Start up blaze shuts plant
A fire at the Burrup Fertiliser (BF) plant in Dampier caused a shut down of the facility last week as emergency crews worked to avert further damage.
The fire erupted in the purifier section last Tuesday at around 4pm during a start-up phase after the plant had undergone a routine maintenance shut down.
Partner of PPB Advisory, the appointed Receivers and Managers for BF, Mr Simon Theobald advised that the situation was brought under control quickly and the plant’s emergency procedures were effectively implemented.
“There were no injuries nor was any ammonia vented as a result of the incident,” he said.
Mr Theobold said the plant’s emergency procedures were engaged immediately.
“These procedures ensured that the fire was contained as quickly as possible and shortly thereafter extinguished,” he said.
The Fertiliser Plant is no stranger to controversy.
In May 2006, a report was requested by the Conservation Council regarding the scale of a activated methyl diethanolamine (aMDEA) spill which uncovered the contaminated area covered the entire plant.
Exposure to aMDEA can cause severe physical reactions such as vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and coma and is highly irritating to skin eyes and respiratory systems and at 1000mg/l, is toxic to marine life.
The report found that a large amount of process gas was released into the atmosphere and then leached into surrounding ground, more than 78,000 litres of liquid aMDEA was lost from the system and contaminated water with up to 0.8 per cent leached into King Bay.
In August 2006, an ammonia leak occurred at the plant which was traced to the inadequate burning of vapour in the flare.
June 2008 saw 80 workers walk off the job citing safety concerns after a fellow worker was injured at the plant.
The action triggered a Worksafe enquiry and according to then managing director Pankaj Oswal, the report deemed the plant completely safe.
The Fertiliser Plant also attracted its fair share of financial woes with the high living Pankaj Oswal, whose Indian based company Oswal Group Global have a 65% stake in BF, being accused by Norwegian fertiliser giant Yara International, 35% stakeholder, of skimming company funds for personal use, an accusation Panakj Oswal denies.
The financial stouche continues to fester with the Oswal Group going into liquidation in December with debts of more than $800 million and more recently with the Oswals accusing the ANZ bank and YARA of collusion and pushing the company into a reduced price fire sale price being a potential $1.5 billion.
In January this year, approval was granted for Burrup Nitrates Pty Ltd by the Environmental Protection Authority to build a technical Ammonium Nitrate (TAN) (the main ingredient in explosives) plant adjacent to the existing ammonia plant.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for the BF plant that cost $700 million to build and produces 6 percent of the world’s output of ammonia at around 600,000 tonnes per year.
Mr Theobold said the site is being thoroughly assessed and the relevant regulatory authorities have been advised of both the incident and control measures that are in place.
“The plant will not resume operation until is safe to do so,” he said.