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Paramount Oil Refinery - Portland

Paramount Oil was founded in 1930 and is headquartered in California. Its Portland, Oregon, refinery was sold in 2006 to Alon USA, a Texas-based corporation.

About the Facility

The former Paramount Oil Refinery in Portland, Oregon is located in the northwest industrial section of the city, just off US Highway 30 along the banks of the Willamette. The facility sits on a 42-acre lot and has a capacity of 12,000 barrels a day. Seventy percent of this output is used to produce asphalt, while the remainder is turned into fuel oil or naphtha, a petroleum product used for high-octane gasoline, lighter fluid and cleaning solvents.

Paramount Oil Refinery and Asbestos

If flame or heat was a risk, asbestos was the insulation of choice in most of the 1900s. Materials made with asbestos, accordingly, were commonly utilized in the construction of petrochemical processors like Paramount Oil Refinery. Along with being non-flammable as well as temperature-resistant, various kinds of amphibole asbestos are also especially impervious to reactive chemicals. Because of this, asbestos was used in coating materials, work surfaces and safety clothes. Asbestos, however, came with a notable downside that was either not understood or at times deliberately ignored: grave and sometimes lethal diseases were found to be the result of exposure to asbestos.

For the most part, amosite was the variety of asbestos utilized. The brown color of amosite comes from iron molecules in its chemical composition; this also causes amosite to be resistant to corrosive chemicals like those used in oil refineries. Although it was prohibited from use in building materials in the 1970s, this amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, appeared for many years in oil refineries, labs and chemical plants throughout the country.

Asbestos transite could be laminated and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork in the same way cement could. As long as asbestos transite remained solid, this form of asbestos posed almost no danger. However, as transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) aged, it became prone to becoming powdery, which enabled the deadly, tiny particles to flake off into the atmosphere. When it is in this state, it is considered friable, which means easy to crush. In addition, industrial kilns frequently were constructed with friable asbestos in insulation linings.

The Problem with Friable Asbestos

When they are friable, asbestos particles are readily dispersed into the atmosphere. Medical conditions such as asbestosis can result from being exposed to airborne asbestos. In addition, inhaling asbestos is known to be the leading causal factor of mesothelioma, an unusual and often lethal disease affecting the mesothelium, the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as may occur when those microscopic fibers become airborne and fall on food or in drinks, can lead to peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.

Because scientific inquiry resulted in increased understanding of asbestos' serious effects on human health, workers today benefit from the protection offered by strict guidelines regulating how to use asbestos. However, when places like Paramount Oil Refinery were built, asbestos was more commonplace. And even now, asbestos from the past can cause problems if it is mishandled during demolition projects.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is the resulting diseases may take many, many years to manifest - frequently long after the worker leaves the employer. The symptoms of asbestos-related diseases - a chronic cough, difficulty breathing and chest pain - can often be confused with those of other conditions. People who were employed by or lived around oil refineries such as Paramount Oil Refinery therefore should ask their physicians for a mesothelioma treatment guide. Furthermore, spouses and children of these people are also at risk, because unless effective decontamination policies, such as using workplace-only clothing and on-site showers, were enforced, it was all too easy for personnel to bring home particles of asbestos on their persons or their clothing. If caught early there is a chance the disease can be treated; early diagnosis is crucial as there is no mesothelioma cure.


Sources - Alon Buys Two Refineries in California, Oregon

Paramount Petroleum Corporate Website - About Us

Reuters - Alon USA Energy, Inc. Full Description

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal

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