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Valero Energy

Valero Energy Corporation operates seven refineries in Texas. Its corporate headquarters in San Antonio sits on a 200-acre campus with office buildings, training facilities, a fitness center and jogging trails. Building it involved saving or relocating many trees onsite and constructing a water recycling system.


Valero operates two refineries in Corpus Christi, Texas. Built in 1983, the Corpus Christi West Plant produces mainly environmentally clean fuels. Acquired in 2001, the Corpus Christi East Plant specializes in processing heavy, high-sulfur crude oil, converting it to products such as gasoline, jet fuel, propane and ultra-low sulfur diesel. Combined, both plants have a throughput capacity of 315,000 barrels per day and employ 760 people.

Featuring a current capacity of 145,000 barrels per day, the Valero Houston Refinery, which opened in 1942, refines a range of petroleum products. It was acquired in 1997 from Basis Petroleum. The facility lies on the east side of Houston and employs about 310 people.

The Valero McKee Refinery, opened in 1933, has a throughput capacity of 170,000 barrels per day and employs 450. Surrounded by farmland in the Texas Panhandle, it has access to oil from Texas and Oklahoma, as well as Kansas and Colorado.

The Valero Port Arthur Refinery was acquired in 2005 but has been in operation since 1901. It has gone through many renovations and today can produce 310,000 barrels per day of crude oil. Situated on the Port Arthur Ship Channel, it has a workforce of 820 personnel. It is also one of two refineries in Texas that are Environmental Management System certified.

Valero also operates a refinery in Texas City, which was acquired in 1997 and which produces 245,000 barrels per day. It is also located directly on a ship channel. The Three Rivers Refinery is located halfway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi. Acquired in 2002, it can produce 100,000 barrels per day and is connected to the Corpus Christi complex by pipeline.

Recognition and Outreach

Valero Energy Corporation is able to refine 2.8 million barrels per day, much of its capacity located in Texas. The company’s Texas facilities have gone to great lengths to meet environmental and safety standards and have achieved recognition from the EPA, National Safety Council, Industrial Safety Council, NPRA and more. Each has also participated in a number of community outreach programs.

Asbestos in Valero Energy Corporation’s Texas Refineries

During the greater part of the last century, when fire or excessive heat was a concern, the mineral called asbestos was selected as an insulator. Asbestos-containing materials, accordingly, were frequently used in the construction of facilities such as Valero Energy Corporation’s Texas refineries. Resistance to reactive chemicals is another property of some forms of asbestos. Because of the nature of the work that goes on in oil refineries, asbestos, therefore, appeared not only in plant structures, but also in bench tops, coating materials and safety clothes. And although the asbestos did well in safeguarding against fire damage and in protecting life and property from high temperatures, the mineral also exposed those same people to serious health risks.

Generally, amosite was the type of asbestos used. When mixed with chrysotile, which is resistant to heat and bases but not as impervious to acids, amosite creates materials that are especially effective at protecting against corrosive chemicals. Although it was disallowed for construction purposes in the 1970s, amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, was utilized for many years in refineries and laboratories throughout the country.

Asbestos transite could be sprayed onto ductwork and pipes, molded into working surfaces and laminated just as cement could. Generally, new items formed from transite were considered innocuous because the asbestos fibers were encapsulated in the transite. Tiny particles of asbestos enter into the atmosphere, however, as this transite gets older and becomes prone to becoming powdery. In this state, it is considered friable, a term that is used to describe materials that are easily pulverized. Laboratory and chemical plant kilns also often were fabricated with friable asbestos in insulation linings.

Why Is Friable Asbestos a Problem?

Friable asbestos is hazardous because in this state the fibers are readily dispersed into the air. Medical conditions like cancer and asbestosis are known to result from inhaling asbestos. In addition, inhaling asbestos has been shown to be the primary cause of pleural mesothelioma, a rare and all too often deadly disease of the mesothelium, the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. If those particles of asbestos in the air land on food or in beverages and are then swallowed, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma can occur, though they are rarer than pleural mesothelioma.

Mounting pressure from the press, citizen groups and the medical community led to regulations controlling the use of asbestos. Asbestos use was much more commonplace, however, when places like Valero Energy Corporation’s Texas refineries were constructed. Any asbestos remaining from that period can yet pose a health hazard if care is not taken during demolition projects.

The Hidden Danger of Asbestos

Asbestos-related diseases, unlike typical work-related injuries, which are easily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, can take many, many years to manifest. It can also be challenging to diagnose asbestos-related illnesses because their symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. It is vital, therefore, that everyone that were employed by or spent much time around plants such as Valero Energy Corporation’s Texas refineries ask their doctors for a mesothelioma treatment guide. In addition, spouses of these people are also at risk; unless strict decontamination protocols, such as the use of workplace-only clothing and on-site showers, were in place, it was easy for employees to bring particles of asbestos on their persons or their clothes. If found early there is a chance the disease can be treated; early diagnosis is crucial as there is no mesothelioma cure.



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