Marathon Oil Corporation, the fourth-largest oil and gas company based in the United States, operates a 436,000-barrel-per-day capacity refinery in Garyville, Louisiana. Located midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the facility receives heavy sour crude oil. This oil stock is delivered via the Mississippi River as well as the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port.
The refinery is capable of producing 19.5 million gallons of transportation fuel each day. Its primary products are gasoline and distillate fuels, but the oil refinery also includes crude fractionation, catalytic cracking, coking, hydrotreating, sulfur recovery operations and more. In May 2009, the company invested in a $3.35 billion expansion project for the refinery, which increased oil production capacity by 180,000 barrels per day.
The Garyville refinery was completed in 1976. Marathon Oil Corporation, however, dates as far back as 1887, when it was founded as the Ohio Oil Company. It didn’t acquire its present-day name until 1962, in celebration of its 75th anniversary. The business grew through a history of acquisitions, notably that of Plymouth Oil Company in 1962, Pennaco Energy in 2001 and Khanty Mansiysk Oil Corporation in 2003. The Houston-based company is today the fifth-largest petroleum refiner in the country.
Marathon’s Garyville, Louisiana, refinery is designated as an OSHA Voluntary Protection Program STAR site and has been recognized on eight occasions with the Louisiana Governor’s award for Pollution Prevention, beginning in 1996. The refinery is also the only such facility that has been accepted into the EPA’s Voluntary Early Reduction Program for Air Toxics, under the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. The EPA has further recognized the refinery by accepting it into the National Waste Minimization Partnership Program.
Asbestos in Marathon Oil Corporation’ Garyville, Louisiana, Refinery
During most of the 20th century, whenever extreme temperature or fire was a concern, the mineral called asbestos was used as a building material. Materials that contained asbestos, therefore, were frequently utilized in the construction of plants like Marathon Oil Corporation’ Garyville, Louisiana, refinery. Resistance to chemical reactions is perhaps a less well-known property of some kinds of the fibrous mineral. Floor and ceiling tiles, insulation, counter tops, even protective garments, therefore, frequently were made with the fibrous mineral. There is no question that asbestos was excellent at protecting against extreme heat or fire. This benefit, however, came with a major cost in terms of human health.
In general, amosite was the kind of asbestos used. Frequently referred to as “brown asbestos”, the amphibole form of asbestos known as amosite is particularly resistant to acidic substances like those manufactured in facilities like the Marathon Oil Garyville refinery because of the iron in its chemical composition. This amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, appeared in chemical plants and oil refineries across the US for decades before being outlawed for construction purposes in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite could be laminated and molded into working surfaces in the same way cement could. This form of asbestos did not pose a health hazard so long as it was solid. With age, however, this transite grows prone to becoming powdery, enabling microscopic particles to flake off into the air. That is, such asbestos is friable, a term that is used for material that is easy to crush. Also, industrial kilns often were fabricated with friable asbestos in insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad
Friable asbestos is a problem since in this form the fibers can be readily released in the environment. If a person breathes these particles, they can harm the lungs, resulting in cancer. In addition, asbestos exposure is known to be the leading cause of mesothelioma, an unusual and almost always deadly disease of the mesothelium, which is the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. When those particles of asbestos in the air settle on food or drinks and are then ingested, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma may occur, though they are less common than pleural mesothelioma.
Increased pressure from news media, concerned citizens and medical scientists led to laws regulating how to use asbestos. However, when most oil refineries were constructed, the use of asbestos was much more prevalent. Before present-day laws were enacted, employees often labored without respirators or other protective gear in spaces where asbestos dust clouded the atmosphere.
The Lurking Danger of Asbestos
One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is the resulting illnesses may take many, many years to develop - often decades after a worker has left the employer. Given such a long time between exposure and the manifestation of symptoms, the worker might not even associate his or her current health problem with work he or she did decades earlier. Those who worked at or lived around plants like Marathon Oil Corporation’ Garyville, Louisiana, refinery should ask their physicians for mesothelioma information. Such information can help doctors make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma, the sooner it is diagnosed, the better the odds of eligibility for treatments like mesothelioma surgery.Sources
Marathon Oil Corporation - Corporate Fact Sheet
Marathon Oil Corporation - Garyville, Louisiana
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal