Residents call for removal of modified hydrofluoric acid at Torrance Refinery

TORRANCE, Calif. (KABC) -- Residents near the Torrance Refinery are calling for the removal of a chemical used in the refining process.

The chemical used in the refining process is called modified hydrofluoric acid, or HF. Experts said if it is accidentally released into the air it has the potential to cause serious injuries or even death.

The call for the removal comes after the refinery has been through a challenging few years. A fire broke out last month, there were several flaring incidents that caused serious pollution and a major explosion shut down the plant for more than a year in 2015.

The refinery falls within Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn's district.

"It would be better if that chemical were not on that premises," she said.

On Wednesday, she and other supervisors unanimously voted to support a handful of assembly bills that boost safety measures at the refinery. They also urged the South Coast Air Quality Management District to ban HF.

But refinery officials said HF has been used in Torrance for roughly 20 years while causing no offsite problems. The refinery is already planning to upgrade the plant.

"It involves the investment of over $100 million in improving the reliability and safety of the refinery going forward," said Jeffrey Dill, with the refinery.

Until then, Dill said if HF is banned, the entire refinery may have to close, which is a big concern for the 630 people working there.

PVF Energy bought the refinery last year from ExxonMobil for $537 million. If the refinery is required to switch out HF in the process, it would cost $500 million, and refinery officials said that isn't economically feasible.
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