Toxic chemical at PES refinery mostly cleared, aiding probe of June blaze

August 30, 2019

Most of a highly toxic chemical stored at a fire-damaged Philadelphia oil refinery has been rendered inert, clearing the way for closer inspections of the site following a June blaze that led to the plant’s closure, officials said on Friday. About 340,000 pounds of hydrofluoric acid (HF) stored at Philadelphia Energy Solutions’ refinery was chemically neutralized, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said in a briefing. HF can burn the skin and form a potentially deadly fog at room temperature. The process “substantially reduces the risk to the community,” Thiel said, noting some HF acid still remained at the site. Initial phases of the fire probes, including data gathering, have largely been completed, Thiel said. HF is used by more than one-third of U.S. refineries in the alkylation process to make high-octane gasoline. Labor unions and environmentalists have urged that it be replaced, particularly in densely populated areas.

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