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Standard Oil Refinery - Casper

The Standard Oil Refinery in Casper, Wyoming, was a facility originally built by Standard Oil of Indiana, though the name was changed to the Amoco Refinery in 1985 when the company's American Oil Company division took over retail branding for Standard.

History of the Refinery

In 1913, Standard Oil of Indiana purchased an 84-acre tract of land on the west side of the city of Casper, Wyoming. The company brought in work crews to build cracking stills and begin operations. The refinery was in full production by 1914; in 1922, it had become the largest plant in the world for volume of gasoline produced. Records indicate that it processed 1,350,000 barrels of crude and produced 615,000 gallons of gasoline per month.

1938 the refinery underwent a boost in productivity when the facility was modernized and crews were brought from nearby refineries to begin 24-hour operations.

The refinery began production of commercial aviation fuel in 1953, along with new, high-octane automotive gasoline.

Closure and Environmental Issues

The refinery operated until 1991. On October 3, 1991, Amoco made a public announcement of its intention to close the refinery in Casper. Two months later, on December 13, 1991, the last barrel of oil was refined and a final shutdown was undertaken.

The facility was dormant for several years, with minor cleanup efforts underway. The slow pace of the cleanup prompted citizens of Casper to file a lawsuit against Amoco in 1996. In 1998, a US district judge ordered Amoco to stop continued pollution of adjacent sites and to speed cleanup.

Through continued litigation and the eventual signing of a reuse agreement, real cleanup efforts at the site began in January of 2002. As of today, cleanup is ongoing.

Oil Refineries and Asbestos

For the majority of the last century, in cases where flame or extreme temperature was a danger, various forms of asbestos were used as insulation. As a result, it was typical for oil refineries like Standard Oil Refinery in Casper, Wyoming, to be constructed with materials made with asbestos. In addition to being temperature-resistant as well as flame-proof, some types of asbestos are also especially resistant to chemical reactions. In light of the nature of the work that occurs at oil refineries, asbestos, therefore, appeared not only in plant structures, but also in benches, protective clothing and lab equipment. And while the asbestos served its purpose well in preventing the spread of fire and in protecting lives from extreme temperatures, it also exposed people who used it or worked around it to significant health risks.

Amosite was most often the type of asbestos utilized in such plants. The brownish tint of amosite is a result of iron in its chemical makeup; this also causes amosite to be resistant to acidic chemicals like those manufactured in facilities like the Casper Standard Oil Refinery. Used for decades in the form of asbestos transite in chemical plants and labs across the US, amosite was eventually outlawed in building materials in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite possessed qualities like cement; it could be laminated, molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork. Generally, new items built with transite were safe because the asbestos particles were encapsulated in the transite. However, when asbestos-containing transite got older, it became prone to crumbling, which caused the lethal, microscopic particles to float into the air. Asbestos in this state is called friable, a term used to describe materials that are easily crushed. Laboratory and chemical plant kilns also frequently were constructed with friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.

Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem

Friable asbestos is a problem since in this state the fibers are readily released into the air. Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause conditions such as asbestosis. In addition, inhaling asbestos is known to be the leading cause of mesothelioma, a rare and often fatal cancer affecting the mesothelium, which is the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. If those particles of asbestos in the air settle on food or in drinks and are subsequently swallowed, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma can occur, although they are rarer than pleural mesothelioma.

During the past few decades medical researchers have uncovered a lot about the risks that accompany being exposed to asbestos, and therefore there are strict rules controlling its use. From 1914 to 1991, when the Casper Standard Oil Refinery, was active, however, asbestos was much more prevalent. And even now, asbestos from long ago may be the source of danger when it is disturbed during remodeling and demolition projects.

The Lurking Danger of Asbestos

As opposed to most work-related injuries, which are readily observed and known about immediately following the incident, asbestos-related diseases may take many, many years to appear. When a former worker begins showing signs such as a chronic cough, chest pain and dyspnea, his or her physician might not immediately identify asbestos as the culprit, leading to delays in diagnosis. It is very important, therefore, that everyone that worked at or spent much time around sites such as Standard Oil Refinery in Casper, Wyoming, notify their physicians about the chance of exposure to asbestos. Such information can enable doctors make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma, the sooner it is caught, the better the odds of escaping the generally low mesothelioma survival rate. In some cases, patients may be eligible for treatments like mesothelioma radiation.

Sources

Sources

Kansas State University - Former Amoco Refinery, Casper, Wyoming
http://www.engg.ksu.edu/chsr/outreach/tosc/sites/casper.html

Trib.com - BP Amoco Timeline
http://trib.com/news/local/article_95dec472-b119-5f7d-8be3-740c6deaf8a1.html

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

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