ToRC Misinformation in Postings about MHF by George Harpole, Ph.D.

GeorgeHarpoleTorrance 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 compound of oxygen and hydrogen, is in no way analogous to MHF, which is an unsafe, highly toxic, volatile mixture of sulfolane and hydrofluoric acid.

Mr. Shepperd continues with the false statement that hydrogen bonding prevents flash atomization. Although water and hydrogen fluoride are often discussed in chemistry textbooks as examples of hydrogen bonding, the strength of those bonds is insufficient to prevent flash atomization, which has been demonstrated with each. Both HF and MHF boil near room temperature, and flash atomization of either requires only a modest superheat, less than 20oF above their boiling points, which is markedly exceeded in the refining process. In the 1986 large-scale Goldfish tests, conducted at typical refining conditions, flash atomization led to HF concentrations eight times the ERPG-3 limit for life threatening health effects 1.9 miles downwind.

Mr. Shepperd falsely claims that barriers collect MHF droplets just like cardboard collects spray paint. In reality, MHF and HF are much more like the volatile paint propellant, which flows around the cardboard, than they are like the non-volatile paint.

These false claims — 1) the water analogy, 2) hydrogen bonding preventing flash atomization, and 3) the paint analogy — are not only misleading, but also dangerous in that they convey a false sense of safety with MHF.

The ToRC January 16, 2018, PowerPoint charts “Setting the Record Straight, The Truth About Torrance Refinery MHF,” mention my name (negatively) at least eleven times. ToRC falsely claims my MHF vapor pressure curves are not data-based. This falsehood is easily refuted by a quick look at the reference sources to the data used in my article HF and MHF – Equivalent Ground Hugging Fog Hazards:  1) U.S. Patent 5,654,251 and 2) Honeywell Safety Data Sheet SDS 14512, Modified Hydrofluoric Acid, (pages 9 & 10).

U.S. Patent 5,654,251:  a) regards the invention of MHF as sulfolane added to HF, b) admits that the toxicity and safety hazard of HF is the problem to be cured, and c) claims reduction of vapor pressure as the objective of the invention. Figure 1 of this patent shows MHF vapor pressure data as a function of the weight percent sulfolane additive. The vapor pressure reduction is seen to be very little for small concentrations of sulfolane. The Honeywell MHF Safety Data Sheet provides additional MHF vapor pressure data at 75oF (near, but above boiling) and 100oF (near alkylation temperatures). I used MHF vapor pressure data from both sources.

Note that “hydrogen bonding” is never mentioned in the MHF patent, because the hydrogen bonding impact is already included in the vapor pressure. Yet, “Setting the Record …” falsely claims that vapor pressure is not the key chemical property, but hydrogen bonding is — exactly opposite from the truth.

Surely, Mr. Shepperd and the other (unlisted) ToRC authors had to pass basic chemistry classes to be in their current positions. Therefore, their gross misrepresentations seem deliberate to falsely inflate MHF safety.