Thursday, January 26, 2017

US Nitrogen Startup Aborted, Despite Announcement

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A recent attempt to restart US Nitrogen's nitric acid plant in Midway was quickly halted and the company is working to service a nitrogen gas monitor before a restart will be attempted, according to a statement  from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Kim Schofinski, a spokeswoman for the state agency said the startup on Jan. 17 was halted soon afterward, but she declined to characterize the effort as a success or failure.
"US Nitrogen's nitric acid plant ran on Jan. 17 but shut down. They are working to service the nitrous oxide continuous monitor before scheduling a restart of the plant," she wrote in an email response to questions.
In a subsequent statement Schofinski said, "US Nitrogen's nitric acid plant started up on Jan. 17, but shut down soon thereafter. Our role is to ensure regulatory requirements are met, not to determine what constitutes a 'successful' or 'unsuccessful' start up.
Previously TDEC disclosed the attempted start up on Jan. 17 but did not disclose the subsequent shutdown.
The failed start up marks at least the fourth time the company has tried and failed to get the plant in operation.
Despite the TDEC disclosure US Nitrogen issued a press release today contending that the overall plant had reached full production capacity and was supplying ammonium nitrate to its parent company, Ohio based Austin Powder.
“US Nitrogen began operation of its nitric acid and liquid ammonium nitrate plants in April and May 2016, respectively. Ammonia plant operation began in late June 2016 and fully integrated operation of all operating units began in September 2016," the company stated.
The claim of full capacity also comes after the company reported to TDEC earlier this month that it drew no water from the Nolichucky River in December. At full operation the company has stated it would draw as much as 2 million gallons of water per day from the river.
The first known attempt to start the nitric acid plant in August produced a thick orange cloud of nitrogen gas that hung over the 500 acre site. A second attempt on the same day failed as did one in September.
US Nitrogen officials have not responded to repeated requests for information on the start up efforts. Today's press release was issued to the local newspaper.
 The nitric acid plant is just one of several operations at the facility which will produce ammonium nitrate which will be used in the manufacture of explosives by Austin Powder.
According to Schofinski, TDEC officials were on hand for the Jan. 17 start up effort.

Monday, January 23, 2017

TDEC: US Nitrogen Restarts Nitric Acid Plant

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has quietly restarted its nitric acid plant with state regulatory officials on hand to witness the event, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Kim Schofinski, a spokeswoman for the agency, said US Nitrogen informed the state that they planned to restart the plant on Jan. 17 and it did in fact occur.
"The division (Air Pollution Contro) had staff on hand to witness the event," Schofinski said in an email response to questions.
US Nitrogen did not respond to a request for comment.
The restart comes some five months after the initial startup effort triggered an environmental event that produced a huge orange cloud that hung over the 500 acre site. A subsequent startup attempt in early September also was aborted.
The TDEC spokeswoman said the state investigation of the August event is still ongoing, adding that it has been slowed "by the dormancy of the nitric acid plant."
She noted that the last full inspection of the plant was in August and it was found in compliance.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

US Nitrogen Took No River Water Last Month

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has reported to state officials that they drew no water from the Nolichucky River during the month of December, the first such report in several months.
The report was filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation this week. It marks the first time since June of last year when the company reported it did not pump any water from the river.
According to the filing while no water was withdrawn in December, 1.9 million was discharged in nearly equal amounts on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9. But the amounts listed for those two days 682,860 and 619,060 gallons, do not equal the 1.9 million discharge total listed elsewhere on the form.
Past reports on water withdrawal show the largest monthly amount, 1.95 million gallons, was pumped from the river in July of last year.
The report comes as the $200 million facility is supposed to be nearing a formal startup.
Attempted startups in August were aborted after a huge cloud of nitrogen gases was released over the facility on a 500 acre site in Midway.

Monday, January 2, 2017

US Nitrogen Says All Deficiencies Corrected

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Officials of US Nitrogen have filed a report with Tennessee environmental officials stating that they have implemented all the corrective actions necessary to comply with an inspection in June.
"All action items with a completion date of Dec. 31, 2016 have been fulfilled which puts closure to the US Nitrogen Action Plan and accompanying schedules," US Nitrogen Environment and Quality manager Blake Burchell wrote in a report to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
In a separate filing US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo reported that the company withdrew 4.54 million gallons of water from the Nolichucky River during the month of November. The withdrawals came on six different days with more than one million withdrawn on three days, Nov. 12, Nov. 27 and Nov. 28.
Only 631,040 gallons were discharged back in to the river, all on Nov. 25.
In the corrective action report, US Nitrogen reported that a sludge control plan has been developed as called for in a June Compliance and Evaluation inspection report by TDEC.
Burchell also reported that stormwater runoff control plans "have been updated with requested information and modifications."
He also reported that information on a companion facility with Praxair and the US Nitrogen ammonium nitrate emulsion facility have been updated.