Superior’s City Council is lending its support to rebuilding the Husky Energy refinery in the safest manner possible.
Councilors unanimous support to a resolution presented by Superior City Councilor Dan Olson in support of rebuilding the Husky Energy refinery in Superior.
Olson presented the resolution to the council in response to Duluth Mayor Emily Larson presenting the Duluth City Council with a resolution to request the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider whether petroleum refiners should be allowed to continue using hydrogen fluoride.
The Duluth City Council adopted an amended resolution Monday, July 15, that noted the 200 jobs at the Husky refinery and $22.5 million it injects into the regional economy, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
“To be honest with you, I wasn’t really happy that Emily did that,” Olson said. “The timing was really bad.”
Since the Superior City Council supported a resolution in June in support of a project labor agreement among the trades and Husky refinery, Olson said decided to give councilors an opportunity to support the rebuilding of the refinery in the safest manner possible.
Refinery officials in Superior have said the refinery will continue to use hydrogen fluoride in its process to create high-octane fuel, but plan to increase safety measures around the tank.
Fears of the dangerous and potentially lethal chemical have been raised throughout the Twin Ports in the wake of the April 26, 2018 explosion at the refinery.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hydrogen fluoride is used to make refrigerants, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, high-octane gasoline, aluminum, plastics, electrical components and fluorescent light bulbs. It’s also used in etching glass and metal. Exposure to hydrogen fluoride can cause irritation at low levels, but could cause severe burns, pain even where there is no visible damage, and even death depending on the concentration and duration of exposure to the chemical, the CDC website reports.
Refinery general manager Kollin Schade told councilors Tuesday, June 16, that safety is the No. 1 priority to ensure there isn’t a recurrence of what happened last year by layering safety measures.
“The HF is the elephant in the room,” Olson said.
“We have been very public with our plans for HF,” Schade said. “When you look at the safety improvements we had in place, and the additional safety improvements we’re installing out there, we feel that we’re putting that unit in the best position for success moving forward.”
Councilor Jenny Van Sickle questioned why HF is the best option for the refinery in Superior.
“Alternative technologies introduce significant risk as the refinery,” Schade said. “They are not yet proven technology within the power field. I can tell you it’s debatable either way.”
However, he said moving forward the refinery will continue to investigate its options that are proven in the United States.
Schade said while safety systems concerning the HF tank worked flawlessly during the explosion and fire last year, plans include augmenting those systems.
Councilor Craig Sutherland said he, his brother and father were working at the refinery the day of the explosion, and commended Schade on the refinery’s evacuation plans, which worked that day.
“Safety is above all,” Sutherland said.