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Sulphuric Acid on the WebTM Technical Manual DKL Engineering, Inc.

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Acid Plant Database  July 16, 2018

Owner Ballance Agri-Nutrients Co-operative Limited Ballance-Logo1.jpg (11440 bytes)Ballance-Logo2.jpg (12272 bytes)
Location Mount Maunganui
New Zealand
Background Formerly
- Bay of Plenty Fertilizer Ltd.
The Co-operative has an 80% shareholding in Ballance Agri-Nutrients with the remaining 20% controlled by Norsk Hydro
Website www.ballance.co.nz
Plant -
Coordinates* 37º 40' 2" S, 176º 10' 52" E
Type of Plant Sulphur Burning
Gas Source Elemental Sulphur
Plant Capacity 480 MTPD
SA/DA -
Status Operating
Year Built -
Technology -
Contractor -
Remarks -
Pictures     Ballance-Mount-Maunganui-3.jpg (38158 bytes) 
General Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited is one of New Zealand’s leading fertiliser specialists, with manufacturing plants located in Whangarei, Mount Maunganui and Invercargill. In addition, the company owns the ammonia-urea manufacturing plant at Kapuni in Taranaki, and Super Air, one of the country’s largest agricultural aviation companies.

Ballance is a 100-percent farmer-owned co-operative, with some 18,000 shareholders throughout New Zealand. It was officially launched in 2001, the final step in a series of company amalgamations and alliances that saw regional fertiliser co-operatives come together under the umbrella of what was then Bay of Plenty Fertiliser.

Today, Ballance is a truly national company, with staff located from the Far North to the Deep South. The company places a strong emphasis on delivering value to its shareholders and on the use of a scientific approach to plant nutrient management

At the heart of the operation is head office, located in Mount Maunganui. As well as being the home of key corporate staff, the Mount site incorporates the company’s largest fertiliser manufacturing facility. The close proximity to the Port of Tauranga means that imported raw materials and high-analysis fertilisers are easily transported to the works site, where a range of products, including superten, the company’s flagship fertiliser, are produced.

References -
News July 16, 2018 - Ballance Agri-Nutrients has been fined $82,500 for the unauthorised discharge of contaminants, namely sulphur dioxide, from its fertiliser manufacturing plant in Mount Maunganui last year.  Ballance pleaded guilty to the charge, which related to an incident on May 22, 2017, where a build-up of fumes was discharged into the air.  Workers at the Ballance site described seeing a "huge gas cloud" heading towards the Mount, 20 to 30m wide, while others described it as "a plume of black smoke coming towards us".  The gas cloud drifted from the roof of the manufacturing plant and across the Hewletts Rd site towards Totara St.  Several people at the site and working nearby were exposed to the gas cloud.  They experienced coughing, a "funny taste" in their mouths, irritation of the eyes and respiratory system, but their symptoms were relatively short-lived.  Two Winstone Transport truck drivers were treated and discharged from Tauranga Hospital after struggling to breathe.  In the Environment Court in May this year, the company's chief executive Mark Wynne pleaded guilty to a charge of discharging a contaminant, sulphur dioxide and/or fluoride, into the air.  The summary of facts showed there was a breakdown in communication between controllers during a shift change, in regards to the conveyor speed processing product.  This resulted in a build-up of fumes and about 7.30am the cloud of fluoride and sulphur dioxide fumes bypassed the treatment systems and was released.  The new shift operator was unaware the fumes had been discharged. People outside the plant tried to contact the controller on VHF radio but he did not respond, and the plant was shut down about 7.50am.  Victoria Brewer, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's lawyer, told Judge David Kirkpatrick in May that the defendant had two prior convictions in 1999 and 2015 for similar offending.  Ballance Agri-Nutrients lawyer Janette Campbell said Ballance's two earlier convictions were unrelated to last year's discharge.  In his ruling, Judge Kirkpatrick said a key issue presented in the case was the degree to which Ballance's previous convictions bear on the level of fine that ought to be imposed.  He said it was important to keep in mind the previous convictions related to a different plant at the site.  "However, the distinction may not be valid where the systematic nature of the current offending is the same or similar to that in the previous case."  Kirkpatrick found that, from the material presented to him, the problem was similar to the previous cases at the site where discharges occurred after shut-down periods for maintenance when the plant was re-started, and operating staff did not adequately check the plant, resulting in the discharges.  "I, therefore, accept the prosecutor's submission that the offending here is similar in seriousness to the two previous offences, being moderately serious, resulting in temporary health effects to people and near the site and revealing shortcomings in the defendant's operations and emergency processes."  Kirkpatrick also noted that the regional council, as consent authority, was undertaking a review of Ballance's resource consent.  "That appears to me to be a highly desirable action".

