Marathon Oil Corporation’s refinery in Michigan is located in southwest Detroit, encompassing nearly 200 acres near I-75. It currently processes 106,000 barrels per day of crude oil. The only petroleum refinery in Michigan, the facility also produces gasoline, diesel and asphalt.
Marathon’s Detroit refinery opened in 1930. At the time, it was owned by Max Fisher and was under the operation of Aurora Gasoline Company. Marathon purchased the refinery in 1959 when it bought the Aurora Gasoline Company.
The organization was still known then as The Ohio Oil Company and didn’t change to its present day name until 1962, with the acquisition of Plymouth Oil Company and in celebration of its 75th anniversary. The company has since acquired businesses such as Pennaco Energy in 2001, as well as Russian oil franchise Khanty Mansiysk Oil Corporation in 2003; in 2007, it bought up Western Oil Sands, Inc.
The Detroit refinery is another facility owned by Marathon Oil that has received recognition for its efforts to protect the environment and the safety of its workers. It is, in fact, the first facility of any kind to obtain the RC 14001 certification by Responsible Care. This certification recognizes its commitment to health, environment and safety systems, as well as the quality of these.
In 2005, the Detroit refinery also undertook a $300 million project, not only to expand its processing capability, but also to meet the EPA’s Clean Fuels regulations. The expansion led to a 35 percent increase in processing ability, which now allows it to produce 1 million gallons more per day of low-sulfur gasoline. It is also Marathon’s third refinery to hold the VPP STAR status from OSHA.
Despite its environmental commitment, Marathon’s Detroit refinery is able to process a range of crude oils, including Canadian crude oil. It includes various operations such as crude fractionation, catalytic cracking, hydrotreating, reforming, sulfur recovery and alkylation. In addition to gasoline, end products include distillate, asphalt, slurry and chemical-grade propylene, as well as sulfur.
Asbestos and Oil Refineries
During almost all of the 20th century, whenever extreme temperature or flame was a danger, the mineral called asbestos was chosen as an insulator. Materials that contained asbestos, accordingly, were commonly used in the building of facilities like Marathon Oil Corporation’s refinery in Michigan. A lesser-known property of some kinds of asbestos is their resistance to chemical reactions. Floor tiles, insulation, bench tops, even protective garments, therefore, frequently were made with the fibrous mineral. There is little question that asbestos was superb at protecting against flames and high temperatures. This benefit, however, was accompanied by a tragic price in terms of human health.
Much of the asbestos was amosite. Often called “brown asbestos”, amosite is especially good at resisting corrosive chemicals like those produced in facilities like Marathon Oil Corporation’s refinery in Michigan because of the iron in its chemical makeup. Although it was prohibited from use for construction purposes in the 1970s, amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, appeared for many years in oil refineries, chemical plants and laboratories throughout the US.
Similar to cement, asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, laminated and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. This form of asbestos did not present a health hazard so long as it remained solid. However, as this transite got older, it became prone to crumbling, which caused the deadly, tiny particles to flake off into the atmosphere. Asbestos in this condition is called friable, or able to be pulverized by hand pressure alone. Laboratory kilns also often 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 are readily released in the environment. Medical conditions like asbestosis can result from breathing asbestos. In addition, exposure to asbestos is the primary causal factor of mesothelioma, a rare but all too often deadly cancer affecting the mesothelium, the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity. Pericardial and peritoneal mesothelioma are caused by the ingestion of fibers of asbestos, which can occur if the microscopic particles become airborne and settle on food or drinks.
During the past twenty years medical researchers have discovered a lot concerning the risks associated with asbestos exposure, and as a result there are stringent guidelines regulating its use. When plants such as Marathon Oil Corporation’s Michigan refinery were first operating, however, the use of asbestos was more prevalent. Any asbestos that remains from that time can still pose a health hazard if containment protocols are not observed during demolition and remodeling jobs.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is the resulting illnesses can take many, many years to manifest - frequently long after the worker has left the employer. The symptoms of mesothelioma and asbestosis - dyspnea and chronic coughing - may often be mistaken for the symptoms of other conditions. It is vital, therefore, that people who worked at or lived around plants such as Marathon Oil Corporation’s refinery in Michigan ask their physicians for mesothelioma information. Such information can enable doctors to make accurate diagnoses; especially with mesothelioma, the sooner it is caught, the better the odds of survival and utilizing treatments like mesothelioma surgery.Sources
Marathon Oil Corporation - 2008 Fact Book
Marathon Oil Corporation - Detroit, Michigan
Marathon Oil Corporation - History
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal