Located in St. Paul Park, a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Marathon Oil Corporation’s Minnesota refinery was built in 1939 by Northwestern Refining. It is in close proximity to the Mississippi River and processes crude oil from the United States as well as Canada. With a capacity of 74,000 barrels per day, its gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, kerosene, propane and asphalt products are sold at Marathon’s SuperAmerica retail outlets.
The St. Paul Park refinery, operating since 1939, was purchased by Ashland Petroleum Company in 1970. The facility became fully owned by Marathon in 2005. In 1998, Marathon and Ashland, Inc. entered a joint venture and formed Marathon Ashland Petroleum, LLC. This combined both of their refining, marketing and transportation businesses. In the same year, Marathon also acquired Tarragon Oil and Gas, Ltd., adding Canadian assets to its empire.
Marathon Oil Corporation, founded as The Ohio Oil Company in 1887, is now the fourth-largest US oil and gas company, producing 1,016,000 barrels per day of crude oil. The company has acquired many other business including Pennaco Energy in 2001 and Western Oil Sands, Inc., in 2007. It also became a subsidiary of United States Steel Corporation, now USX Corporation, in 1982.
Like other Marathon refineries, the St. Paul Park refinery has been awarded for its commitment to safety and the environment. These include:
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Certificate of Commendation for the facility’s wastewater treatment operations.
- National Petroleum Refiners’ Association Gold Award. This recognizes the facility’s safety excellence between 1997 and 2004.
- Meritorious Governor’s Safety Award. In 2005, the Minnesota Safety Council awarded the refinery for excellence in workplace safety and health.
The Minnesota refinery also sponsors a wildlife habitat, known as Prairie Park Restoration, which protects native animal and plant life in the state.
Marathon Oil Corporation’s Minnesota Refinery and Asbestos
During most of the last century, various forms of asbestos were chosen as insulation in cases where flames or extreme heat was a danger. Materials that contained asbestos, accordingly, were frequently utilized in the building of petroleum processing plants such as Marathon Oil Corporation’s Minnesota refinery. Another property of certain types of asbestos is their resistance to chemical reactions. Due to the kind of work that goes on in oil refineries, asbestos, therefore, was not only used in factory buildings, but also in lab equipment, protective clothes and benches. And while the asbestos worked well in preventing fire damage and in protecting life and property from extreme temperatures, the mineral also exposed those same people to significant health risks.
Much of the asbestos was of the amosite variety. Often called “brown asbestos”, amosite is especially good at resisting acidic substances like those manufactured in facilities like Marathon Oil Corporation’s Minnesota refinery because of the iron molecules in its chemical composition. This amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, appeared in chemical plants and laboratories throughout the United States for many years before it was outlawed for construction purposes in the 1970s.
Similar to cement, asbestos transite could be laminated, molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork. As a rule, new items formed from transite were considered innocuous because the asbestos fibers were encapsulated in the transite. However, as this transite got older, it was prone to crumbling, which caused the deadly, tiny particles to float into the atmosphere. In this state, it is considered friable, a term that is used for materials that are easy to crush. Laboratory and chemical plant ovens also almost always contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem
Friable asbestos is dangerous since in this state the fibers are readily released in the atmosphere. If someone inhales these particles, they can harm the lungs, resulting in asbestosis. Pleural mesothelioma, a rare and almost always deadly cancer of the mesothelium (the lining between the lungs and the pleural cavity), is strongly linked with asbestos exposure. Pericardial and peritoneal mesothelioma are caused by swallowing asbestos fibers, which can occur if microscopic particles are released into the air and settle on food or in beverages.
Since research resulted in more understanding of asbestos’ serious effects on human health, workers today benefit from the protection offered by stringent regulations controlling the use of asbestos. When facilities such as Marathon Oil Corporation’s Minnesota refinery were constructed, however, the use of asbestos was more common. And in all too many instances workers used asbestos-containing materials when they did not have the protection of respirators.
The Ticking Bomb
In contrast to many job-related injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the incident, asbestos-related illnesses can take many, many years to appear. With such a lag between exposure and the manifestation of symptoms, the worker may not even connect his or her current condition with work done 10 or more years ago. It is vital, therefore, that people that worked at or lived near plants like Marathon Oil Corporation’s Minnesota refinery ask their doctors for mesothelioma information. Such information can assist doctors to make accurate diagnoses; especially with mesothelioma, the sooner the diagnosis, the higher the odds of survival and being able to recieve treatments such as mesothelioma surgery.Sources
Marathon Oil Corporation - 2008 Fact Book
Marathon Oil Corporation -History
Marathon Oil Corporation - St. Paul Park, Minnesota
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal