By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Austin Powder, the owner of an ammonium nitrate plant starting up in Eastern Tennessee, has just closed a similar facility in Utah citing a lack of demand.
In an announcement in late August, officials of Geneva Nitrogen disclosed that the ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility in Vineyard, Utah was closing "in response to a challenging mining market and reduced demand for ammonium nitrate."
Geneva Nitrogen was a 50/50 joint venture of Orica USA and Austin Powder, according to the announcement by Steve Thompson, vice president and general manager of Geneva Nitrogen.
"The reduced output and future demand continues to have a negative effect on our facility," Thompson said, adding that 32 employees would lose their jobs as a result.
Thompson said the existing site will be converted this month to a transload facility, "which will continue to provide bulk products shipped in by rail for distribution for local customers."
The closing comes as startup efforts continue in Midway, Tenn. at US Nitrogen's new $200 million ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility. US Nitrogen is an Austin Powder subsidiary.
The startup has been marked by difficulties including the release of nitrogen gases that produced a large orange cloud over the 500 acre site.
US Nitrogen issued a statement recently stating that it expected to begin full operation in the near future.
The company also stated that an employee who was injured in August had "fully recovered" and returned to work.
Though not named in the statement, the injured employee was Ricky Reedy, who suffered burns to his arm and face, and had to be airlifted to a Georgia medical facility for treatment.
US Nitrogen was subsequently fined $500 by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development for failure to report the injury requiring hospitalization within 24 hours of its occurrence.
The decline in demand for ammonium nitrate for mining use has been acknowledged recently by others in the field including LSB Industries whose chief executive Dan Greenwell stated that the firm did not "anticipate meaningful recovery of sales to mining customers."
He said the firm was shifting its efforts to providing fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate for agricultural use.