The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Republican-controlled refinery committee voted 3-2 to support an industry-backed alternative plan rather than the proposed all-out ban the committee had been considering earlier this year. The newly adopted plan directs agency staff to develop agreements with refineries in Torrance and Wilmington that would allow them to keep using the industry standard modified hydrofluoric acid but with enhanced safety measures.
Torrance and Wilmington refineries operate hydrofluoric acid (HF) alkylation units that use a modified form of HF (MHF), the latest advancement in catalyst technology that enhances manufacturing cleaner-burning gasoline and provides worker and community safety measures.
That same HF or MHF technology is currently in use at fifty of the nation’s approximately 150 refineries, but banning that technology in California would likely have resulted in both major fuel manufacturers being shut down, according to the California Energy Commission (CEC).
In addition to the fifty U.S. refineries using HF or MHF in their alkylation units:
- Hydrofluoric acid (HF) has been used in manufacturing since the 1700’s, which is over 250 years.
- HF alkylation has been used by California refineries since 1966.
- Today, the refining industry makes up less than two percent of HF use; many major industries in Southern California and across the country safely use HF to create common consumer products such as computers, televisions, cell phones, medicine, refrigerants, and much more.
With our fuels costs already about one dollar more than the rest of the country, a ban would have most likely resulted in closure of the two refineries most critical in helping manufacture the 65 million gallons of fuels being used DAILY by aviation, diesel, and gasoline based industries. The imminent closures would cause an increase in the amount of fuel needed to be imported to support California’s current fuel usage.
Importing manufactured fuels from foreign countries or other states would put the State at the mercy of the exporters and create permanent spikes in fuel costs and higher GHG emissions as no other state or country has the stringent environmental controls as California.
Most bills are not discriminatory. They address specific perceived ills with the intent of bettering industries like food, health, transportation, hospitality and energy. Most fall flat, with their achievements only resulting in more red tape rather than any overall improvements. The extra costs imposed via added fees are initially absorbed by the targeted industry, but are ultimately passed on to the consumers, usually the working-class residents, who use the services or products provided by these industries in their everyday lives.
The main reason this is a big win for all is that most residents may not be aware that California is an “energy island”. It is bordered between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Because there are no pipelines over the Sierra Mountains all fuels not produced in the state must be imported.
The state’s daily need to support its 145 airports (inclusive of 33 military, 10 major, and more than 100 general aviation) is 13 million gallons a day of aviation fuels. In addition, the 35 million registered vehicles of which 90 percent are NOT EV’s are consuming 10 million gallons a day of diesel and 42 million gallons a day of gasoline. All that “expensive” daily fuel is a heavy cost to consumers struggling to meet basic needs.
The SCAQMD’s actions are a positive step forward for the State, as the committee members looked at the entirety of their proposal and decided to keep using modified hydrofluoric acid but with enhanced safety measures.