Chevron Phillips Cedar Bayou Plant
In 1963 the Gulf Oil Corporation constructed the Cedar Bayou Plant, now known as Chevron Phillips Cedar Bayou Plant, which in 1985 was made part of the Chevron family and then in 2000 incorporated into Chevron Phillips Chemicals. The plant is a petrochemical plant situated on about 1200 acres in Baytown, Texas, which is Chevron Phillips Chemical Company’s largest manufacturing location. Approximately 900 people work in the plant and many live in the Baytown area. The complex hosts an acetylene black plant, alpha and poly alpha olefin units, and some of the world’s largest ethylene units.
Chevron Phillips Cedar Bayou Plant produces polyethylene resins and alpha olefins, which it upgrades from its ethylene product. Uses for the chemicals produced include antifreeze, detergents, paints, fibers, plastics, adhesives, coatings, lubricants and other greases. Many dangers are involved while working with petrochemicals, and plant workers make every effort to follow safe procedures and practices. The workforce at chemical plants is well aware of the dangers from fire, explosions and accidental burns and scalds. The facility has been recognized for its safety efforts and its environmental concerns, which includes a reduction in energy consumption when possible.
During most of the 20th century, asbestos was used liberally as insulation in chemical plants, likely including at the Chevron Phillips Cedar Bayou Plant, to protect workers from accidental burns and injuries in high temperature areas, handling extremely hot equipment, and to protect the plants from fires. Because of its fireproofing properties, asbestos was used to insulate hot pipes, pumps, heat exchangers, boilers, extruders, ovens and furnaces. Unfortunately, the use of asbestos material that was intended to keep employees safe had the opposite effect.
Exposure to asbestos has caused many thousands of chemical plant workers to develop health problems and pulmonary diseases, including a particularly lethal form of cancer called mesothelioma. The dangers of exposure to asbestos dust were not widely known before the 1970s, and workers were not able to make informed choices about working in areas that put them at risk of contracting life-threatening ailments. When asbestos material is handled or disturbed, it sheds tiny fibers into the air. When these fibers are inhaled, they burrow into the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen and may eventually cause the dreaded mesothelioma. Although asbestos use was greatly reduced decades ago, this rare cancer can develop up to fifty years after exposure.