LyondellBasell Houston Refinery

Houston Refining LP is a wholly owned subsidiary of LyondellBasell, a large chemical company headquartered in the Netherlands. Houston Refining LP is the owner of the Houston Refinery, a large facility covering 700 acres that sits near the Gulf Coast at the intersection of the city limits of Houston and Pasadena, TX. Nearly 270,000 barrels of crude oil is processed at the facility each and every day.

The Houston Refinery began as a small operation in 1918 and was owned by the Sinclair Company. Later it was purchased and operated by Atlantic Richfield Company and between 1993 and 2006 served as a joint-venture facility that involved the CITGO Petroleum Company. Today the refinery is one of the world’s largest plants that is capable of refining very heavy, high-sulfur crude oil.

The Refinery location on the Houston Ship Channel makes for convenient moving of materials via waterway, and the facility is directly connected to the interstate oil pipelines. The products that come from the Houston Refinery include gasoline, low-sulfur diesel, benzene, which is used in the manufacturing of nylon and polystyrene, and other chemicals such as orthoxylene and paraxylene.

Because of the nature of oil refining a number of by-products are used for specific purposes. Besides diesel, the Houston Refinery produces olefins feedstocks and aromatics, petroleum coke and certain lubricants. The refinery also processes jet fuel and home/industrial heating oil.

Oil refining is a specialized industry that is not without certain dangers and health risks. Workers are constantly exposed to high heat, not only from boilers and steam pipes but also large electric generators and even coal furnaces. There are also the hazards of noxious vapors and chemical spills, and the Houston Refinery requires extensive training by its employees before entering a work zone that may contain these dangerous substances.

Asbestos was commonly used at facilities like this, and maybe even at the Houston Refinery before its dangers became well-known to science and medicine. Asbestos can be made into tiles and boards as well as a coating for pipes and wiring. The fibers of asbestos are an extremely effective insulating material and also works as a fireproofing compound. At oil refineries its usefulness was extensive, but the fibers of asbestos are also dangerous.

If inhaled, asbestos can cause serious health problems including mesothelioma and other diseases of the lungs. Former employees at the Houston Refinery may have been exposed to asbestos for years without their knowledge of the health risks. Since the symptoms can be latent for 20 to 50 years, once the disease is diagnosed, not much can be done to help the patient.