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Texaco Oil Refinery - Casper

The Texaco Oil Refinery in Casper, Wyoming, was a major oil refining operation that operated from 1923 until its closure in 1982.

History of the Facility

The company that would later become Texaco began in 1901 as the Texas Fuel Company of Beaumont, Texas. Under the name Texas Company, the corporation began to investigate possible locations for the construction of a refinery in Wyoming. In 1922, a 640-acre site three miles east of Casper on W. T. Evans' turkey ranch was chosen. This location was chosen over a similar site in Glenrock, Wyoming - a town that had campaigned for the refinery vigorously but unsuccessfully.

Construction began in 1922, and the plant went into production in 1923. The refinery was in continuous operation until 1982, when it was shut down due to changing market needs and corporate restructuring.

The site was put up for sale in 1989.

Environmental Impacts

The site of the Texaco refinery is severely polluted. Much of the decision to close the plant in 1982 was due to a growing realization that Texaco was in violation of the Clean Water Act and that a cleanup of the site would prove too costly.

The Sierra Club filed a complaint with the company in 1993, alleging that the company had knowingly and willfully dumped pollutants into the North Platte River after the 1982 shutdown. The environmentalist group called for a halt to further polluting activities and a cleanup effort.

In 1996, Texaco did undertake a cleanup effort. Equipment from the plant was removed, and contaminated soil was identified and moved to a hazardous waste landfill.

Most significant was the installation of a groundwater containment wall to prevent further leaching of contaminants from the site into the North Platte River.

Oil Refineries and Asbestos

If heat or combustion was a danger, the mineral called asbestos was the insulating material preferred by builders during most of the 20th century. Plants like Texaco Oil Refinery in Casper, Wyoming, as a result, were often built with materials containing asbestos. Resistance to reactive chemicals is perhaps a less well-known property of various types of asbestos. Floor tiles, insulation, work surfaces, even protective uniforms, therefore, often were made with the fibrous mineral. The ironic thing about asbestos is that while it does a fine job of guarding against the damage associated with excessive heat and fire - it is one of the most effective insulators known and has been used for this purpose since ancient times - it also poses significant risks to people's health.

Amosite was most often the variety of asbestos used in these facilities. The brownish pigment associated with amosite comes from iron in its chemical composition; this also makes amosite resistant to corrosive substances, such as those manufactured in oil refineries. This amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, appeared in chemical plants and oil refineries throughout the US for decades before it was banned as a construction material in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite displayed properties similar to cement; it could be laminated and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. This form of asbestos did not offer a health hazard so long as it remained solid. As this transite gets older and becomes prone to crumbling, however, deadly, microscopic fibers can flake off into the air. Asbestos in this state is considered friable, a term that is used to describe materials that are easy to crush. Industrial kilns also almost always were fabricated with friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.

Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem

Friable asbestos is hazardous because in this condition the particles are easily dispersed in the environment. If a person breathes these fibers, they can damage the lungs, causing cancer or asbestosis. Another unusual, and often deadly, disease caused by asbestos is mesothelioma. The pleural form of mesothelioma, one that affects the tissue that lies between the lungs and the pleural cavity, is the most common. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, which may occur when the microscopic particles float in the air and land on food or drinks, may cause of peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.

Because medical research led to a increased awareness of the risks of asbestos exposure, people today enjoy the protection of strict laws regulating how to use asbestos. Asbestos use was more prevalent, however, from the 1930s to the 1980s when plants such as Texaco Oil Refinery in Casper, Wyoming, were operating. And in all too many instances workers used asbestos-containing materials without the benefit of respirators.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

One of the insidious aspects of asbestos exposure is that associated illnesses may take many, many years to develop - often decades after the worker has retired from the employer. It can also be difficult to diagnose asbestos-related disorders because the symptoms can be mistaken for the symptoms of other disorders. Men and women who were employed by or lived around plants such as the Casper Texaco Oil Refinery, therefore should tell their physicians about the possibility of asbestos exposure. Experimental therapies like mesothelioma radiation are being discovered, and early detection gives patients the best chance to beat the cancer despite the traditionally grim mesothelioma survival rate.


Sources - BP Amoco Timeline

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

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal

Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog



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