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Somerset Refinery

The Somerset Refinery in Pulaski County, Kentucky, has been operating since the 1930s (1932 to be precise). The refinery came more than 30 years after the construction of a crude oil pipeline from Monticello, Kentucky, to Hamlin, West Virginia, was constructed. Though a shortage of crude oil forced pipeline operations by the Cumberland Pipeline Company to come to a close in 1928, the refinery continued - in part because Somerset, Kentucky, is in a location conducive to marketing gasoline.

Crude oil is purchased from within the state of Kentucky, from Tennessee and from West Virginia for refinement at the Somerset facility. The Somerset Refinery is able to serve Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville and other cities with its finished product. Three grades of gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel and number 2 fuel oil as well as a variety of heavier commercial fuels and a 52-cetane diesel fuel (which contains the highest levels on the market) are all produced at the facility. Additionally, the refiner is able to recycle fuel products and to blend off-specification oils upon request.

The Somerset Refinery was recently purchased by Grunberg Realty. Though the company is not from Kentucky, Grunberg Realty has pledged its commitment to the area and to the refinery, which recently reopened after it had been closed due to court cases to resolve financial issues, environmental concerns and ownership issues. The challenges that are associated with remaining competitive within the oil and fuel industry has not been lost on the new owners of the refinery, and they are focused on ensuring that the refinery is efficient, that the products are top-notch and that they will do everything it takes to build relationships with those who supply crude to the refinery as well as to those who purchase fuel products from the Somerset Refinery.

Somerset Refinery and Asbestos

In the majority of the last century, the mineral called asbestos was chosen as insulation when fire or extreme heat was a concern. Plants like Somerset Refinery, as a result, were usually made with materials containing asbestos. In addition to being heat-proof and non-flammable, some forms of amphibole asbestos are also especially impervious to chemical reactions. As a result, asbestos was utilized in coating materials, work surfaces and safety garments. One of the ironic things with asbestos is that while it does a fine job of protecting lives and property from the damage associated with heat or fire - it is one of the best insulators known and has been used for the purpose for centuries - at the same time it poses serious risks to human well being.

Amosite was most often the type of asbestos used in these locations. The brown pigment associated with amosite is a result of iron in its chemical composition; this also makes amosite resistant to corrosive chemicals like those produced in oil refineries. Used for decades in the form of asbestos-containing transite in labs and refineries across the United States, amosite was finally outlawed in building materials in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite displayed qualities similar to cement; it could be laminated, molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. As long as asbestos transite remained solid, this form of asbestos posed almost no hazard. As this transite grows older and become prone to becoming powdery, however, lethal, microscopic particles are able to float into the air. That is, such asbestos is friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. Industrial kilns also frequently were constructed with friable asbestos in insulation linings.

The Dangers of Friable Asbestos

Asbestos particles, when they are friable, are readily dispersed into the air. Medical conditions like cancer can result from breathing asbestos. Another uncommon, but generally deadly, disease linked to asbestos is mesothelioma. The pleural form of the disease, one which affects the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity, is the most prevalent. Swallowing asbestos fibers, which can occur when those microscopic particles are released into the air and land on food or in beverages, can be the cause of pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.

Mounting pressure from the press, activist groups and medical researchers led to laws regulating how to use asbestos. When plants such as Somerset Refinery were first operating, however, asbestos was much more common. Before modern laws were enacted, workers frequently labored without respirators or other safety gear in spaces where asbestos particles filled the air.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

Unlike most on-the-job injuries, which are easily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, asbestos-related illnesses may take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to appear. The symptoms of asbestos-related diseases - chronic coughing, chest pain and dyspnea (i.e., shortness of breath) - may often be confused with those of other, less serious disorders. It is very important, therefore, that everyone who worked in or lived near oil refineries such as Somerset Refinery ask their physicians for mesothelioma information. Such information can assist physicians to make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma, the earlier it is diagnosed and the better the odds of survival with treatments like mesothelioma surgery.



Somerset Kentucky Commonwealth Journal - Somerset Refinery is Back in business

Somerset Oil - Company Website

Somerset Oil - Refinery

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

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal

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