Chemelot’s fertilizer plant was restarted again step by step last month. It had been shut down since a fire on 30 September last year. The ammonia plant, where there was a small-scale fire last 5 November, was restarted in January. The production processes at OCI Nitrogen’s plants are closely linked with one another. The shut-downs at the two plants meant that the nitric acid plant could also not operate at full capacity. All three of the CAN fertilizer plants are now operating again, and the other plants that are functionally linked to them are also once more running as normal.
Challenging repair work
Getting the fertilizer plant up and running again involved a lot of hard work. The biggest challenge had to do with a vital energy unit which supplied electricity to a large part of the plant and the offices but which had been damaged beyond repair. The unit has been completely replaced.
Our employees displayed a great deal of commitment and willingness to put their shoulders to the wheel, and our service company Sitech didn’t lag behind either. But employees who were not directly involved in the repair work also worked hard on training, inspection, and maintenance tasks that were brought forward.
Extensive investigation has shown that the fire at the fertilizer plant began during welding work. Even though the welding was carried out according to procedure, there was an unexpected fire in the nearby conveyor belts. The fire was discovered forty minutes after completion of the work and the alarm was immediately raised.
At the ammonia plant, the fire began during repairs to a boiler. Not enough account had been taken of the risks involved in using an insulation blanket to protect the boiler. The increasing heat led to a crack in the boiler.
It goes without saying that measures have now been put in place to prevent any recurrence of such situations in the future. One of those measures involves even stricter supervision during work that entails risks. There will also be improvements in risk assessment for maintenance and repair work, and a plan is currently being drawn up.
Information about the fires has been broadly publicised within Chemelot and shared with our implementing firms. The information will also be shared at international conferences where safety at chemicals plants is discussed each year.