Combustion Engineering was founded in 1912 when Grieve Grate Company and American Stoker Company merged. In 1920, the company built its first headquarters building in lower Manhattan. The company’s initial products were boilers and under feed stokers (fuel systems for boilers) and dryers.
In the 1930s, the company worked on improving steam engines for locomotives. Combustion Engineering partnered with the Superheater Company, and the two companies eventually merged. After the merger, the company worked on assemblies for power plants.
During World War II, Combustion Engineering built several asbestos-lined boilers for Liberty ships. After the war, the company began delving into other products including plastics, synthetic fibers and solvents.
As the company grew, so did its product list. CE manufactured everything from cement to protective seals until 1990 when Asea Brown Boveri (ABB Group) — one of the world’s largest electrical engineering companies — assumed control of CE’s operations. By then, Combustion Engineering had already discontinued its use of asbestos.
Combustion Engineering Lawsuits and Asbestos Trust
Combustion Engineering’s financial debt and lingering asbestos liability was inherited by ABB Group and nearly bankrupted the company in the early 2000s.
At the end of 2001, ABB increased the amount to cover future asbestos-related claims against Combustion Engineering from $470 million to $940 million. At that time, the company intensified its efforts to settle valid claims and dispute any that appeared invalid.
CE had 111,000 legal claims pending in November, 2002. Many of the claims were the result of asbestos use as an insulation material inside welded boilers built before the 1980s.
In an effort to handle the debt and manage pending and future asbestos claims, ABB and Combustion Engineering agreed on a pre-packaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan with representatives of CE’s asbestos plaintiffs in 2003.
By October 2004, ABB had reduced the number asbestos claims to 94,000.
After three years in bankruptcy court, the reorganization plan took effect April 1, 2006. The plan established a trust fund to help settle any pending and future asbestos claims. Since 1990, ABB has paid more than $900 million to settle thousands of asbestos claims.
The Combustion Engineering Asbestos PI Trust was created to handle all asbestos personal injury claims. The amount of funding in the trust is estimated at $1.43 billion.
In addition to setting up a trust, ABB provided enhanced payment for claimants in the form of company stock and cash. The cash payments were made in installments from 2004 to 2009. These cash payments were estimated at $350 million.
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Asbestos Products Made by Combustion Engineering
Combustion Engineering manufactured many asbestos products for use in a number of different industries, but the U.S. Navy was a major buyer of the company’s boilers and boiler products. Other industries that purchased products from asbestos manufacturers like CE included aerospace, construction, foundry, insulation, iron/steel, longshore, maritime, petrochemicals, railroad and textile industries.
Combustion Engineering manufactured boilers, cement, insulation, adhesives and coatings with asbestos.
The company produced more than two dozen specific asbestos-laden items, including:
- A-1199 Insulating Cement
- Asbestos Ropes
- Block Stick
- Buck Stay Cement A1360
- Calcrete 30 Insulating Cement
- Casing Cement
- Castablock Insulating Cement
- Expansion Joint Material
- Fibrous Adhesive
- Griptex Mineral Wool Block
- Hilite Insulating Cement
- Hy-Temp. Flexible Cement
- Kaiser Hard Top Insulating Cement
- Kaiser M. Block
- Kaiser Plastic Insulating Cement
- Lite Wate 22
- Lite Wate 50
- MHD Finishing Cement
- Permaseal Weathercoating
- Pyroscat Fireproofing Cement
- SDK 50 Cement
- Stic Tite Insulating Cement
- Stirrup Cement
- Super 711 Insulating Cement
- Super Finish Insulating Cement
- Super Finish Stick-Tite Ins. Cement
- Super Stick-Tite Ins. Cement
- Utility Thermal Finish Cement
- WeatherKote Protective Air-Check
- WeatherKote Protective Coating
- WeatherKote Protective Duriseal
- WeatherKote Protective Thermal Coat
Anyone who worked with these products should be alerted to their dangers because thousands of workers who were exposed to the asbestos in these products developed asbestos-related illnesses.
Shipyard workers, U.S. Navy veterans, engineers, plant workers and construction workers were likely at the highest risk for asbestos exposure from Combustion Engineering products.
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Last Modified October 11, 2018
5 Cited Article Sources
ABB. (2003). ABB and Combustion Engineering reach asbestos agreement.
Retrieved from: http://www.abb.com/cawp/seitp202/0780d60a84053cc9c1256cb1001ecaf5.aspx
Combustion Engineering 524(g) Asbestos PI Trust Homepage. (n.d.)
Retrieved from: http://www.cetrust.org/
In Re: Combustion Engineering, Inc., 03-CV-00751 (n.d.) Opinion of the court. Retrieved July 6, 2012. from
Retrieved from: http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/033392p.pdf
Langley, A. (2002). ABB proposes a settlement for all asbestos lawsuits.
Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/02/business/international-business-abb-proposes-a-settlement-for-all-asbestos-lawsuits.html
- Rose, T. (2005, December 21). Swiss firm settles U.S. asbestos lawsuits. Retrieved from: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2005-12-21/business/0512200769_1_abb-asbestos-combustion-engineering