Fluoride Action Network

Chemical safety board applauds EPA hydrogen fluoride initiative

Safety BLR | September 11, 2023
Posted on September 11th, 2023
Location: United States, National

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) updated National Enforcement and Compliance Initiatives (NECIs), which continue the EPA’s focus on reducing risks of accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities.

For the first time, the EPA’s initiatives emphasize inspecting and addressing noncompliance at facilities that use highly toxic hydrogen fluoride (HF), the chemical safety board said in an August 31 statement.

In recent years, the CSB has investigated several incidents involving a release of HF or a “near miss” of an HF release that put nearby communities at risk.

A major fire and explosions in 2019 at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) Refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, resulted in the release of more than 5,000 pounds of highly toxic HF into the air. Fortunately, the surrounding community wasn’t harmed by the HF release due in part to favorable wind conditions. If the HF had traveled beyond the refinery boundary, there could have been significant adverse impacts within the community, according to the CSB.

At the Husky Superior Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin, two vessels in the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit exploded in 2018, propelling metal fragments throughout the facility that punctured a nearby asphalt storage tank at the refinery and resulted in a serious asphalt fire. An HF storage tank, which was closer to the explosion than the asphalt tank, could also have been punctured by debris from the explosion. Because of the potential risk of a release of highly toxic HF from the refinery, over 2,500 residents of Superior were evacuated from their homes, and the city of Duluth, Minnesota, issued a shelter-in-place order.

At a former ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, California, an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) in the FCC unit exploded in 2015 and spewed debris that nearly hit two tanks containing modified HF. FCC catalyst spread throughout the nearby community because of the explosion. While no HF was released, the event raised significant concerns in the community about the potential impact of an HF release at the facility.

*Original full-text article online at: https://safety.blr.com/workplace-safety-news/hazardous-substances-and-materials/chemical-hazards/Chemical-safety-board-applauds-EPA-hydrogen-fluori/