By the 1950’s, Combustion Engineering expanded its operations to include steam boilers and gas and oil production and refining. Almost all of CE’s early boilers, insulation, adhesives and cements all contained asbestos. CE supplied boilers and related products to industries around the world. The company’s biggest client was the U.S. Navy. Other clients include railroads, shipbuilders, construction, foundries and petrochemical manufacturers.
Combustion Engineering, formed from the merging of Grieve Grate Company and American Stoker Company, got its start in 1912 in New York City during the rise of the Second Industrial Era. By 1930, the company became the leading designer and manufacturer of fossil and nuclear steam supply systems.
Combustion Engineering, also known as CE, grew over the years through a series of partnerships with other companies, including Superheater Company. Around the same year, CE started work on the earliest nuclear submarines, producing fuel for the U.S. Navy. In the 1990’s, CE merged with Asea Brown Boveria (ABB Group) to be part of the world’s largest electrical engineering company.
High Risk Jobs for Exposure
There are a large number of workplaces that are at risk for exposure to asbestos. The trust found 1,140 land-based CE boilers with asbestos across the United States and 3,884 vessels with CE asbestos products on board. Also, 118 shipyards and 717 product sites in the U.S. have CE asbestos-containing materials. The land-based boilers were located in a range of businesses from knitting mills to paper companies. This includes colleges, hospitals and beer-brewing plants. The following jobs were considered high risk for asbestos exposure:
- Navy Veterans
- Shipyard Workers
- Knitting Mill Workers
- Chemical Company Employees
- Oil Field Workers
- Boiler Workers
How Was the CE Trust Formed?
When the ABB Group acquired CE for $1.6 billion in cash, many in the industry thought it was a lofty price. The ABB Group not only inherited the business but also a growing number of asbestos claims. With the acquisition came more than 200,000 asbestos claims.
In 2006, Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection was approved for Combustion Engineering. The Combustion Engineering Asbestos PI Trust was funded with $1.4 billion. In early 2014, the trustees overseeing the CE trust set the maximum annual amount for the year at $113.3 million. The trust has allocated $98.6 million for Category A claims and $14.7 million for Category B claims. The trust defines Category A claims as severe malignancies and Category B claims as nonmalignant pleural diseases. The maximum value for mesothelioma is $400,000 with the average value at $95,000.
Since asbestos trusts are only funded with a limited amount of money, claimants typically only receive a percentage of the requested funds based on a number of factors. Each trust has a different percent and it changes each year. In 2013, CE’s Category A claims were paid at 87 percent and Category B at 13 percent.
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CE’s Asbestos Products
CE developed and manufactured a large number of energy-producing machinery. Asbestos was used to reduce heat, chemical and fire damage as well as for insulation.
The following is a sampling of the company’s more popular products:
- Type-E Stoker Boiler – As CE’s signature boiler, the Type-E was an underfeeder boiler that was known for its consistency and quality. Asbestos was used as an insulator and heat repellent.
- Block Stick – A type of refractory cement, Block Stick is made to endure the highest heats while remaining tensile. This was made with asbestos because of its heat resistance.
- Arndt, Michael. Bloomberg Businessweek. How Asbestos Burned ABB.. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2002-03-03/how-asbestos-burned-abb
- Berenson, Alex. The New York Times. .A Caldron of Ethics and Asbestos.. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/12/business/a-caldron-of-ethics-and-asbestos.html