In the last twenty years medical researchers have uncovered much information about the risks that accompany being exposed to asbestos, and as a result there are strict regulations controlling its use. When Chevron's Pascagoula, Mississippi, refinery was constructed, however, the use of asbestos was more common. Any asbestos remaining from then can yet pose danger if people are not careful during remodeling and demolition jobs.
A Time Bomb
Asbestos-related diseases, as opposed to typical work-related injuries, which are readily observed and known about immediately following the incident, can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to manifest. It can also be hard to diagnose asbestos-related disorders because their symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other, less serious conditions. Hence, it is extremely important for people who worked in or resided near oil refineries such as Chevron's Pascagoula, Mississippi, refinery to ask their health care professionals for mesothelioma information. Moreover, even people who commuted in the same cars with these people are also in danger, because unless strict safety measures, including the use of workplace-only clothing and on-site showers, were enforced, it was all too common for employees to bring particles of asbestos on themselves or their clothing. Occasionally, mesothelioma surgery may be available to better the prognosis of the disease for the patient.Sources
Associated Press - Chevron Plans to Cut Jobs at Refinery (Mississippi Business Journal, 20 January 2010)
Johnston, David C. - Perfectly Legal (New York: Penguin Group, 2003)
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
Wire - Chevron Refinery Standardizes on Primavera Enterprise Project Management Software Suite (Wire, 8 February 2000)