This week, Duluth mayor Emily Larson, the Duluth City Council, and the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Administration Board (CSB)
want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to look into the use of hydrofluoric acid (HF) at refineries, the risk management efforts to prevent or contain a spill, and the possibility of safer alternatives to the chemical compound.
In the wake of the April 2018 explosion and fire at Superior's Husky Oil Refinery, we all learned it could have been worse. Husky stores hydrogen fluoride on-site to make high-octane gasoline, and had the HF tank ruptured, it would have had serious - if not deadly - consequences.
In an update earlier this year, Husky announced it would continue its use of hydrogen fluoride after their analysis concluded "the alternatives – either conversion to sulfuric acid alkylation or adoption of ISOALKY technology – were not commercially viable or introduced significant risks for the Superior Refinery."
Later that month, the CSB sent a letter to the EPA, requesting it look into the use of HF in oil refineries; partly because of several high-profile petroleum refinery explosions and partly because the last study was done 26 years ago.
Meanwhile, Duluth mayor Emily Larson contacted Husky and asked for proof that the choice to continue using HF was the safest choice for the community, proof that she says they've declined to provide.
So this week, the Duluth City Council passed a resolution adding their voice to the call to take another look at the use of HF at the Husky refinery - and at safer alternatives.