Trade union United Steelworkers (USW) is calling for the phaseout of hydrogen fluoride, an acid used as a catalyst in the alkylation unit for high-octane petroleum production, stating that the chemical is health hazard to workers in petroleum refineries.
The demand for the ban comes at a time when several petroleum refineries this year had incidents of HF release including last month's incident at ExxonMobil refinery in Joliet, Ill. According to the Chemical Safety Board (CSB), recent reported releases include those at the CITGO refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, on July 19, 2009, and at the Sunoco refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 11, 2009.
USW said solid-state catalysts offer a safer alternative but are currently at the pilot plant stage and have not been used commercially yet for the alkylation process.
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