Marathon Oil Corporation’s Canton refinery is capable of converting 78,000 barrels of crude oil into a variety of products. These include gasoline and diesel fuels as well as kerosene, propane and sulfur asphalt. It also produces roofing flux and home heating oil in addition to #6 industrial fuel oil. Employing about 300 workers, the facility lies 60 miles southeast of Cleveland and 90 miles west of Pittsburgh.
The Canton refinery was built in 1931 by the Allegheny-Arrow Oil Company. In 1932, it closed during the Great Depression, but it reopened in 1936. It was sold to the Allied Oil Company in 1937, which owned and operated the refinery until 1948, when Ashland Oil Company acquired the facility next. Ashland expanded the refinery’s capabilities and product offerings. In 1998, it became a part of Marathon’s system when Ashland, Inc., and Marathon Oil Company became Marathon Ashland Petroleum, LLC.
Marathon Oil Corporation formed in 1887 and was known as The Ohio Oil Company. It became fully vested in the gasoline business in 1962, when it purchased Plymouth Oil Company. The oil and gas company is today the fourth-largest such United States-based company and produces 1,016,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, the company owns seven refineries throughout the country.
Like other Marathon Oil Corporation refineries, the Canton refinery has received notoriety for its dedication to safety and environmental awareness. Its performance and commitment to safety have been recognized by the National Petroleum Refiners Association. In addition, the EPA awarded the Energy STAR Award for 2006 to the facility, meaning that it actively operates based on excellent energy efficiency practices and is continuously seeking to improve on these.
In 2005, the Synthetic Chemical Manufacturers Association presented the Canton refinery with the Responsible Care Achievement Award. This award recognizes the fact that it meets several health, environmental and safety criteria.
Asbestos and Oil Refineries
For the majority of the 20th century, the mineral called asbestos was chosen as an insulator whenever fire or excessive heat was a concern. Therefore, it was typical for facilities like Marathon Oil Corporation’s Canton refinery to be constructed with materials made with asbestos. In addition to being flame-proof and temperature-resistant, various forms of asbestos are also particularly resistant to chemical reactions. As a result, asbestos was used in protective clothing, counter tops and lab equipment. And while the asbestos served its purpose well in safeguarding against the spread of fire and in protecting life and property from high temperatures, the mineral also exposed those same people to significant health risks.
Most of the asbestos was the form called amosite. Often referred to as “brown asbestos”, the amphibole form of asbestos known as amosite is especially resistant to acidic chemicals like those produced in facilities like Marathon Oil Corporation’s Canton refinery because of the iron molecules in its chemical composition. Used for decades in the form of asbestos transite in chemical plants, oil refineries and laboratories throughout the US, amosite was eventually banned as a construction material in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces and laminated just like cement could. Generally, new items made with transite were considered safe since the asbestos fibers were trapped in the transite. However, when transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) aged, it became prone to becoming powdery, which caused the lethal, tiny particles to flake off into the air. Asbestos when it is in this condition is considered friable, or able to be pulverized by hand pressure alone. Also, laboratory ovens frequently contained friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem
Friable asbestos is a problem because in this condition the fibers are easily released in the air. Medical conditions like asbestosis and cancer can result from being exposed to airborne asbestos. In addition, asbestos exposure is known to be the leading causal factor of pleural mesothelioma, a rare but almost always lethal cancer of the mesothelium, which is the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma are caused by swallowing fibers of asbestos, which can occur if microscopic particles become airborne and settle on food or in drinks.
Increased pressure from citizen groups and researchers resulted in laws regulating how to use asbestos. However, when plants such as Marathon Oil Corporation’s Canton refinery were constructed, the use of asbestos was more commonplace. Any asbestos that remains from that time can yet pose danger if people are not careful during remodeling projects.
A Time Bomb
One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is the associated illnesses can take many, many years to develop - frequently long after a worker has retired from the employer. With such a lag time between exposure to asbestos and the appearance of the resulting disease, the worker may not connect his or her current health problem with work done 10 or more years ago. Therefore, it is vital for all who worked at or resided near sites such as Marathon Oil Corporation’s Canton refinery to ask their physicians for a mesothelioma treatment guide. New methods for treating mesothelioma are being developed, and a mesothelioma cure could be developed. Still, early detection provides the patient the best chance to combat the previously deathly form of cancer.Sources
Marathon Oil Company - Canton, Ohio
Marathon Oil Company - Corporate Fact Sheet
Marathon Oil Company - History
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal