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Sunday, May 28, 2023

MHF as MVP of Region’s Fuel Supply

The California Energy Commission reports that fuel consumption in California is at the highest level since 2007, despite the state’s crusade to subsidize Electric Vehicles (EVs) – which has led to more than 50 percent of all EVs in the country being registered here.

For California’s 35 million registered motor vehicles, of which more than 90 percent are not EVs, daily fuel needs in 2016 were 42 million gallons of gasoline, and 10 million gallons of diesel. Sounds like a lot of fuel, but it’s only a little more than one gallon-per-day-per-vehicle. Daily demand at California’s 145 airports – including 33 military, 10 major commercial facilities, and more than 100 general aviation airports – consumes 10 million gallons per day of aviation fuels. In addition, California requires vessels calling on its ports to use special marine fuel.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has recently proposed an option of phasing out modified hydrofluoric acid (MHF) as a technology in the alkylation refinery process units at the Valero Wilmington Refinery and the PBF Torrance Refinery that manufacture fuels for our daily use.

A ban on MHF technology at two Southern California refineries could result in the closure of both major fuel producers, which would put the state at the mercy of fuels to be imported from foreign countries, and result in a permanent spike in fuel costs and in higher GHG emissions to get our fuels from other countries or states with less stringent environmental standards than California.

These two refineries currently supply 30 percent of Southern California’s gasoline, 30 percent of the jet fuel for Los Angeles International Airport, and 80 percent of the marine fuels to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. 

Any major change in operations at either refinery would be required to go through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) permitting process. A suggested change to sulfuric acid technology would necessitate different equipment to make our fuels, as the two technologies require different metallurgy, as well as opportunities for more greenhouse gases, thus encountering huge stumbling blocks to complete the CEQA permitting process to build new process units.

Both technologies, MHF and sulfuric acid, are being used safely throughout the U.S. and the world to manufacture fuels, but a conversion from one to the other at any location has never been done.

Californians already pay as much as $1 more per gallon of fuel than the rest of the country. The cost of fuel directly impacts the cost of transportation which, in turn, could create a domino inflation effect on almost everything we buy, including food, clothing, and housing. Extremely high fuel costs are a contributing factor to California having the highest percentage of poverty and homelessness in the U.S.A.

In addition to California having the second highest taxes on fuels in the nation, the California Energy Commission recently reported that environmental rules and regulation adds costs onto each gallon of gasoline and diesel with: 1) the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) under California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) control; 2) Fuels Under the Cap (FUTC) i.e., the “boutique” fuel in California required by the federal government and CARB’s control; 3) the renewable fuels standard under CARB’s control, and 4) Cap & Trade Fees that are funding Governor Brown’s High Speed Rail and many other green projects.

With California being one of the most environmentally controlled locations in the world, continuing the manufacturing in-state of aviation fuel, gasoline, diesel, and marine fuels is needed. Shutting down two refineries – which would lead to importing fuel which leads to higher costs and increased emissions – is not needed and won’t be ultimately beneficial.

MHF has a proven safe track record of 120 HF/MHF units around the world, thus the SCAQMD should allow the continued use of this MHF technology and not cause a disruption of California fuel supply.

Ronald Stein is founder of PTS Staffing Solutions in Irvine.

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