Friday, June 30, 2017
Some US Nitrogen Equipment Decades Old
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Major elements of US Nitrogen's manufacturing facility are decades old and two ammonia production plants were shipped from Peru, where they lay dormant for years.
The details on the aging equipment were disclosed in court filings in Georgia where the Greene County chemical company has filed suit against a contractor,Weatherly, Inc. The Atlanta based firm, provided engineering services for the construction of US Nitrogen's $200 million ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility.
According to a "statement of undisputed facts," filed by lawyers for Weatherly, two skid-mounted ammonia plants were purchased by US Nitrogen's parent, Austin Powder, in 2010 from
Grupo Gloria. Though they were decades old, the two plants had never been put into operation, the 19-page filing states.
The filing in U.S. District Court in Atlanta also states that the nitric acid plant utilized by US Nitrogen was some 30-years-old when it was purchased from the Olin Corp. in Lake Charles Louisiana.
The acid plant has been the source of several missteps in the attempts to bring the Midway facility up to full operation.
Attempted startups of the acid plant resulted in two major incidents in which toxic vapors were released into the atmosphere.
US Nitrogen is suing Weatherly for $30 million charging that mistakes by the engineering firm resulted in heavy damage, forcing expensive repairs and causing major startup delays.
Weatherly has denied the charges and has cited a provision in its contract with US Nitrogen limiting any damages to $2.2 million.
The "statement of undisputed facts" filed by Weatherly states that the ammonia plants were manufactured in the 1970s by N-REN, a company that went bankrupt in 1986. The plants were sold to Louisiana Chemical which shipped them to their facility "where the plants sat idle for 20+ years."
They were then sold to Grupo Gloria and shipped to Peru.
According to the suit the two plants "were never previously placed in service" when they were purchased by Austin Powder in 2010.
The filing states that the nitric acid plant was also purchased in 2010 from the Olin Corp. It was 30-years-old at the time of the purchase, according to the filing.
US Nitrogen, in an amended 29-page complaint charged that even more defects were discovered after it filed its original complaint against the engineering firm.
Newly discovered defects included the design of storage tanks that "caused cracks and other defects."
The suit charges Weatherly with breach of contract, professional negligence and negligent or fraudulent misrepresentation.
The suit charges that the foundations for the 35,000 pound compressors were designed to hold only 3,500 pounds and that both foundations failed.
In the most recent development, US Nitrogen was given until July 12 to respond to Weatherly's motion for summary judgement.