With headquarters in Bakersfield, California, located at the southern end of the state's great Central Valley, the Kern Oil and Refining Company facility has a history going back nearly eight decades. The company's products consist of diesel and gasoline motor fuels, aviation fuel and solvents. The company's customer base is largely regional.
Since 1934, the refinery has grown from its original capacity of 1,400 barrels per day to its current output of 25,000 barrels per day. It is one of two small refineries in California that is not owned by one of the large multi-nationals and continues to operate under private ownership.
The facility was originally known as the El Tejon Oil and Refining Company. During the Second World War, it was taken over by Kreiger Oil Company and operated as Palos Verdes Estates. This was changed to Douglas Oil in 1945.
Over the next twenty years, the company came under ownership of Continental, Edgington Oil and Refining, and Signal Oil and Gas; in 1971 it was bought out by the Charter Oil Company of Florida. That corporation sold the plant to its current owner, who gave it the present name in 1982.
In 2007, a Connecticut-based corporation, NTR Acquisition Co., began the process of taking over the refinery but later terminated the agreement. The plant continues to operate under private ownership.
Kern Oil and Refining Company and Asbestos
Whenever heat or flame was a danger, the mineral called asbestos was the insulation preferred by builders for much of the 20th century. Facilities like Kern Oil and Refining Company, therefore, were usually built with materials that contained asbestos. In addition to being non-flammable as well as heat-proof, various types of amphibole asbestos are also especially impervious to chemical reactions. Given the type of work that goes on at oil refineries, asbestos, therefore, was not only used in plant structures, but also in safety garments, bench and counter tops and coating materials. There is no question that asbestos was superb at protecting against fire and heat. This benefit, however, was accompanied by a terrible cost in terms of human health.
Much of the asbestos was of the amosite variety. When it is mixed with chrysotile, which is impervious to heat and bases but not as resistant to acidic compounds, amosite creates materials that are particularly effective at preventing damage from corrosive chemicals. Used for many years in the form of asbestos-containing transite in labs, chemical plants and oil refineries throughout the country, amosite was finally disallowed for construction purposes in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite displayed qualities similar to cement; it could be laminated, molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. As long as asbestos transite was solid, this form of asbestos posed little risk. As this transite gets older and become prone to becoming powdery, however, deadly, tiny particles can flake off into the atmosphere. Asbestos in this state is called friable, which translates to easily crushed. Laboratory and chemical plant ovens also almost always were fabricated with friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad
When they are friable, asbestos particles are readily released into the environment. When a person inhales these particles, they can harm the lungs, causing asbestosis. In addition, exposure to asbestos has been shown to be the leading causal factor of mesothelioma, an unusual and often lethal cancer of the mesothelium, the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. When those airborne particles settle on food or in drinks and are subsequently swallowed, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma may occur, though they are rarer than pleural mesothelioma.
Since research yielded more awareness of the risks of asbestos exposure, people today benefit from the protection offered by stringent guidelines regulating how to use asbestos. The use of asbestos was much more common, however, when plants such as Kern Oil and Refining Company were constructed. And even now, asbestos from long ago may be the source of danger if it is released during demolition and remodeling projects.
The Time Bomb
Asbestos-related diseases, in contrast to most workplace injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, may take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to manifest. When a former employee begins developing signs such as chronic coughing, dyspnea and pain in the chest, his or her doctor might not at first identify asbestos exposure as the culprit, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment. It is vital, therefore, that folks that were employed by or lived near plants such as Kern Oil and Refining Company notify their physicians about the possibility of asbestos exposure. Such information can enable doctors make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the odds of survival or at least of enjoying an improved quality of life. Workers who could have been negligently exposed at a refinery should seek legal guidance from a mesothelioma attorney.Sources
Business Wire - NTR Acquisition Co. Announces Termination of Agreement to Acquire Kern Oil and Refining Co.
Kern Oil and Refining Co - About Us
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal