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Specified Fuels

Specified Fuels and Chemicals, LLC, purchased a petroleum and fuels refinery in Channelview, Texas, from Howell Hydrocarbons and Chemicals, Inc., in 1997. They owned the refinery until the year 2000, when they sold it to a chemical engineering group named Ascot. In a takeover bid, Dow Chemical then assumed the refinery in 2001 and kept it until selling it to Monument Chemicals, Inc., in 2008.

From Howell Hydrocarbons to Specified Fuels

Howell Hydrocarbons and Chemicals, Inc. (HHC), a custom chemical manufacturer, sold all of its assets, including its research, to Specified Fuels and Chemicals, LLC, on July 31, 1997. The sales totaled more than $19 million and included the plant itself, all of the equipment, and the property. In addition to the material goods, Specified Fuels and Chemicals, LLC, acquired the right to use the Howell Hydrocarbons and Chemicals name for five years and agreed to a non-compete clause during that time frame.

Another Exchange of Hands

In March of 2000, Ascot announced the acquisition of Specified Fuels and Chemicals. One year later, Dow Chemical took over all of Ascot and placed the refinery under DOW Haltermann. Then in February 2008, DOW Chemical Company announced that it had sold the Haltermann Fuels along with other assets to Monument Chemicals, Inc., of Indianapolis, Indiana. Monument Chemicals, Inc. specializes in hydrocarbons.

During the time that Specified Fuels and Chemicals owned the Channelview refinery they voluntarily participated in the HPV (High Production Volume) Challenge Program. The program, which they joined in November of 1999, challenges companies to make their data available to the public in regards to their effects on the environment and the public health. Specified Fuels and Chemicals also won the Texas Environmental Excellence Award in 2000, the same year they sold the refinery.

Oil Refineries and Asbestos

In much of the 1900s, in cases where flame or excessive heat was a concern, the mineral called asbestos was used as an insulator. Asbestos-containing materials, accordingly, were frequently used in the construction of oil refineries like Specified Fuels and Chemicals. Along with being temperature-resistant as well as fireproof, various forms of amphibole asbestos are also particularly impervious to chemical reactions. Because of the kind of work that occurs in oil refineries, asbestos, therefore, was not only used in factory buildings, but also in lab equipment, work surfaces and safety garments. Asbestos, however, came with a major downside that was not known or at times deliberately ignored: grave and sometimes fatal diseases were found to be the result of asbestos exposure.

For the most part, amosite was the kind of asbestos utilized. When mixed with chrysotile, which is impervious to heat and bases but not as impervious to acidic compounds, the amphibole amosite creates products that are particularly effective at protecting against corrosive substances. This amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, was utilized in chemical plants, refineries and laboratories throughout the country for many years before being outlawed for construction purposes in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite had qualities similar to cement; it could be sprayed onto pipes and ductwork and laminated. This form of asbestos did not offer a health hazard as long as it was solid. However, as this transite got older, it became prone to crumbling, which caused the deadly, tiny particles to flake off into the atmosphere. Asbestos in this condition is considered friable, or able to be reduced to powder by hand pressure alone. The insulation lining of industrial ovens also frequently contained friable asbestos.

The Dangers of Friable Asbestos

When they are friable, asbestos fibers are easily dispersed in the atmosphere. Medical conditions like asbestosis can result from breathing asbestos. Another unusual, and generally fatal, disease caused by asbestos is a type of cancer called mesothelioma. The pleural form of the disease, one which affects the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity, is the most prevalent. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as may occur when the tiny fibers become airborne and settle on food or in drinks, may result in peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.

Since medical research yielded more knowledge of asbestos' serious effects on human health, employees today benefit from the protection offered by stringent guidelines regulating how to use asbestos. However, when facilities such as Specified Fuels and Chemicals were built, asbestos was much more common. And in all too many cases workers used materials containing asbestos without the protection of respirators or other protective gear.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

Asbestos-related diseases, as opposed to most work-related injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the incident, may take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to appear. It can also be hard to diagnose asbestos-related diseases since the symptoms can be mistaken for those of other, less serious conditions. Hence, it is very important for those who worked in or lived near places such as Specified Fuels and Chemicals to ask their doctors for a mesothelioma treatment guide. Such information can help physicians to make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the chances of surviving or at least of enjoying an improved quality of life. And while there is no mesothelioma cure, the disease can sometimes be treated with various therapies.

Sources

Sources

DOW - DOW News Center
http://news.dow.com/prodbus/2008/20080229a.htm

Securities Information - Howell Corp/DE, Securities and Exchange Commission
http://www.secinfo.com/dmNKm.81.htm

Texas Environmental Excellence Awards - Winners
http://www.teea.org/pastit.htm

UK Business Park - UK Activity Report, Ascot
http://www.ukbusinesspark.co.uk/ascotaaa.htm

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

US EPA - High Production Volume (HPV) Challenge Program, Publications, Commitment Letter; Specified Fuels and Chemicals
http://www.epa.gov/hpv/pubs/update/c11955.htm

US EPA - High Production Volume (HPV) Challenge Program
http://www.epa.gov/hpv/index.htm

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