San Joaquin Refining Company, Inc., is an independent oil refiner with headquarters in Bakersfield, California. Founded in 1969, they refine heavy naphthenic crude oil to supply products requiring adhesives, asphalt, electric insulation, fuels, lubricants, paints and coatings, plastic, printing inks, roofing and rubber.
Kern County Oil
Since 1899, Kern County, which is part of the San Joaquin Valley, has been the largest oil producing county of California, with 31,000 wells currently producing it. The county is the source of two-thirds of the oil produced in California, which is about a tenth of the US total oil production and about 1 percent of oil produced worldwide.
Out of 23 oil fields in Kern County, there are 18 that have each produced over 100 million barrels of oil. In 1999, California produced 876,000 barrels of oil per day, and 560,000 of that came from Kern County. Kern County has already produced 12.8 billion barrels of oil. California is responsible for 25.2 billion.
Steam cogeneration is a process that is used in San Joaquin Valley during the production of oil. California oil is heavy, so steam is used to heat the oil underground to make it flow easier. This course of steam injection helps produce electricity through cogeneration because the steam is first used to produce electricity before it is used to heat the oil. Steam cogeneration allows 1.5 million homes in the San Joaquin Valley to get electricity and has enough power left over to help feed Los Angeles.
The San Joaquin Refining Company has been growing steadily over the last 40 years. The company has 130 employees and annual revenue of over $400 million dollars. They have more than 90 tanks that can handle 800,000 barrels. To date they are very successful as an independent refiner in the heart of California's oil production.
San Joaquin Refining Company and Asbestos
During the majority of the last century, in cases where fire or extreme heat was a risk, the mineral called asbestos was used as insulation. Therefore, it was typical for plants such as San Joaquin Refining Company to be made with materials that contained asbestos. A lesser-known property of certain kinds of the fibrous mineral is that they are unaffected by reactive chemicals. As a result, asbestos was utilized in coating materials, safety garments and benches. Asbestos, however, had a major downside that was not known or at times deliberately ignored: serious and sometimes lethal medical conditions were found to be the result of exposure to asbestos.
Amosite was frequently the kind of asbestos utilized in such plants. Often referred to as "brown asbestos", the amphibole form of asbestos known as amosite is especially resistant to corrosive substances like those manufactured in facilities like San Joaquin Refining Company because of the iron in its chemical composition. Although it was prohibited from use in building materials in the 1970s, this amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was utilized for many years in laboratories and refineries across the country.
Similar to cement, asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and laminated. This form of asbestos did not pose a health risk as long as it stayed solid. Microscopic fibers of asbestos are released into the atmosphere, however, as asbestos-containing transite gets older and becomes prone to crumbling. In this state, it is said to be friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. In addition, laboratory ovens almost always contained friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem
Asbestos fibers, when they are friable, are easily released in the air. When a person inhales these fibers, they can damage the lungs, resulting in cancer. Pleural mesothelioma, a rare but all too often fatal cancer affecting the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the pleural cavity), is strongly linked with exposure to asbestos. Swallowing asbestos fibers, which may occur if the microscopic fibers float in the air and fall on food or in beverages, may lead to peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.
Mounting pressure from medical researchers and the press resulted in regulations controlling the use of asbestos. The use of asbestos was more common, however, when places like San Joaquin Refining Company were constructed. Any asbestos that remains from then may yet pose a health hazard if care is not taken during remodeling jobs.
The Hidden Hazard of Asbestos
As opposed to typical workplace injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the incident, asbestos-related illnesses can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to appear. It can also be difficult to identify asbestos-related illnesses since their symptoms can be mistaken for the symptoms of other conditions. It is very important, therefore, that those that worked in or lived around places like San Joaquin Refining Company ask their doctors for mesothelioma information. Furthermore, family members and others who shared homes with these people are also in danger, because unless strict decontamination protocols, like using workplace-only clothing and on-site showers, were followed, it was quite possible for personnel to bring home asbestos fibers on themselves or their clothes. If caught early, the disease has a chance to be treated with mesothelioma surgery.Sources
San Joaquin Geological Society - Oil Facts, The Kern County Oil Industry
San Joaquin Refining Co., Inc - About Us
San Joaquin Refining Co., Inc - Capabilities
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal