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Industrial Safety

Chemical safety board investigates Honeywell again

US agency looks into another leak at firm’s hydrofluoric acid plant

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
June 18, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 19


A chemical plant lit up at night.
Credit: Honeywell
A fluorochemical plant at Honeywell's site in Geismar, Lousiana.

The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has deployed a team of chemical incident investigators to examine the cause of a release of hydrofluoric acid (HF) that occurred June 7 at the Honeywell facility in Geismar, Louisiana. A worker was seriously injured in the incident.

The investigation is the third related to HF that the CSB has begun at the Honeywell facility since 2021. Altogether, the CSB is examining six industrial accidents across the US.

In the most recent Honeywell event, a contract maintenance employee was exposed to HF and hospitalized. HF is a toxic and corrosive gas and liquid that is used in refining and chemical manufacturing and has been the subject of several CSB investigations.

“This is the third serious incident involving the release of HF at this facility in the last three years. This cannot keep happening,” CSB Chairperson Steve Owens says in a statement.

The two earlier Honeywell incidents include one on Oct. 21, 2021, in which an employee died after being exposed to HF on unprotected areas of his body when a gasket in facility piping failed.

And on Jan. 23, 2023, a heat exchanger ruptured at the Geismar Honeywell facility, resulting in an explosion and the release of approximately 470 kg of hydrogen fluoride and 770 kg of chlorine. Local officials closed nearby highways, and workers at the facility sheltered in place. Facility property damage reached an estimated $4 million. No one was seriously injured.

HF is among several chemicals of concern noted by CSB in the past. For instance, Owens said earlier this year that his agency will continue urging regulators to prioritize inspections of refineries that use HF as an alkylation catalyst. Such units have been the subject of several CSB investigations and recommendations.



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