Mobil Oil Corporation, now known as ExxonMobil, is the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company. The company explores for, produces, and sells crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products. Mobil Oil merged with the Exxon Corporation in 1999. The company is a target for asbestos litigation because of the amount of asbestos once used in the drilling for and harvesting of oil.
Before the merger, Mobil Oil was an independent corporation that was created as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s anti-trust judgment of 1911. The court ruled that Standard Oil violated the country’s anti-trust regulations, and it ordered the company to be separated into 34 smaller companies.
In 1931, two of the newly formed companies, Vacuum Oil and Standard Oil of NY (Socony), merged to form Socony Vacuum. Vacuum was selling a product called Mobilgas and Standard had been using the Pegasus icon, which would later become Mobil Oil’s symbol.
In 1955, the name of the company was changed to Socony Mobil Oil, and in 1966, it was simplified to Mobil Oil. By this time, Mobil Oil also enjoyed a huge presence in Europe including the ownership of petrol stations, oil refineries, lubricant plants, and petrochemical installations.
In the 1980s, Mobil Europe entered a joint venture with British Petroleum (BP) to sell fuels and lubricants to companies, organizations and consumers. The joint venture would later be divided as a condition of the Mobil/Exxon merger, with Mobil retaining the lubrication business and BP holding onto all the remaining production and marketing activities that were involved in the joint venture.
Today, the ExxonMobil Company operates 38 oil refineries in 21 countries constituting a combined daily refining capacity of 6.3 million barrels, according to corporate records.
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The production of oil and management of oil refineries involves the use of heavy-duty industrial equipment, much of which was known to contain asbestos. Some Mobil Oil employees were exposed to asbestos-containing products while working for the company and later developed diseases due to the exposure. As a result, thousands of employees have filed lawsuits against the company.
For example, in 2005, Mobil Oil faced a lawsuit from the estate of James Bailey alleging that the company caused the former employee’s lung cancer and subsequent death. While working for the company between 1966 and 1973 at a Texas facility, Bailey was exposed to asbestos that lead to his cancer. The jury awarded the plaintiff over $850,000 in actual and exemplary damages.
More recently, on March 17, 2011, ship repairman Bert Minton, 72, was awarded $25 million from Mobil Oil by a Virginia jury for his mesothelioma damages. He worked on 17 different oil tankers and was exposed to the toxic material during his 10 year tenure with the company.
The cases of Bailey and Minton just exemplify two of the thousands of claims against Mobil Oil. In 2012, ExxonMobil sued dozens of insurers in an attempt to recover funds from asbestos-related lawsuits. The company expects many more asbestos lawsuits will be filed against it in the future.
Oil refineries like those owned by Mobil often used asbestos to line its heat-producing equipment. For several decades, asbestos was deemed as the best insulation material for any sort of vessel that contained materials that were highly flammable, such as oil or gasoline.
Occupations that dealt with the pipes, tanks, pumps, reactors, furnaces, ovens, dryers, boilers, or heat exchangers were at increased risk of asbestos exposure. These endangered occupations include insulators, metal workers, engineers, electricians and chemical workers. Employees who worked within these occupations are encouraged to receive medical screenings to identify potential any damages to their health. Being exposed to these pieces of contaminated equipment on a daily basis could lead to the development of lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Mobil Oil products that contained asbestos include heat-generating vessels and carriers, pipelines, pumps, reactors, furnaces, ovens, dryers, heat exchangers, boilers and protective clothing worn by refinery workers.
ExxonMobil was the world’s largest company in terms of market capitalization for much of the 1990s and 2000s, before losing the title to Apple, the consumer products maker.
Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of professional writing experience. He joined Asbestos.com in 2016, and he spends much of his time reading, analyzing and reporting on mesothelioma research articles to ensure people in the mesothelioma community know the latest medical advancements. Prior to joining Asbestos.com, Matt was a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. Matt also edits some of the pages on the website.
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