The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) announced Feb. 3 its support of an ongoing federal enforcement initiative it would like to specifically target potential hydrofluoric acid releases.
This initiative, called Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities, was begun by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2017. The CSB said it wants to see the initiative extended into the fiscal year 2024 cycle.
Concerns about ‘potentially catastrophic’ HF releases
The CSB wants this initiative to continue because of the board’s “experience in investigating incidents involving the release or potential release of highly toxic hydrofluoric acid (HF) – and concerns about the potentially catastrophic consequences of an HF release.”
Specifically, the CSB wants the EPA enforcement initiative to prioritize inspections of fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) units in refineries that operate HF alkylation units.
Three CSB investigations prompted the board’s support for the EPA enforcement initiative, including the:
- 2019 fire and explosions at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) Refinery
- 2018 Husky Energy Superior Refinery Explosion and Fire, and
- 2015 ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery Explosion.
All of these were near-miss incidents involving potential HF releases from alkylation units that could have resulted in major catastrophes, the CSB said in its letter of support for the EPA initiative.
Emphasis on FCC units, open recommendations
Based on lessons learned from those incidents, the CSB said:
- it strongly supports the EPA’s enforcement initiative to reduce accidental releases at industrial and chemical facilities
- urges the EPA to place additional emphasis on FCC units in refineries that operate HF alkylation units, and
- encourages the EPA to continue working toward the successful implementation of all open recommendations previously issued by the CSB regarding FCC units and the potential for accidental HF releases.