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Occidental Oil Co. Refinery

Occidental Oil Company, which also goes by the nickname Oxy, works in the field of oil and gas production and exploration across the globe. Major operations are centered in the United States, the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America. Key company activities include gathering, processing, transporting, storing and marketing crude oil and related materials.

Wholly owned subsidiaries of Occidental Oil include Glenn Springs Holdings, Inc. (which manages historical operational and environmental sites and leads health and environmental efforts for the organization) and OxyChem (which manufactures PVC resins and chlorine for water treatment chemicals, plastics and pharmaceuticals).

Occidental Locations in California

Occidental Oil Company operates in a number of locations within California, including Elk Hills (an oil and natural gas field), THUMS (an offshore drilling site), Tidelands (an oil and gas production contractor) and Vintage (a conglomeration of sites near Bakersfield and Ventura).

Occidental is also active in a lengthy list of international locations.

Company History

Occidental Oil Company was founded in 1920. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, the company focused on exploration of oil fields in California and across the ocean in Libya. A series of acquisitions in the 1980s made Occidental one of the largest petroleum companies in the United States, and in 1997, the company purchased the Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve, thus becoming the largest producer of natural gas in California. In 2000, Occidental acquired Altura Energy, thus propelling itself into position as the largest oil producer in the state of Texas.

Oil Refineries and Asbestos

In cases where combustion or extreme heat was a risk, the mineral called asbestos was the insulating material of choice during most of the last century. Asbestos-containing materials, accordingly, were commonly utilized in the construction of oil refineries like Occidental Oil Company. In addition to being fireproof and heat-proof, certain kinds of asbestos are also especially impervious to reactive chemicals. Because of this, asbestos was used in protective clothing, bench and counter tops and lab equipment. Asbestos, however, came with a notable downside that was not understood or at times deliberately ignored: debilitating and sometimes fatal diseases were caused by exposure to asbestos.

Amosite was frequently the type of asbestos utilized in these facilities. The brown color associated with amosite comes from iron molecules in its chemical makeup; this also causes amosite to be resistant to acidic substances like those used in plants like those owned by Occidental Oil Company. Used for decades in the form of asbestos transite in chemical plants, refineries and laboratories throughout the US, amosite was eventually outlawed as a construction material in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite had properties like cement; it could be laminated, sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and molded into working surfaces. This form of asbestos did not pose a health hazard as long as it stayed solid. Tiny particles of asbestos enter into the atmosphere, however, as asbestos-containing transite grows older and becomes prone to becoming powdery. In other words, such asbestos is friable, which is defined as easily pulverized. Laboratory kilns also frequently contained friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.

Why Is Friable Asbestos Dangerous?

When they are friable, asbestos fibers are easily dispersed in the environment. Breathing asbestos fibers can lead to conditions like cancer or asbestosis. In addition, asbestos exposure is the primary causal factor of pleural mesothelioma, an unusual but frequently lethal disease of the mesothelium, which is the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity. When the airborne particles settle on food or drinks and are then ingested, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma may occur, though they are rarer than pleural mesothelioma.

During the last twenty years scientists and researchers have uncovered much mesothelioma information and more about the risks associated with asbestos exposure; therefore there are stringent guidelines regulating its use. When places like Occidental Oil Company were built, however, asbestos was much more prevalent. Before present-day safety regulations were enacted, workers frequently labored without protective equipment in environments where asbestos dust filled the air.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

Unlike most workplace injuries, which are easily observed and known about soon after the incident, asbestos-related diseases can take many, many years to manifest. When a former worker starts exhibiting symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chronic coughing and chest pain, his or her physician might not immediately identify asbestos as the culprit, leading to a delay in diagnosis. Therefore, it is very important for everyone who worked in or resided around sites such as Occidental Oil Company to inform their health care professionals about the possibility of exposure to asbestos. Experimental ways to combat mesothelioma are being discovered, such as mesothelioma surgery, and early detection gives patients and their doctors the best chance to beat the previously deathly disease.

Sources

Sources

Funding Universe - Occidental Petroleum Corporation
http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Occidental-Petroleum-Corporation-Company-History.html

Grist - Oil Refineries are full of asbestos, not just carbon
http://www.grist.org/article/it-was-asbestos-times-it-was-the-worst-of-times

Oxy - Oil and Gas
http://www.oxy.com/About_Oxy/Pages/wwo_oil_gas.aspx

Oxy - What We Do
http://www.oxy.com/About_Oxy/Pages/what_we_do.aspx

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/ASB/acmimages3.html

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/HAZEXCEPTIONS/a.html

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