The February 1, 2019 Southern California AQMD Staff presentation to the full Governing Board was an important milestone in Rule 1410 to deal with the threat of a catastrophic release of Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) into the community. The goal was for the Staff to inform the full Board on the background and need for Rule 1410, give a status on the Staff’s recommended approach, and seek guidance from the Board on the direction they wanted the Staff to take.
The SCAQMD’s Deputy Executive Officer for Planning, Rule Development & Area Sources, Dr. Philip Fine, made by all accounts an impressive presentation, while being mindful of the need to be evenhanded to both sides of the issue.
View the video of the Dr. Fine’s presentation by clicking here.
Video of the 1986 “Goldfish” Release Test of hydrofluoric acid (HF) shows the formation and spread of a ground-hugging toxic cloud. In the test carried out by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory research scientist Dr. Ronald R. Koopman, 8,300 lbs. of HF were released within 2 minutes. 100% of the acid became airborne in a dense, ground-hugging cloud of deadly HF.
Compare these “Goldfish” test results to the large-scale accidental release of the much safer alternative sulfuric acid at the Tesoro Refinery in Martinez, California, on February 12, 2014.
While the Torrance and Wilmington Valero refineries use Modified Hydrofluoric Acid (MHF) with 6-10% sulfolane to reduce volatility, the amount is too little to prevent a toxic cloud, a fact that has been confirmed by the AQMD.
Each of the two settler tanks at the Torrance Refinery holds 50,000 lbs. of HF — six times more than the 1986 “Goldfish” Release Test.
TRAA Science Advisory Panel member Dr. George Harpoles’ seminal article on the equivalent behavior of HF and MHF in a catastrophic accidental release concludes with the paragraph:
“Dangerous concentrations of HF could persist miles away from the refinery. The typical layers-of-protection approach (barriers, water sprays, pumps to spare vessels, etc.) may save lives for certain smaller leaks. However, a more catastrophic rupture, simultaneous with failure or bypass of the protection systems, is easy to imagine – in large earthquakes, accidental or deliberate explosions, or fire. Moreover, the delivery trucks traveling to the refinery carry MHF in similar quantities, and are even more vulnerable. They have no spare vessel or water-spray system. They are exposed to the public and subject to crashes. There is clear danger to the community in the use of MHF at refineries in urban settings.”
Some Thoughts on the South Coast AQMD Rule 1410 Refinery Committee Meeting by the TRAA Science Advisory Panel
Several members of the TRAA Science Advisory Panel attended the AQMD Refinery Committee Meeting in Wilmington CA on September 22, 2018. This was a particularly important meeting because two of the world’s leading experts on the dangers of hydrogen-fluoride use in refineries gave presentations: Dr. Ronald Koopman on the large-scale HF release experiments — The Goldfish Tests — he conducted in the Nevada desert in 1987, and John Cornwell of Quest Consultants, conductor of the only field-scale MHF release tests in Quest’s Oklahoma facility in 1993.
The high point of the meeting was when the SCAQMD Refinery Committee Chair, Dr. Clark Parker, asked each expert his “$64,000 Question” — Would 6-wt-% MHF act the same as pure HF?
Dr. Koopman expressed his profound skepticism that the additive would do much good — “I would guess that would be a very small effect.” (Watch:https://youtu.be/qwo08BtEQuM?t=7460)
John Cornwell emphasized the small amount of additive is unlikely to have much of an effect, and there’s no data to show that it does. He pointed out to Dr. Parker that physical chemists use mole percent (molecule count), and states, “If MHF is 6% by weight and 1% by mole, and you are going to modify the vapor pressure or modify the characteristics of the fluid, you’ve got to have some data to show that’s true” (Watch:https://youtu.be/qwo08BtEQuM?t=8874).
This publicly-stated testimony by the world’s two leading experts expressed a high degree of skepticism of the refineries’ safety assertions for MHF. They are in line with the TRAA Science Advisory Panel and the SCAQMD Staff. MHF and HF behave the same and both form ground-hugging toxic clouds.
Torrance Refining Company’s (ToRC) MHF website postings deliberately spread misinformation that is not only misleading, but also dangerous in that it conveys a false sense of safety with MHF.
In one of ToRC’s March 30, 2017 “Setting the Record Straight” videos (scroll down to find them), Tim Shepperd, lobbyist with HF Alkylation Consultants, presents “Why MHF Works.” He features a false analogy between water (a compound) and MHF (a mixture). Fifth-grade science standards in California include: a) that properties of a chemical compound are entirely different from those of its constituents, while b) properties of a mixture retain the properties of its constituents. Water, which is a safe compoundof oxygen and hydrogen, is in no way analogous to MHF, which is an unsafe, highly toxic, volatile mixtureof sulfolane and hydrofluoric acid. Continue reading ““ToRC Misinformation in Postings about MHF” by George Harpole, Ph.D.”