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US Oil and Refining

The petroleum refinery U.S. Oil and Refining Company actually began as a privately held corporation in 1952. Under the name Pacific Oil and Refining Company they bought a 139-acre refinery site in 1954 in Tacoma, Washington. The next year, in 1955, they changed their name to U.S. Oil and Refining Company. In July 2009, the U.S. Oil and Refining Company was ranked 105 by the US Energy Information Administration. Its rank was based on its operating capacity of 37,850 barrels per day.

Refinery Construction

The Tacoma refinery site underwent construction in 1955. It took two years to build but was fully operation before 1957 came to a close. The refinery expanded, adding an additional crude unit in 1959 for heavy crude oil.

The refinery site was strategically selected with 15 acres of waterfront, which allows barges and tankers to deliver oil dockside. Furthermore, there is access by rail as well as nearby highways and the international airport.

Prepared for Drills and Spills

On November 14, 2007, U.S. Oil and Refining Company showed the Department of Ecology that it was prepared for drills and spills. Washington refineries are required by law to have hazard response plans to address oil spills. However, contingency plans are only good if they are properly implemented, which includes having a trained staff and routine readiness drills.

In conjunction with the US Coast Guard, the Department of Ecology surprised the refinery with an unannounced drill to see how they would respond to a spill of 420,000 gallons of crude oil. Thirty-five workers from the refinery participated in the simulation and did an excellent job of meeting the Department of Ecology's expectations and going beyond. The refinery intends to use the drill to better their oil-spill contingency plans even more.

As a petroleum refinery, U.S. Oil and Refining Company manufactures asphalt, ultra-low sulfur diesel, commercial jet fuel, military jet fuel, marine fuels and gasoline. They take great pride in their safety record and strive to be environmentally sound.

Asbestos in U.S. Oil and Refining Company

In almost all of the 20th century, whenever fire or heat was a risk, asbestos was used as a building material. Facilities such as U.S. Oil and Refining Company, therefore, were usually built using materials that contained asbestos. Along with being a fire retardant and temperature-resistant, certain forms of asbestos are also especially resistant to chemical reactions. Due to the type of work that occurs in oil refineries, asbestos, therefore, appeared not only in factory buildings, but also in coating materials, safety garments and work surfaces. Asbestos, however, had a notable downside that was either not understood or sometimes deliberately ignored: debilitating and sometimes fatal diseases were found to be the result of asbestos exposure.

Amosite was most often the kind of asbestos utilized in these locations. When it is mixed with chrysotile, which is impervious to heat and bases but not as resistant to acids, the amphibole amosite creates materials that are particularly good at preventing damage from corrosive substances. Used for many years in the form of asbestos transite in labs, chemical plants and refineries across the country, amosite was eventually disallowed as a construction material in the 1970s.

Like cement, asbestos transite could be laminated, sprayed onto pipes and ductwork and molded into working surfaces. As long as it was solid, this form of asbestos offered no immediate danger. Microscopic fibers of asbestos are released into the atmosphere, however, as transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) grows older and becomes prone to crumbling. In other words, such asbestos is friable, a term used to describe materials that are easy to pulverize. The insulation lining of laboratory ovens also frequently were fabricated with friable asbestos.

The Problem with Friable Asbestos

Asbestos fibers, when they are friable, can be readily released in the atmosphere. Inhaling asbestos fibers can lead to diseases such as cancer or asbestosis. In addition, asbestos exposure is the leading cause of mesothelioma, an unusual and almost always lethal disease affecting the mesothelium, which is the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. If those airborne particles settle on food or drinks and are subsequently swallowed, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma may occur, although they are rarer than pleural mesothelioma.

Since scientific inquiry yielded more awareness of asbestos' serious effects on human health, men and women today enjoy the protection of stringent regulations controlling how to use asbestos. The use of asbestos was more common, however, when places like U.S. Oil and Refining Company were first operating. And in too many cases workers used asbestos-containing materials without the benefit of respirators or other protective gear.

The Lurking Danger of Asbestos

One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is the resulting illnesses may take many, many years to appear - often long after a worker has left the employer. It can also be difficult to diagnose asbestos-related diseases because the symptoms resemble the symptoms of other, less serious disorders. Those who worked in or lived around places like U.S. Oil and Refining Company therefore should notify their doctors about the possibility of asbestos exposure. New therapies such as mesothelioma radiation are being developed, and early detection gives the patient the highest chance to combat the once deathly form of cancer. While mesothelioma survival rate traditionally has been grim, early diagnosis and consistent treatment can improve the prognosis for this disease.



Department of Ecology, State of Washington - Ecology conducts unannounced spill readiness drill at U.S. Oil and Refining Co.

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

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal

US Energy Information Administration - U.S. Refineries Operable Capacity

US Oil and Refining Co. - Company History

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