The refinery in Meraux, Louisiana is owned by Murphy Oil Corporation. It has the ability to produce 125,000 barrels of crude oil on a daily basis. Murphy Oil got its start in 1906, and began processing oil in Louisiana in 1950. The company established their first retail gas location next to a SAM'S CLUB retail location in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Their fill up stations are most commonly found in the parking lots of Wal-Mart super stores.
In 2002 a flash fire struck the plant following an unexpected flare up in a processing unit. The blaze immediately killed one employee and seriously injured another. The unit where the fire originated was shut down, but the rest of the plant continued to operate following the tragedy.
One of the biggest natural disasters in recent history caused major amounts of damage to the Meraux Refinery. Hurricane Katrina raged through Louisiana in 2005 leaving an incredible trail of destruction behind it. The refinery was hit with flooding and property destruction from heavy winds. As soon as the storm had passed, efforts to clean up the facility and restore it to its full operational status began. It would be several months before the plant was ready to resume production, but most of the losses the site incurred were covered by the company's extensive insurance policy.
An oil spill in 2005 gained national attention and required assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This was another result of Hurricane Katrina: a large storage tank had been damaged in the storm, and it spilled out more than 1 million gallons of crude oil. The oil flowed and spread into nearby neighborhoods and caused damage to nearly 1,700 houses. Local canals were also hit with the oil, and when the flow finally came to a stop it had affected nearly one square mile of ground. The United States Coast Guard worked together with the EPA and FEMA to clean up the spill and make sure all residential areas are restored to a safe condition. Many home owners got together to sue Murphy Oil Corporation in a class action lawsuit, but the company had spent over $50 million to people who had damage done to their houses, $13 million to help clean public property that was damaged and $4 million for private property that was affected by the spill.
Long before any of the damage from Hurricane Katrina, Murphy Oil was forced to deal with another major problem. The plant featured a large number of products that included asbestos. Although the presence of asbestos used to be common in industrial settings, and even homes and small businesses, the naturally occurring material was eventually recognized as being a hazardous substance. Microscopic particles that make up asbestos can be inhaled, and become lodged in the respiratory system of unsuspecting victims. They can then cause tremendous internal damage and result in a type of cancer called Mesothelioma. The results can be lethal, but the effects often take many years to develop. Every person who worked at the plant before these products were professionally removed was put at risk of breathing in bits of asbestos and therefore put in danger of developing a life threatening disease. All current and former plant employees who may have been exposed to asbestos are urged to seek medical counsel immediately.
Last modified: December 09, 2009.