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Giant Refining New Mexico

Giant Industries operates two refineries in New Mexico. There is an 880-acre refinery near Gallup, New Mexico, and a 285-acre facility near Farmington. Together, their crude output is about 40,000 barrels a day. Raw material is supplied primarily from the local Four Corners area, with supplements sometimes used from elsewhere. Giant Industries was acquired by Western Refining, headquartered in El Paso, Texas, in 2007.

Both refineries produce gasoline, diesel, propane, butane and heavy fuel oils. The crude oil that is derived from the local area is collected using a pipeline network or delivered by truck to pipeline injection points or refinery tank systems. While the Gallup facility includes an isomerization unit to boost high-octane gasoline production, both are capable of crude distillation, hydrotreating for naphtha and distillate, fluid catalytic cracking and reforming for high-octane gasoline production.

Environmental Impact

Little information is available on the environmental impact of Giant Industry’s operations, although the website does list a series of Material Safety Data Sheets. The presence of these details suggests the company is promoting awareness of the potential hazards its products pose. These include documents on gasoline, butane, sulfur, various fuel oils, propane and various kinds of asphalt.

The EPA data from near the Gallup site shows that a major cancer risk from inhaled substances is 0.03 chances per million. Infant mortality risks are slightly higher in this area than the state and the United States, with 9.72 per 1000 live births, which nationwide are 6.8 per 1000 births. Data for the Farmington site is very similar. On its website, the company mentions its efforts and man-power devoted to ensuring its facilities meet federal and state standards for the environment.

Giant Industries Refineries in New Mexico and Asbestos

During the majority of the 1900s, in cases where heat or fire was a risk, various forms of asbestos were chosen as a building material. Materials that contained asbestos, therefore, were commonly utilized when erecting petroleum processing plants such as Giant Industries refineries in New Mexico. Resistance to reactive chemicals is another property of various types of amphibole asbestos. Because of this, asbestos was utilized in protective clothing, bench tops and lab equipment. There is little doubt that asbestos was excellent at safeguarding against extreme heat or flames. This ability, however, came with a major price in terms of human health.

Generally, amosite was the kind of asbestos used. When mixed with chrysotile, which is impervious to heat and bases but not as resistant to acidic compounds, the amphibole amosite creates materials that are particularly effective at preventing damage from corrosive chemicals. Used for many years in the form of asbestos transite in laboratories, chemical plants and refineries throughout the country, amosite was eventually outlawed for construction purposes in the 1970s.

Similar to cement, asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, laminated and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork. This form of asbestos did not present a health risk as long as it remained solid. Tiny fibers of asbestos are released into the air, however, as asbestos-containing transite grows older and becomes prone to crumbling. In other words, such asbestos is friable, a term that is used to describe materials that are easily pulverized. Industrial ovens also often contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.

Why Is Friable Asbestos a Problem?

Friable asbestos is a problem since in this condition the fibers can be readily released into the air. Breathing asbestos fibers can result in conditions such as cancer. In addition, asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, an unusual and often deadly disease of the mesothelium, the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity. If the particles of asbestos in the air land on food or in drinks and are subsequently swallowed, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma can result, though they are less common than pleural mesothelioma.

Mounting pressure from medical scientists and citizen groups forced the creation of rules controlling the use of asbestos. However, when facilities such as Giant Industries refineries in New Mexico were built, the use of asbestos was more common. And even now, asbestos from long ago may be the source of problems if it is released during demolition and remodeling jobs.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

Asbestos-related diseases, unlike many on-the-job injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, can take many, many years to develop. With such a lag time between exposure and the manifestation of symptoms, the worker might not even associate the current condition with work done up to 40 years ago. Men and women who were employed by or lived around plants like Giant Industries refineries in New Mexico therefore should ask their doctors for a mesothelioma treatment guide. Furthermore, all those who shared homes with these people are also at risk; unless effective decontamination policies, such as using on-site uniforms and showers, were followed, it was all too easy for workers to bring asbestos fibers on themselves or their clothing. A mesothelioma cure could one day be developed but currently only palliative treatments are available.

Sources

Sources

EPA - MyEnvironment, Sites Reporting to EPA near Gallup, NM
http://www.epa.gov/myenv/MYENVIEW.results2?pQuery=&minx=-108.76928&miny=35.51211&maxx=-108.71778&maxy=35.54354&mw=750&mh=290&ve=14,35.52784,-108.74356&pText=Gallup,%20NM

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/ASB/acmimages3.html

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/HAZEXCEPTIONS/a.html

Western Refining
http://www.giant.com

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