May 15, 2018
- Ballance Agri-Nutrients is facing a large fine after a toxic gas cloud from its fertiliser manufacturing plant wafted over a group of workers and two truck drivers.  Workers at the Ballance site described seeing a "huge gas cloud" , 20 to 30 m wide, heading towards Mauao. Others described it as "a plume of black smoke coming towards us".The gas cloud drifted from the roof of the manufacturing plant and across the Hewletts Rd site towards Totara St about 7.35am on May 22 last year.  Several people at the site and working nearby were exposed to the gas cloud. They experienced coughing, a "funny taste" in their mouths, irritation of the eyes and respiratory system, but their symptoms were relatively short-lived.  Two truck drivers employed by Winstone Transport were also treated and discharged from Tauranga Hospital after struggling to breathe.  One of the truck drivers was unable to attend work the following day due to dizziness.  In the Environment Court yesterday, the company's chief executive Wynne pleaded guilty to a charge of discharging a contaminant, sulphur dioxide and/or fluoride, into the air.  The summary of facts showed there was a breakdown in communication between controllers during a shift change, in regards to the conveyor speed processing product.  This resulted in a build-up of fumes and about 7.30am the cloud of fluoride and sulphur dioxide fumes bypassed the treatment systems and was released.
  The new shift operator was unaware the fumes had been discharged.


March 18, 2016
- The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is investigating recent spikes in sulphur dioxide gas levels recorded by air monitoring equipment located behind the Hewletts Rd industrial area in Mount Maunganui.  Pollution prevention manager Nick Zaman said the monitoring equipment had recorded unacceptably high sulphur dioxide levels on two occasions in recent weeks. "We know there are a number of sulphur dioxide sources in the area, which include industrial plants manufacturing fertilisers and processing chemicals as well as shipping and train activities."  Mr Zaman said the council had asked for monitoring information from local industries and would treat any breaches of resource consents conditions "very seriously".  The maximum upper limit set by National Environmental Standards for sulphur dioxide which must not be exceeded is 570 micrograms per cubic metre of air over a one hour average.  The two verified breaches were above the upper limits, spiking at 628 and 751 micrograms of sulphur dioxide per cubic metre over a one hour average on February 27 and March 5 respectively. The Pollution Prevention Hotline had received 19 complaints relating to this area in the past 12 months.


