By Walter F. Roche Jr.
US Nitrogen is asking Tennessee environmental regulators to approve yet another change easing the limits on a permit governing its controversial ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility in Tennessee's Greene County.
In a petition filed Monday with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the company asked the state agency to double the number of flare start up hours allowable for each circuit of ammonium train start up.
The request argues that the change will not result in any increase in emissions "but will significantly enhance US Nitrogen's operating flexibility."
The petition follows another report filed by USN with TDEC showing that while the company discharged more than 2.4 million gallons of water in the Nolichucky River in February, it withdrew no water from the river during that period.
That official report came despite a press notice issued by the company that it attained "full capacity" during that same period.
Company officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment on their start-up efforts.
In another recent filing US Nitrogen officials cited adverse market conditions as a cause for delays in the actual full operation of the Tennessee facility.
Monday, March 13, 2017
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Officials of US Nitrogen are citing an unanticipated slump in the market for nitric acid and ammonium nitrate along with equipment failure as reasons state environmental officials should grant the company a second extension on completing testing on a new production facility.
In a five-page letter dated March 10, US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo said the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation should grant the extension as a "force majeure," an event that was beyond the company's control and could not have been anticipated.
"The entire market for nitric acid is in a slump," the letter states.
Velo said the company considered storing the nitric acid that can't be sold on the site in temporary storage vessels such as rail cars "but we don't have room for the rail cars we need."
In addition Velo wrote that the temporary vessels"would create potential environmental and safety issues due to the additional loading and unloading of the vessels."
Velo's letter cites other cases, including a steel plant and a facility in Indiana, in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allowed an extension based on a force majeure.
Velo said an additional reason an extension is needed is the problems with "equipment failures" in the emissions monitoring equipment for the nitric acid facility.
According to the letter, Velo met with TDEC officials on March 1 to discuss the extension request.
Citing the discussion at that session, Velo wrote "(T)he market for our product has changed such that we are able to produce more nitric acid and more ammonium nitrate than we can sell."
"The market conditions are beyond our control," Velo added.
He said that if TDEC does not grant the extension due to a force majeure, it still could grant an extension through its enforcement powers.
But, Velo added, if TDEC decides to do that "US Nitrogen requests that no fines be imposed."
In any case the letter concludes, "There is no physical way the tests can be performed by the existing deadline."
Thursday, March 9, 2017
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Nearly a month after it was submitted, Tennessee environmental officials have finally posted on the agency website a monthly Nolichucky River water withdrawal and discharge report from US Nitrogen.
The report, which shows little activity, is dated Feb. 14 but was only posted by TDEC today. The reports are usually posted mid-month.
According to the report US Nitrogen pumped a total of 3.4 million gallons from the river on four consecutive days between Jan. 14 to Jan. 17. The daily amounts ranged from 4,395 gallons to 1.2 million gallons.
Three discharges totaling a little over 3 million gallons were reported from Jan. 5 to Jan. 8.
In seeking state approval, the company projected that at full operation nearly two million gallons per day would be drawn from the river, with more than half being discharged back into the Nolichucky.
The report indicates there has been little activity at the $200 million Midway facility despite the recent release of a press statement contending the ammonium nitrate facility had reached full capacity.
US Nitrogen has asked TDEC for an extension in meeting reporting requirements for its nitric acid plant, a key component of the operation.
A TDEC spokeswoman said US Nitrogen has agreed to notify the agency when further attempts to start up the acid plant are scheduled. State inspectors were on hand for the last failed attempt in January.
Kim Schofinski said a startup was initiated on Jan. 17 but then shutdown.
"They are working to service the nitrous oxide continuous emission monitor before scheduling a restart of the plant," she wrote in an email.
She said US Nitrogen's extension request for the acid plant is still under review.