A representative of the Utah Petroleum Association says refineries in Davis County are well prepared to contain any spills of hydrofluoric acid.
“Even before 9-11 the American Petroleum Institute established procedures for refineries to follow to minimize any dangers from plants which use hydrofluoric acid in their processing,” said Lee Peacock, spokesman for the Utah Petroleum Association.
Flying J’s Big West oil refinery, Chevron and Phillips 66 refineries all use hydrofluoric acid in their processing. About 100,000 tons of the acid are stored at the three Davis County refineries, according to Jeff Utley, senior vice president for Flying J Corp.
The subject of the potential danger of the substance surfaced recently when a national environmental group declared that the Davis County refineries are threatening up to 590,000 people nearby with death and injury.
In a report from the U.S. Public Interest Group (PIRG) it states that if the acid is released it can form aerosol clouds that can seriously burn the skin, tissue and lungs.
The PIRG report says 50 of the nation’s 153 petroleum refineries use hydrofluoric acid or store it on site. It says this threatens 15 million Americans. The 590,000 Utahns it says are threatened are the ninth most among the 50 states.
Utley says hydrofluoric acid was first used to develop a high-octane fuel during World War II and was extremely effective in helping the United States military improve the performance of fighter planes.
He said Homeland Security is now carefully monitoring safety practices of petroleum refineries.
“In preparation for the Olympics, we worked with the FBI to review and improve security,” he said.
Utley stated that some politicians in the East are pushing for the Environmental Protection Agency to take the lead in monitoring the petroleum industry instead of Homeland Security..
“We have put in many mitigation systems to make things safer,” Utley said. “We have done a lot of research and beefed up security.”