Hydroflouric Acid Investigation Requested
CSB interim Executive Authority Kristen Kulinowiski, and board members Manuel Ehrlich and Rick Engler, sent a letter to the EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, on the one-year anniversary of an explosion at the Husky Energy refinery in Superior, WI.
CSB has been investigating separate petroleum refinery explosions for the past four years – Husky Energy, and the ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery from 2015.
Each of which increased the threat of a potential hydrofluoric acid release.
After each high-profile blast, public hearings expressed the public’s concern.
In the letter, the CSB requested further investigation into hydrofluoric acid.
Specifically, they called on Wheeler to reevaluate the EPA’s risk management procedures and regulations on the substance.
“The EPA is the appropriate agency to assess the adequacy of risk management for the use of chemicals like HF. Refiners, their workforce and communities that surround the refineries need assurances that the risk plans are adequate to prevent a catastrophic release.”
The CSB members also noted that, in 1990, Congress instructed the EPA to identify any potential hazards that hydrofluoric acid posed to public health and the environment.
The EPA issued a follow-up report, and acknowledge the high volume of facilities using the substance. However, it failed to recommend any additional legislation.
What is Hydroflouric Acid?
Hydrofluoric acid, also known as hydrogen fluoride, is a substance that can exist as a colorless gas or fuming liquid and can dissolve in water.
This toxic substance can cause serious injury or death at a concentration of 30 parts per million. Exposure to hydrofluoric acid can cause lung disease, skin damage, and visual impairment — among other health conditions.
Industrial uses for hydroflouric acid include:
- Electroplating Acid Metal Cleaners – Oxide Removers
- Glass Etching and Frosting
- Flotation Agents Depressants – Nonsulfide Ores
- Integrated Iron and Steel Manufacturing Pickling Acids
- Laboratory Chemicals Acids, Other Chemicals (non-salts)
- Oil Refineries Catalyst to Produce High-Octane Fuel Additives
- Refrigeration Manufacture of Fluorocarbons
- Wet Chemical Etching
Home uses include:
- Air-conditioning unit coil cleaners
- Aluminum automotive wheel cleaners
- Chrome, brass, and crystal cleaners
- Masonry cleaners
- Rust stain remover
- Truck and commercial car washing compounds
- Water spot remover
On April 3, Husky announced it will invest more than $400 million to rebuild its Superior, WI refinery. The company also plans to continue using hydrogen fluoride with added protection to prevent any possible release.
The CSB investigation into the Superior incident is listed as “current.”
Husky plans to resume operations in late 2020.
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