If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Unions, Communities Urge End Of HF Use

by Jeff Johnson
November 23, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 47

The United Steelworkers and several Texas community groups have announced a national campaign to pressure refineries to stop using hydrogen fluoride as an alkylation catalyst for making high-octane fuels. The groups say alternatives exist, particularly solid-acid catalysts. They point to New Jersey company Exelus, which has developed the solid-acid-catalyst technology, and they want refiners to try the process in operating refineries at commercial scale. In an e-mail exchange, Exelus officials say they have tried the technology at a mothballed plant and it is cost-effective. The American Petroleum Institute is not so sure. API policy analyst Ron Chittim says solid-state catalysts are not a viable option at this time. "This process has never been used at a full-scale alkylation unit. Everybody supports moving R&D forward," he says, and if technology is shown to work, "it would be looked at very closely by industry." The Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board is investigating three HF-related accidents that occurred this year at refineries. Hydrogen fluoride becomes hydrofluoric acid when exposed to moisture and is extremely corrosive. It is a contact poison that burns skin, tissue, and eyes and can cause death. About 50 of the U.S.'s 150 refiners use HF, API says, and another 50 use sulfuric acid as a catalyst.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.