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Puget Sound Refining Company

The Puget Sound Refining Company's oil refinery was founded as a Texaco facility in 1958. The refinery is located on March Point near Anacortes, Washington. It was in 1998 that that Equilon Enterprises was formed in a merger between Shell and Texaco; the refinery became known as the Equilon Puget Sound Refining Company later that same year. The plant continues to operate today as the Shell Puget Sound Refinery; this change occurred in January of 2002.

The Puget Sound Refiner is the area's largest employer. The Anacortes, Washington, oil refinery employs approximately 375 people and has nearly 100 contract workers on site as well. The facility has a capacity of 143,000 barrels per day. The processed crude oil from this computerized refinery is used to manufacture gasoline and jet fuel, to prepare diesel fuel and propane and for the production of petroleum coke and sulfur.

Despite a fire in 1998 that occurred when a delayed coking unit was restarted after a major storm cut power to the refinery, the plant has made safety, health and environmental protection high priority. The Puget Sound Refinery has won the Shell Oil Products US CEO's Environmental Excellence Award in addition to other environment recognitions. The first of these awards was, in part, related to the performance improvements related to a wastewater treatment plant added to the facility in the 1990s. Similarly, the refinery has been honored in recognition of safety performance by the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

Asbestos and Oil Refineries

In most of the 20th century, various forms of asbestos were used as a building material whenever flames or excessive heat was a concern. Facilities such as the Puget Sound Refining Company refinery in Anacortes, therefore, were frequently constructed using materials that contained asbestos. Along with being temperature-resistant as well as fireproof, some kinds of asbestos are also especially resistant to chemical reactions. Floor and ceiling tiles, insulation, counter tops, even protective uniforms, therefore, commonly contained the fibrous mineral. There is no doubt that asbestos was extremely effective at protecting against flames or heat. This benefit, however, came with a terrible cost in terms of human health.

Much of this asbestos was amosite. When mixed with chrysotile, which is resistant to heat and bases but not as impervious to acids, amosite creates materials that are especially effective at preventing damage from corrosive substances. Although it was outlawed as a construction material in the 1970s, amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, was used for many years in refineries, laboratories and chemical plants across the United States.

As with cement, asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, sprayed onto pipes and ductwork and laminated. As long as asbestos transite was solid, this form of asbestos posed no immediate danger. However, when this transite got older, it was prone to crumbling, which enabled the deadly, tiny fibers to float into the atmosphere. That is, such asbestos is friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. Also, industrial kilns frequently were constructed with friable asbestos in insulation linings.

Why Is Friable Asbestos Bad?

Asbestos particles, when friable, are easily dispersed into the environment. Diseases such as asbestosis are known to result from the inhalation of asbestos. Another uncommon, and generally fatal, disease caused by asbestos is mesothelioma. The pleural form of the illness, one which attacks the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity, is the most common. When those airborne particles land on food or in beverages and are then swallowed, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma can result, although they are rarer than pleural mesothelioma.

During the past twenty years scientists and researchers have learned much information concerning the risks associated with being exposed to asbestos, and therefore there are strict regulations controlling its use. Asbestos use was much more prevalent, however, when places like Puget Sound Refining Company were first operating. And even now, asbestos from long ago can cause problems if it is released during remodeling projects.

A Ticking Bomb

Unlike many workplace injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the incident, asbestos-related diseases can take many, many years to appear. The symptoms of mesothelioma and asbestosis - shortness of breath (also known as dyspnea), pain in the chest or abdomen and a persistent cough - may easily be confused with the symptoms of other disorders. It is extremely important, therefore, that everyone who worked at or lived near places such as Puget Sound Refining Company ask their health care professionals for a mesothelioma treatment guide. In addition, even people who commuted in the same cars with these people are also in danger, because unless strict decontamination protocols, such as the use of workplace-only clothing and on-site showers, were in place, it was all too common for personnel to bring home asbestos fibers on their persons or their clothing. Although there is no mesothelioma cure, the disease sometimes may be treated with various therapies.

Sources

Sources

Pier System - Shell Puget Sound Refinery Fact Sheet
http://www.piersystem.com/go/doc/3/59127/

Puget Sound Refining Company - Community Newsletter
http://www.shellpsr.com/external/content/document/3/3321/1/PSR_Tidings_May_2001.pdf

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency - Special Smog-reducing Gasoline to Help Clean the Air
http://www.pscleanair.org/news/newsroom/releases/2004/06_09_smog.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

Washington State History Link - Explosion and fire at the Equilon Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes Kill Six refinery Workers on November 25, 1998
http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?displaypage=output.cfm&file_id=5618

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