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Lyondell-Citgo

Citgo Petroleum has its US headquarters in Houston, Texas. The company refines and markets fuel, lubricants, petrochemicals and a variety of other industrial products.

Company History

Citgo Petroleum's roots date to the early part of the 20th century, but the name Citgo was not introduced until 1965. The company went through a number of changes in the 1980s, when it was purchased by Occidental Petroleum in 1982, then by The Southland Corporation in 1983. The company entered a relationship with PDVSA (of Venezuela) in 1986. PDVSA maintains a majority stake in the company.

In the News

In 2006, Citgo's Houston refinery made news when Venezuela, which previously owned 41.25 percent of the plant, sold its interest to its partner, Lyondell Chemical Company. The deal was completed for approximately $1.3 billion. Other potential buyers, including Chevron, Marathon, Conoco-Phillips and Tesoro, had also bid for the plant. Marathon had initially won with a bid of $20,000 per barrel of crude oil processing capacity. Shortly thereafter, however, Lyondell (a current partner) was given preferential treatment and was able to purchase the refinery for the price offered by Marathon.

In 2002, the Citgo Houston (Lyondell) refinery was ranked in the top 10 percent of the United States' worst-polluting companies. Its top-rated cancer risk was the use of benzene. It was also cited for significant use of mercury (though without cancer risk).

Oil Refineries and Asbestos

During the majority of the 1900s, asbestos was chosen as insulation when fire or temperature extremes were a danger. Materials that contained asbestos, therefore, were frequently utilized in the construction of oil refineries such as Citgo's Houston refinery. Resistance to chemical reactions is another property of various forms of the fibrous mineral. Floor tiles, insulation, counter tops, even protective uniforms, therefore, commonly were made with the fibrous mineral. Asbestos, however, had a notable downside that was either not understood or sometimes 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 used. The brown pigment of amosite comes from iron in its chemical makeup; this also causes amosite to be resistant to corrosive substances like those produced in oil refineries. This amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, appeared in laboratories, chemical plants and oil refineries across the US for decades before being outlawed as a construction material in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite could be sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and molded into working surfaces just as cement could. As long as asbestos transite was solid, this form of asbestos posed no immediate hazard. Microscopic particles of asbestos enter into the atmosphere, however, as asbestos-containing transite gets older and becomes prone to crumbling. In other words, such asbestos is friable, or able to be reduced to powder by hand pressure alone. Also, industrial ovens frequently were constructed with friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.

Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad

Friable asbestos is a problem because in this form the particles can be readily released in the air. If someone breathes these fibers, they can harm the lungs, causing cancer or asbestosis. Another rare, but generally deadly, asbestos-related disease is mesothelioma. The pleural form of the disease, one which affects the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity, is the most prevalent. Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma are linked to ingesting asbestos fibers, which is likely if microscopic particles become airborne and land on food or in drinks.

Because scientific inquiry led to more awareness of the risks of asbestos exposure, men and women today benefit from the protection offered by stringent regulations controlling the use of asbestos. The use of asbestos was much more prevalent, however, when plants such as Citgo's Houston refinery were first operating. Any asbestos remaining from then may still pose a health hazard if people are not careful during remodeling projects.

A Time Bomb

One of the insidious aspects of asbestos exposure is the associated diseases may take many, many years to appear - often decades after a worker has retired from the employer. It can also be difficult to identify asbestos-related illnesses since their symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other, less serious conditions. Accordingly, it is very important for all that were employed by or spent much time around places such as Citgo's Houston refinery to ask their doctors for a mesothelioma treatment guide. Experimental drugs for treating the cancer are being discovered in hopes to discover a mesothelioma cure, and early detection provides the patient the highest chance of overcoming the previously always-fatal form of cancer.

Sources

Sources

Citgo - Company History
http://www.citgo.com/AboutCITGO/CompanyHistory.jsp

Grist - Oil Refineries are full of asbestos, not just carbon
http://www.grist.org/article/it-was-asbestos-times-it-was-the-worst-of-times

Scorecard - Pollution Locator
http://www.scorecard.org/env-releases/facility.tcl?tri_id=77017LYNDL12000#major_chemical_releases

Venezuela Analysis - Venezuela Sells Citgo's Stake in Lyondell Refinery
http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/1890

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

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