The Baton Rouge Refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is operated by ExxonMobil. This refinery first began processing crude in 1909 under the guidance of Standard Oil. Currently, this refining facility is the second-largest oil refinery in the United States and, as of 2007, has a capacity production of 503,000 barrels per day.
Expansion of the Baton Rouge Refinery has led to the facility occupying more than 2,000 acres of land. Approximately 1,300 ExxonMobil employees and an additional 1,000 contract employees work in the plant producing a wide range of products.
The Baton Rouge Refinery in Louisiana produces gasoline for cars, tractors and lawn equipment; diesel fuel for trucks, trains, boats, heat and power generators; jet fuel for civilian and military aircraft; gasoline for use in propeller aircraft; lubrication oils that are used in transmission fluids, engine oils and other equipment; petroleum coke that is used in furnace fuel and in anodes for the production of aluminum; liquefied petroleum gas that is used in heating, cooking, refrigeration, soldering and for other purposes; and feedstock for the production of other chemicals.
Rather than drawing on Baton Rouge's drinking water supply in order to operate the facility, ExxonMobil has converted two cooling towers used at the refinery to operate based on river water rather than ground water. Additionally, the facility has been honored for its safety performance by the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.
Asbestos and Baton Rouge Refinery
For the majority of the last century, when combustion or extreme temperature was a concern, various forms of asbestos were chosen as a building material. Asbestos-containing materials, accordingly, were commonly used when constructing oil refineries such as the Mobil Oil Baton Rouge Refinery. Resistance to chemical reactions is one of the other properties of certain forms of the fibrous mineral. As a result, asbestos was utilized in safety clothing, bench and counter tops and coating materials. And though the asbestos did well in safeguarding against fire damage and in protecting people from high temperatures, it also exposed people who used it or worked around it to significant health risks.
Most of this asbestos was amosite. Frequently referred to as "brown asbestos", amosite is particularly good at resisting acidic chemicals like those used in facilities like the Mobil Oil Baton Rouge Refinery because of the iron in its chemical composition. Although it was prohibited from use as a construction material in the 1970s, this amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, was utilized for decades in laboratories, chemical plants and oil refineries throughout the United States.
As with cement, asbestos transite could be sprayed onto ductwork and pipes, molded into working surfaces and laminated. Generally, new items built with transite were considered safe because the asbestos particles were encapsulated in the transite. Tiny fibers of asbestos are released into the air, however, as this transite grows older and becomes prone to becoming powdery. Asbestos when it is in this condition is called friable, which means easily crushed. Laboratory kilns also often contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.
The Dangers of Friable Asbestos
Friable asbestos is hazardous because in this form the fibers are easily released in the environment. Medical conditions such as cancer and asbestosis are known to result from inhaling asbestos. Mesothelioma, an unusual but often lethal cancer of the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity), has been shown to be linked with inhaling asbestos. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, which may occur when those tiny fibers become airborne and land on food or drinks, may be the cause of peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.
During the last twenty years medical researchers have learned a lot about the risks that accompany being exposed to asbestos, and as a result there are stringent rules controlling its use. Asbestos use was more common, however, when the Mobil Oil Baton Rouge Refinery was built. Any asbestos that remains from that period can still pose a health hazard if care is not taken during remodeling projects.
The Hidden Danger of Asbestos
Asbestos-related diseases, as opposed to many on-the-job injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, may take many, many years to manifest. It can also be hard to identify asbestos-related illnesses because the symptoms can be mistaken for those of other disorders. Accordingly, it is vital for folks who were employed by or lived around places like the Mobil Oil Baton Rouge Refinery to ask their doctors for mesothelioma information. Experimental drugs for treating mesothelioma are being discovered, and early detection provides the patient and his or her doctor the highest chance of beating the previously deathly disease with the use of treatments like mesothelioma surgery.Sources
Exxon Mobil - Baton Rouge Refinery Fact Sheet
Exxon Mobil - Baton Rouge Refinery Information
Louisiana Department of Natural Resources - Crude Oil Refinery Survey Report 2007
Louisiana Department of Natural Resources - Crude Oil Refineries Survey Reports
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal