Sunoco as a company got its start in the late 1800s when The Peoples Natural Gas Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, chose to expand and diversify. This expansion led primarily into neighboring Ohio, and by March 1890, the company was renamed The Sun Oil Company of Ohio. At that time, the focus shifted to producing, transporting and storing oil along with refining, shipping and marketing petroleum-based products. Since then, the company has expanded dramatically, having owned a number of refineries throughout the United States. In 1968, this expansion led them to take over a refinery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Tulsa refinery grew to produce 85,000 barrels per calendar day. Additionally, storage was available onsite for 3.2 million barrels along with truck and rail loading facilities. These assets were sold by Sunoco to the Holly Corporation in a deal that closed on June 1, 2009. The refinery continues to process crude from pipelines onshore in the United States, in the Gulf of Mexico and in Canada.
Holly Corporation merged the Sunoco refinery with the Sinclair Tulsa Refinery, which they purchased in December of 2009. The newly combined plant is expected to have a production of 125,000 barrels per day and will continue to produce a combination of lubricants, diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline fuels. This will be done using legacy equipment from the Sunoco Tulsa Refinery equipment for crude distillation with a light ends recovery unit, lube extraction unit, delayed coker and butane splitter and additional specialty blending capabilities.
Oil Refineries and Asbestos
In most of the last century, various forms of asbestos were used as a building material whenever fire or excessive heat was a risk. As a result, it was usual for oil refineries like the Sunoco refinery in Tulsa to be made with materials made with asbestos. Another property of various kinds of the fibrous mineral is that they resist reactive chemicals. Floor tiles, insulation, bench tops, even protective garments, therefore, commonly contained the fibrous mineral. And although the asbestos did well in preventing fire damage and in protecting people from high heat, the mineral also exposed those same people to significant health risks.
Most of this asbestos was the form called amosite. Amosite is one of the amphibole varieties of asbestos and is generally thought to be more likely to result in disease than the serpentine form. This amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, appeared in laboratories, chemical plants and refineries across the United States for many years before it was outlawed for construction purposes in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite displayed properties similar to cement; it could be laminated, sprayed onto pipes and ductwork and molded into working surfaces. This form of asbestos did not offer a health hazard so long as it remained solid. Tiny fibers of asbestos enter into the atmosphere, however, as this transite gets older and becomes prone to crumbling. Asbestos in this state is considered friable, or able to be reduced to powder by hand pressure alone. Industrial kilns also frequently were constructed with friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad
Friable asbestos is a problem since in this state the particles are readily dispersed into the atmosphere. Breathing asbestos fibers can result in diseases like asbestosis. Another rare, and generally deadly, asbestos-related disease is a type of cancer called mesothelioma. The pleural form of the disease, which affects the lining between the lungs and the pleural cavity, is the most prevalent. Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma are caused by swallowing fibers of asbestos, which happens when microscopic particles are released into the air and settle on food or in drinks.
Increased pressure from the media, researchers and citizen groups forced the creation of rules controlling how to use asbestos. Asbestos use was much more commonplace, however, when facilities like the Sunoco Tulsa refinery were constructed. Any asbestos remaining from that period may still pose danger if care is not taken during demolition jobs.
The Time Bomb
Asbestos-related diseases, in contrast to typical workplace injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, may take many, many years to manifest. The symptoms of asbestosis and mesothelioma - a persistent cough, pain in the chest or abdomen and dyspnea (i.e., shortness of breath) - can often be mistaken for the symptoms of other, less serious conditions. Therefore, it is extremely important for all that worked in or lived near plants such as the Sunoco refinery in Tulsa to ask their doctors for a mesothelioma treatment guide. Moreover, even people who commuted in the same cars with these people are also in danger; unless strict safety measures, like the use of on-site showers, were enforced, it was all too common for people to bring home asbestos on themselves or their clothing. A mesothelioma cure could be developed at some point but only palliative treatments currently exist.Sources
Holly Corporation - Tulsa Refinery
Sunoco, Inc. - Corporate Website
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal