Port Arthur Refinery

The refinery at Port Arthur is located in an industrial area in Port Arthur, Jefferson County, Texas. The refinery was actually a by- product of the Lucas gusher, which occurred on January 10, 1901. This gusher resulted in what is known as the Spindletop oil boom at Beaumont. The refinery was originally built by the Gulf Oil Company as an effort to refine the Spindletop crude oil. Close to Spindletop, at the Garrison station, storage tanks and a pump station were constructed. A pipeline to what still remains the refinery site was finished in August of 1902. This meant that The Texas Company, now known as Texaco, could begin selling its first product-Spindletop crude oil. This oil was pumped from tanks located at the refinery over to a barge situated at the Port Arthur Terminal. In April of 1903, the initial batch tar stills were turned on. But it was not until November 13, 1902, when the refinery officially opened, that the new crude stills were first run. The great September fire caused a quick decline in the level of production at Spindletop late in 1902. As a result, the amount of crude oil available to the new refinery and the company itself were at risk of extinction. The Texas Company placed most of their capital on another gusher that came to fruition on January 8, 1903 at Sour Lake. The Texas Company quickly sold crude oil contracts at 60 cents a barrel while obtaining the rights to this secret oil field.  Upon announcement of the discovery, crude prices dropped to just 10 cents, thus allowing The Texas Company to purchase oil necessary to cover their contracts cheaply.  This healthy profit was instrumental in funding for Port Arthur. In 1984 Chevron acquired the Gulf Oil Corporation, selling the refinery in 1995 to Premcor Refining Group, Inc.  Currently, the refinery is owned and operated by Valero and encompasses approximately 4,000 acres. This site has been impacted by the dumping of hazardous substances from the refinery. Various substances were dumped into the environment, both on-site and in surrounding areas. This dumping has resulted in several studies which indicate the surface water, sediments, on-site bodies of water, on-site ponded wetlands, and the North Marsh are contaminated.  Waste containment areas on-site are listed as the main source of this contamination.  Specifically listed as present are: polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), lead, zinc, nickel, cadmium, and copper, as well as other hazardous substances.  Such contaminants could potentially be connected to site-related human health in addition to the ecological risks. Combining the history of mishandling hazardous material with the age of the refinery makes it likely that the plant utilized several materials now regulated against, including asbestos.   Asbestos is a leading cause of asbestosis and certain cancers, specifically, mesothelioma.  Unfortunately, mesothelioma has a long latency period. This means that former chemical plant employees with prolonged exposure to asbestos might only be exhibiting the first symptoms of mesothelioma today. References: