The Valero Paulsboro Refinery in New Jersey was acquired from Mobile in 1998 and today has a capacity of 185,000 barrels per day. A range of petroleum products are produced at the refinery, including lube oil base stocks, liquefied petroleum gases, gasoline, asphalt, petroleum coke and molten sulfur. The 950-acre plant lies 15 miles from Philadelphia and is the workplace for 510 employees.
Operations began on the site in 1917, although the current infrastructure dates from more recent years. The refinery’s process equipment wasn’t installed until post-World War II and was originally designed for manufacturing lubricants. The installation of four new process units in the 1970s and 1980s, and the upgrade of eleven others, enabled the facility to advance to its current throughput capacity.
The acquisition of the plant gave Valero access to Northeast markets, including Philadelphia International Airport, to which it supplies jet fuel through a dedicated pipeline. The refinery also produces various lube oil base stocks, which are sold to an Exxon Mobile plant nearby. The site’s asphalt production enables the company to market it to many regional paving and roofing contractors.
Being located near a large metropolitan area, the refinery has many transportation options, including deep water access via the Delaware River, but also has an on-site truck rack and access to a major pipeline. It is also capable of selling products into the New York Harbor market, so the scope of the business encompasses a wide range of profitable ventures.
The Valero Paulsboro Refinery was recertified as an OSHA VPP Star Site in 2008, a high honor for facilities demonstrating environmental awareness. It also received the 2007 Energy Saver Award from the US Department of Energy. Recognized by the Boy Scouts of America, which presented the site with the Gloucester County Distinguished Citizen Award, it is the only company in the county ever to have been so. Also, the refinery’s positive influence on the local schools and community was honored by the New Jersey Science Teachers Association.
Asbestos and the Valero Paulsboro Refinery
In much of the last century, the mineral called asbestos was used as an insulator whenever fire or excessive heat was a risk. Materials made with asbestos, accordingly, were commonly utilized when building plants such as The Valero Paulsboro Refinery. Along with being fireproof as well as temperature-resistant, certain types of asbestos are also especially impervious to chemical reactions. As a result, asbestos was utilized in bench and counter tops, protective clothes and lab equipment. The ironic thing with asbestos is that although it does a great job of protecting lives and property from the damage associated with high heat or flames - it is one of the best insulators known and has been used for the purpose since ancient times - at the same time it poses serious risks to people’s well being.
Amosite was most often the variety of asbestos used in these facilities. When it is mixed with chrysotile, which is impervious to heat and bases but not as resistant to acidic compounds, amosite creates products that are especially good at protecting against corrosive chemicals. This amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was utilized in chemical plants and labs throughout the United States for decades before being banned in building materials in the 1970s.
Similar to cement, asbestos transite could be sprayed onto pipes and ductwork and molded into working surfaces. This form of asbestos did not pose a health risk while it stayed solid. However, as asbestos-containing transite got older, it became prone to becoming powdery, which caused the deadly, microscopic fibers to flake off into the air. Asbestos in this condition is considered friable, which translates to easy to crush. In addition, industrial ovens often contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.
The Problem with Friable Asbestos
When they are friable, asbestos fibers are readily dispersed in the atmosphere. When someone breathes these fibers, they can damage the lungs, resulting in asbestosis or cancer. Mesothelioma, an unusual but often deadly cancer affecting the mesothelium (the lining between the lungs and the pleural cavity), is strongly linked with exposure to asbestos. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as may occur if the tiny fibers are released into the air and land on food or in beverages, can be the cause of pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.
In the last twenty years medical researchers have learned a lot concerning the risks associated with being exposed to asbestos; therefore there are strict rules controlling its use. When facilities such as the Valero Paulsboro Refinery were constructed, however, asbestos was much more common. Before present-day laws were put into place, employees frequently labored without respirators in environments where asbestos dust filled the atmosphere.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
Asbestos-related diseases, unlike many on-the-job injuries, which are readily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to appear. When a worker begins exhibiting symptoms such as a chronic cough, pain in the chest or abdomen and difficulty breathing, his or her physician might not immediately identify asbestos as a cause, leading to a delay in diagnosis. It is very important, therefore, that those who worked at or spent much time near sites like the Valero Paulsboro Refinery ask their health care professionals for a mesothelioma treatment guide. New methods for treating mesothelioma are being discovered, and early detection gives patients and their doctors the best chance of beating the previously deathly disease. A mesothelioma cure could one day be developed but currently only palliative treatments exist.Sources
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
Valero Energy Corporation - Paulsboro