Monday, March 13, 2017
Market Slump, Equipment Failure Cited in US Nitrogen Delay
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."