The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revisit its decades-old hydrogen fluoride study following the Husky Energy Superior refinery explosion.
The April 26, 2018, explosion sent 11 people to the hospital and prompted city and county officials to declare a state of emergency.
Shrapnel from the explosion pierced an asphalt tank and when the leaking asphalt found an ignition source it set off a massive fire. The fire came very close to a tank holding hydrogen fluoride, an extremely toxic chemical used by some refineries in the production of high-octane gasoline. Breathing in hydrogen fluoride can cause serious illness, blindness and death. The risk posed by the fire reaching the tank prompted officials in Duluth, MN and Superior, WI to issue a state of emergency.
Husky Superior is one of only about 50 refineries in the U.S. that uses this method to produce high-octane gas. And for years, United Steelworkers, the union that represents refinery workers nationwide, has been hoping to reduce that number by advocating to phase out the use.
Now, the CSB is echoing those concerns saying Husky Superior was the second explosion in four years that created the threat of a hydrogen fluoride release. CSB Interim Executive Kristen Kulinowski said, refinery employees and neighboring residents are rightly concerned and it’s time for the EPA to review its 1993 study on hydrogen fluoride.
Husky Energy decided to continue using hydrogen fluoride after the explosion. The company says it has spent more than $400 million to rebuild the refinery.