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Union Oil Refinery - Carson

In 1890, the Union Oil Company of California was founded by Lyman Stewart, Thomas Hard and Wallace Hardiman in Santa Paula, California. Union Oil Company of California was a major petroleum exporter and marketer for more than 100 years. In 1901, the company moved its headquarters to Los Angeles, California, and its original building in Santa Paula became a California Historical Landmark. The company operates under the name Unocal. The Union Oil Company of California was the original founder and operator of the Union 76 gas station chain.

The defunct Union Oil Company of California became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chevron Corporation after its merger in August 2005. The Union Oil Company still operates as Union Oil Company of California, a Chevron company, though it is no longer an independent company.

Chevron Corp.

On September 10, 1879, a group of merchants and explorers founded the Pacific Coast Oil Company in San Francisco, California. In 1906, Pacific Coast Oil and Iowa Standard Oil combined efforts to become a new entity, Standard Oil. Over the more than 130-year history of Chevron Corp. several mergers and acquisitions took place to form the modern-day company that employs more 60,000 people in more than 20 different countries around the world. Chevron Corp. took its current name in 2005 after the acquisition of the Union Oil Company of California.

Carson Refinery

In 1991, the Union Oil Company signed a letter of intent to purchase all of Shell Oil's facilities located at the Wilmington Complex. The purchase included the crude oil distilling until, coker, sulfur plant, hydrogen plant, gas oil hydrotreater and all associated equipment and tankage.

Asbestos at Union Oil's Carson Refinery

During the majority of the 20th century, the mineral called asbestos was used as an insulator when fire or extreme heat was a risk. Therefore, it was typical for facilities such as Union Oil Company of California Carson Refinery to be made with asbestos-containing materials. Another property of certain types of the fibrous mineral is that they resist chemicals. Floor tiles, insulation, counter tops, even protective clothing, therefore, often were made with the fibrous mineral. The ironic thing with asbestos is that although 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 - at the same time it poses serious risks to human well being.

Amosite was most often the variety of asbestos utilized in such locations. Often referred to as "brown asbestos", amosite is particularly good at resisting corrosive chemicals like those produced in facilities like Union Oil's Carson Refinery because of the iron in its chemical makeup. Although it was banned as a construction material in the 1970s, this amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, appeared for many years in laboratories, refineries and chemical plants throughout the US.

Asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and laminated just as cement could. For the most part, new items built with transite were considered safe since the asbestos fibers were encapsulated in the transite. As transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) gets older and become prone to becoming powdery, however, deadly, tiny fibers are able to float into the atmosphere. In this state, it is said to be friable, a term that is used for material that is easily crushed. The insulation lining of laboratory and chemical plant ovens also frequently were constructed with friable asbestos.

Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad

Friable asbestos is a problem because in this state the particles can be easily released into the environment. Diseases such as asbestosis and cancer can result from breathing asbestos. Mesothelioma, an unusual and all too often lethal disease of the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity), is strongly linked with inhaling asbestos. Swallowing asbestos fibers, which can occur when the tiny particles are released into the air and settle on food or in drinks, can lead to peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.

Because research yielded more knowledge of the risks of asbestos exposure, people today are protected by stringent guidelines regulating how to use asbestos. When refineries like Union Oil Company of California's Carson plant were built, however, the use of asbestos was more prevalent. And even now, asbestos from the past may be the source of danger if it is not disposed of properly during remodeling projects.

The Lurking Danger of Asbestos

One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is that associated illnesses can take many, many years to appear - frequently long after the worker leaves the employer. When a worker begins exhibiting signs such as dyspnea, a persistent cough and pain in the chest or abdomen, his or her doctor may not immediately recognize asbestos exposure as the culprit, leading to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, it is very important for those that worked at or spent much time near sites like the Union Oil Company of California Carson Refinery ask their physicians for mesothelioma information. Moreover, family members and others who shared homes with these people are also at risk; unless effective safety measures, including the use of on-site uniforms and showers, were in place, it was common for workers to bring home asbestos dust on themselves or their clothes. Mesothelioma surgery is one treatment that can be potentially used to treat the disease.

Sources

Sources

Chevron Corporation - History
http://www.chevron.com/about/leadership/history/2002/

ConocoPhillips - Drive Savvy
http://www.drivesavvy.com/

The Free Library - Union Oil Co. of California
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Union+Oil+Co.+of+California-a011680583

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

Unocal - Unocal at a Glance
http://web.archive.org/web/19970410085648/www.unocal.com/glance.htm

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