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Standard Oil Refining - Salt Lake City

The Standard Oil Salt Lake Refinery was renamed the Chevron Products Salt Lake Refinery in 1984 after the merger of Standard Oil of California and Gulf Oil. The facility is located in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is the 104th most productive oil refinery in the United States.

History and Facts

Standard Oil of California was one of the 34 successor companies of Standard Oil. That company was forced to break up by the U.S. government on May 15, 1911, when the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision that Standard was a monopoly.

The Salt Lake Refinery was built in 1948 by Standard Oil of California on a site three miles north of Salt Lake City. The Standard Oil Salt Lake Refinery went into operation that year and has been in continuous operation since that time.

Today, the Chevron Products Salt Lake Refinery processes approximately 45,000 barrels of crude oil daily and produces gasoline, diesel, propane, and jet fuel.

Environmental Impacts

For a variety of reasons, the oil refinery owned by Standard Oil of California at Salt Lake has been a source of environmental pollution since its construction in 1948. Because of the company's unwillingness to act responsibly and the State of Utah's ineffective environmental controls, the refinery polluted groundwater until the Department of Environmental Quality took action in 1991.

It was in that year that Chevron and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality entered into an agreement that addressed the need for what the DEQ called "corrective action". This agreement required Chevron to conduct on-site environmental investigations and clean up. Additionally, the company was required to close waste units on the property and monitor groundwater pollution.

Asbestos in Oil Refineries

For much of the last century, various forms of asbestos were chosen as a building material whenever flames or extreme heat was a risk. Refineries like Standard Oil Salt Lake Refinery, as a result, were usually built using materials containing asbestos. One of the other properties of the fibrous mineral is that it resists chemicals. Because of this, asbestos was utilized in protective clothing, coating materials and benches. Asbestos, however, came with a notable downside that was not understood or sometimes deliberately ignored: debilitating and sometimes fatal diseases were found to be the result of exposure to asbestos.

Amosite was almost always the variety of asbestos utilized in these facilities. When mixed with chrysotile, which is resistant to heat and bases but not as impervious to acids, amosite creates products that are especially effective at protecting against corrosive substances. Used for decades in the form of asbestos-containing transite in laboratories and chemical plants throughout the US, amosite was finally banned for construction purposes in the 1970s.

As with cement, asbestos transite could be laminated, molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. This form of asbestos did not pose a health hazard as long as it was solid. However, as transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) got older, it was prone to crumbling, which enabled the lethal, tiny particles to float into the air. Such asbestos is friable, a term that is used for materials that are easy to crush. The insulation lining of industrial ovens also frequently were constructed with friable asbestos.

Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad

Asbestos particles, when they are friable, are readily dispersed into the environment. Breathing asbestos particles can cause conditions like asbestosis or cancer. Pleural mesothelioma, an unusual but often fatal disease affecting the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity), is strongly linked with asbestos exposure. Swallowing asbestos fibers, as happens if the tiny fibers float in the air and fall on food or drinks, can be the cause of pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.

Increased pressure from medical researchers and news media forced the creation of laws regulating the use of asbestos. Asbestos use was more common, however, in the 1940s and 1950s when facilities such as Standard Oil Salt Lake Refinery began operating. Before modern regulations were put into place, employees often labored without respirators or other protective gear in environments where asbestos particles filled the atmosphere.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

One of the insidious aspects of asbestos exposure is that associated diseases can take many, many years to develop - often long after the worker has left the employer. When a worker starts exhibiting signs such as dyspnea, pain in the chest and chronic coughing, his or her physician may not at first recognize asbestos as a factor, leading to delays in diagnosis. It is vital, therefore, that folks that worked in or lived near sites such as Standard Oil Salt Lake Refinery 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, as unless strict decontamination protocols, including using workplace-only clothing and on-site showers, were in place, it was common for workers to bring asbestos fibers on themselves or their clothing. Despite there being no mesothelioma cure, the disease may sometimes be treated with various therapies.

Sources

Sources

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 Energy Information Administration - U.S. Refineries Operable Capacity
http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/rankings/refineries.htm

Utah Department of Environmental Quality - Chevron Products Salt Lake Refinery
http://www.hazardouswaste.utah.gov/HWBranch/HWMSection/HazardousWasteManagementSection.htm

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