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Oil Refinery Workers

Oil refinery workers with mesothelioma likely experienced occupational exposure to asbestos. Oil refining is a highly combustible process where cold and hot temperature extremes are routinely reached. Asbestos insulation was installed throughout oil refineries until 1980, and many of these refineries are still in use today. 

Oil refinery workers face a heightened risk of developing mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other cancers. Approximately 90 percent of oil refinery workers have had direct or indirect contact with asbestos, and more than half of this occurred without protection, according to a 1991 study published by Toxicology and Industrial Health.

Oil refinery workers who develop these illnesses as a result of occupational asbestos exposure deserve justice against the companies that wrongfully exposed them to asbestos. The mesothelioma lawyers at The Lanier Law Firm can help.

Oil Refinery Occupations

An oil refinery is an industrial processing facility that heats crude oil in distillation chambers to separate the different types of hydrocarbons. Each type of hydrocarbon has a separate molecular structure that can be refined into specific petrochemical products, including diesel, gasoline, kerosene, butane, methane, and lubricating oils.

Oil refineries are large facilities with numerous machines and operations. Oil refinery occupations include the following:

  • Chemical plant operator
  • Chemical process technician
  • Gas processing plant operator
  • Gas production operator
  • Pipeline maintenance
  • Pipeline supervisor
  • Plant equipment operator
  • Plant operations technician
  • Plant supervisor
  • Power plant manager
  • Process supervisor
  • Refinery manager
  • Refinery operations technician
  • Tank supervisor
  • Terminal operator
  • Utilities operator

Oil refinery workers can be classified into two primary categories: engineers and journeymen

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Oil Refinery Engineers

Engineers are skilled workers with a four-year degree at minimum. They perform work in the technical and electrical aspects of oil refineries and are also involved in the construction of these facilities. Oil refineries employ the following types of engineers:

  • Chemical
  • Civil
  • Electrical
  • Industrial
  • Materials
  • Mechanical
  • Software
  • Structural
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Oil Refinery Journeymen

Journeyman occupations are generally construction jobs that do not require a college degree. These jobs are not unskilled, however, and often begin as apprentice positions with a subsequent hierarchy. Oil refinery journeyman jobs include the following: 

How are oil refinery workers exposed to asbestos?

The high combustibility of crude oil and refined products makes insulation and fire protection crucial in oil refineries. Insulation is therefore used extensively throughout oil refineries, in components such as the following:

  • Pipes
  • Storage tanks
  • Ducts
  • Cables
  • Protective clothing for workers
  • Flooring
  • Walls
  • Ceilings

The insulation in oil refineries must have special qualities. It must resist high temperatures in addition to insulating against extremely cold temperatures, fire, moisture, and chemicals. It must be customizable, explosion-proof, and anti-corrosive. Asbestos fit these requirements perfectly and was liberally used.

Asbestos could also be found in industrial machinery and turbines throughout oil refineries in the following components:

  • Gaskets
  • Packings
  • Flanges
  • Pipes
  • Sealants
  • Cement
  • Adhesives
  • Electrical wires

Engineers were more likely to be exposed to asbestos in machinery, while journeymen were more likely to be exposed through building components. However, some engineers worked on building components, and some journeymen worked with machinery.
Oil refineries may still be insulated with asbestos today, and many still use older asbestos-containing machinery.

Oil Refinery Companies with a History of Exposing Workers to Asbestos

Oil refineries have been exposing workers to asbestos since the early 1900s, and despite the clear-cut case for wrongdoing by the oil companies, these large companies continue to fight against fairly compensating their victims.

Exxon Mobil Corporation

In 2008, an oil refinery worker that serviced Exxon’s Bernicia refinery was awarded $700,000 in a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corporation after he contracted colon cancer as a result of his asbestos exposure. His work primarily consisted of replacing gaskets and flanges made of asbestos. He was never informed about the presence of asbestos. 

Sinclair Oil Corporation

In 2016, Atlantic Richfield Company/Sinclair Oil Corporation settled with the EPA for $655,000 for asbestos cleanup in Thermopolis, Wyoming. The site operated as an oil refinery from 1920 to 1969. It was destroyed in 1974, and the equipment was removed. 

Significant asbestos pipe insulation was stripped and disposed of by various entities. The EPA removed 4,000 cubic yards of asbestos-contaminated soil.

BP Products

In 2009, BP Products North America, Inc./Amoco Oil Company settled with the EPA for more than $161 million for violating the Clean Air Act in Texas City, Texas. The company was also ordered to pay a $12 million civil penalty and invest $6 million to reduce air pollution in Texas City. 

This occurred after an explosion at the refinery polluted the air in Texas City, and the EPA’s investigation revealed that the company had violated the Clean Air Act when it mismanaged asbestos and other toxic chemicals.


HONX, a subsidiary of Hess Corporation, became mired in asbestos litigation due to the asbestos exposure of numerous oil refinery workers in the U.S. Virgin Islands. HONX has already settled more than 1,100 asbestos exposure lawsuits over the last 23 years. 

The company filed for bankruptcy, which will allow it to shield $37 billion in assets from asbestos liability and prevent asbestos exposure victims from having their day in court. In December 2022, a Houston judge ruled in favor of HONX, allowing the bankruptcy to move forward.

What other companies exposed oil refinery workers to asbestos?

The following oil companies also exposed workers to asbestos:

  • Chevron USA, Inc./Standard Oil Company of California 
  • Citgo Petroleum Corporation
  • ConocoPhillips Petroleum
  • Marathon Ashland Petroleum, LLC
  • Phillips Petroleum Company
  • Shell Oil Company
  • Sunoco, Inc.
  • Texaco, Inc.
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Companies That Supplied Asbestos to Oil Refineries

The companies that supplied asbestos products to the oil companies are also liable for exposing oil refinery workers to asbestos. Most of the insulation companies have filed for bankruptcy, such as Thorpe Insulation, Johns Manville, and NARCO, a division of Honeywell. Bankrupt companies are required to establish asbestos trust funds for the benefit of their asbestos exposure victims.

The following companies provided other asbestos products to oil companies, including gaskets, seals, machine parts, and industrial compounds:

Oil Refinery Workers Exposed to Asbestos may be Entitled to Substantial Compensation

If you have worked in an oil refinery and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, The Lanier Law Firm may be able to help you file one or more mesothelioma claims and recover the compensation you need to pursue your medical care with the peace of mind that you and your family will have financial security.

With more than 25 years of experience handling mesothelioma cases, our law firm is one of the most experienced mesothelioma law firms in the world. Our compassionate attorneys have won billions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for asbestos exposure victims. We accept cases in all 50 states and will travel to you. Contact The Lanier Law Firm today for a free case evaluation. 

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