Oil was discovered in northwest Ohio in 1885, and it wasn't long before John D. Rockefeller had a refinery built in the area. Standard Oil owned the refinery until British Petroleum (BP) bought out Sohio in 1987. When BP owned the plant, it was known as one of the biggest polluters in Ohio, according to the Ohio Public Interest Campaign in November 1988.
Chain of ownership
BP was on the verge of shutting the plant down when Clark USA, started by founder Emory Clark in 1932 as a chain of gas stations, acquired the plant in 1998. It was producing 161,500 barrels of oil per day at time of purchase, and Clark USA boosted its refining operations by 50 percent. Clark bought the BP refinery in Lima, Ohio, for $175 million, plus $80 million for inventory.
In 1999, Clark USA quit the retail gasoline business and sold off the Clark brand. It renamed itself Premcor in 2000. In 2005, Premcor was acquired by Valero Energy of San Antonio, Texas. In the second quarter of 2007, Canada-based Husky Energy bought the Lima plant for $1.9 billion. Operating as the Lima Refinery Company, it's the 48th-largest oil refinery in the United States. The plant now employs 580 people and has manufacturing capacity of 160,000 barrels of crude oil per day. It produces about 2 billion gallons of refined petroleum products each year, 25 percent of which is consumed in the state of Ohio.
In 1992, Allied Environmental Services of Lima secured an exclusive long-term contract to provide asbestos inspection and abatement services to the Lima Petroleum Refinery. Allied still maintains this contract.
In a 2003 SEC filing, Premcor noted contamination at the Lima site, "which we believe will be required to be remediated." It said it stood a chance of becoming financially liable for site cleanup - even if Premcor did not contribute to the contamination - if BP failed to perform the remediation.
Asbestos in Oil Refineries
If fire or extreme heat was a danger, various forms of asbestos were the insulator of choice during the majority of the last century. As a result, it was not uncommon for facilities like Clark Refining to be constructed with materials that contained asbestos. In addition to being temperature-resistant as well as non-flammable, some types of asbestos are also especially impervious to reactive chemicals. Ceiling tiles, insulation, counter tops, even protective garments, therefore, often contained the fibrous mineral. Asbestos, however, had a notable downside that was not known or at times deliberately ignored: grave and often fatal medical conditions were found to be the result of exposure to asbestos.
Generally, amosite was the type of asbestos utilized. Often called "brown asbestos", amosite is especially good at resisting acidic substances like those used in plants like Clark Refining because of the iron molecules in its chemical makeup. Used for many years in the form of asbestos transite in chemical plants, laboratories and oil refineries across the United States, amosite was finally outlawed in building materials in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, laminated and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes just as cement could. As long as asbestos transite was solid, this form of asbestos offered no immediate danger. As transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) grows older and become prone to crumbling, however, lethal, microscopic particles are able to float into the atmosphere. Asbestos in this condition is called friable, or able to be reduced to powder by hand pressure alone. Also, laboratory ovens almost always were fabricated with friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.
Why Is Friable Asbestos Bad?
Asbestos particles, when friable, are easily released in the atmosphere. Breathing asbestos particles can cause diseases such as asbestosis or cancer. Mesothelioma, an unusual but frequently fatal cancer affecting the mesothelium (the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity), has been shown to be linked with exposure to asbestos. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, which happens when the tiny particles become airborne and fall on food or drinks, may lead to peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.
Mounting pressure from medical scientists, the press and activist groups led to laws regulating the use of asbestos. When Clark Refining was first operating, however, asbestos was more prevalent. Any asbestos remaining from then may yet pose a health hazard if care is not taken during demolition and remodeling projects.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
Asbestos-related diseases, in contrast to many on-the-job injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, may take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to appear. When a former employee starts showing symptoms such as a chronic cough, dyspnea (i.e., shortness of breath) and pain in the chest, his or her physician may not immediately recognize asbestos as a factor, leading to delays in diagnosis. People that worked at or spent much time around plants like Clark Refining should, therefore, ask their doctors for a mesothelioma treatment guide. Moreover, all those who shared homes with these people are also at risk; unless strict safety measures, like the use of on-site showers, were enforced, it was all too common for personnel to bring asbestos fibers on their skin, in their hair, or on their clothes. A mesothelioma cure may one day be developed but palliative treatments are currently available.Sources
Allied Environmental Services - ASBESTOS SURVEY AND ABATEMENT
CCNMatthews Newswire - Husky Energy to Acquire Lima Refinery from Valero Energy Corporation
Husky Energy - Lima Refinery
The Lima (OH) News - Valero Buys Premcor Refinery
Multinational Monitor - BP: A Legacy of Apartheid, Pollution and Exploitation
Roughneck Chronicles - Premcor Refining Group
TravBuddy.com - Lima Vacation Guide
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
US Energy Information Administration - Genealogy Of Major U.S. Refiners
US Energy Information Administration - U.S. Refineries* Operable Capacity
US SEC - S-1/A SEC Filing, filed by PREMCOR INC on 1/23/2003