March 26, 2015
- A fertiliser manufacturer has been fined $60,000 for releasing a toxic gas into the air which caused nearby workers to experience coughing, sore throats and breathing problems.  Ballance Agri-Nutrients was slapped with the fine during its Tauranga District Court sentencing on Monday after pleading guilty to breaching the Resource Management Act by releasing sulphur dioxide from its Mount Maunganui plant.  In May last year, two Port of Tauranga workers noticed a gas smell when they opened a window and called security.  Nine workers suffered watering eyes, sore throats, coughing and breathing difficulties and one sought medical attention.  The company found the shift engineer had made an error by not reducing the sulphur pump to the recommended level when restarting the acid plant, causing excess sulphur dioxide to spill out of the plant.  As the gas cooled, it fell to the ground and affected the nearby port staff.  The company was fined $35,000 in 1999 after a similar incident which saw several people taken to hospital with breathing difficulties.  Judge Jeff Smith said the offending wasn't wilful but was the result of human error.  It had been caused by Ballance's failure to fit a device to the plant which would ensure the sulphur pump level was automatically re-set.  Bay of Plenty Regional Council pollution prevention manager Nick Zaman said the case showed that businesses needed to be proactive when managing environmental risks - especially when it could have a significant impact on public health.
   Fertiliser manufacturer Ballance Agri-Nutrients has been fined $60,000 for a discharge of sulphur dioxide into the air in May last year.  Bay of Plenty Regional Council prosecuted the company in Tauranga District Court for breaching the Resource Management Act.  The charge arose from an incident in May last year when Port workers suffered breathing difficulties, watering eyes, sore throats and coughing from a discharge of sulphur dioxide from Ballance's plant.  Ballance Agri-Nutrients chief executive Mark Wynne said the company had since taken steps to prevent the same situation re-occurring.  On 4 May 2014 two employees at the Port noticed the smell of gas, and after experiencing ill effects when they opened a window they notified Port security.  Three fire engines attended, and the gas was traced to the nearby Ballance plant on Hewletts Road.  Nine Port workers were affected, one sought medical attention, and the Regional Council was notified that afternoon.  The company's investigation showed that there had been an error by the shift engineer in not reducing the sulphur pump to the recommended level when restarting the acid plant, causing excessive sulphur dioxide to be discharged from the plant's stack.  As the cloud of sulphur dioxide cooled it fell to the ground, affecting the Port staff.  The fertiliser plant has been operating from the Mount Maunganui site since 1958, with substantial changes in the size and nature of the operations since then, as well as in the surrounding area.  The plant is a major source of sulphur dioxide emissions in the area, because the chemical is produced as part of the manufacturing process for super phosphate.  There had been a similar incident at the fertiliser plant in 1999, when several people were taken to hospital with breathing difficulties following an excessive discharge of sulphur dioxide.  The company (then known as BOP Fertiliser Limited) was fined $35,000. Ballance had also been warned by the Regional Council following excessive sulphur dioxide discharges in April 2007.  Judge Jeff Smith said that the Ballance fertiliser plant was within a sensitive environment close to the Port and busy roads, and there was a risk of effects on the public from the plant, particularly people working in the open.  The offending was not wilful but was the result of a human error and Ballance's failure to have a device fitted to the plant to ensure the sulphur pump level was automatically re-set when the plant shut down.  Judge Smith said it was important to deter discharges of this nature and protect community health.  Ballance was given credit for its early guilty plea. No credit was given for previous good character due to the earlier conviction for a similar discharge from the site and subsequent compliance issues.  Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution Prevention Manager Nick Zaman said the prosecution demonstrated the importance of businesses being proactive.  "While it is pleasing to see that Ballance enhanced its safety systems following the incident, this prosecution demonstrates the importance of ensuring that environmental risks are managed proactively, particularly where an industrial activity can have a significant impact on public health."  Ballance Agri-Nutrients chief executive Mark Wynne said he shared the community's concerns regarding environmental safety.  Mr Wynne said the company accepted the fine imposed by the court following an accidental discharge of sulphur dioxide into the air in May last year."The incident happened and we can't change that. What we can do, and have done, is take full responsibility and take every practical step to prevent this from happening again.  "We treat any incidents very seriously and we are completely confident we have minimised the risk of sulphur dioxide discharges at our Mount Maunganui site.  "During the incident our systems shut the plant just as they were designed to do. The key change now is that our safety shutdown systems now cut off at an even lower limit."  Mr Wynne said Ballance's environmental performance had been steadily improving, and was far superior to what it was a decade ago.  Ballance has invested millions of dollars in environmental, safety and operating upgrades at its Mount Maunganui superphosphate manufacturing plant since 2001. Following the May incident, additional automated safety equipment has been installed and other equipment upgraded.  "These changes followed an immediate and thorough internal investigation supported by expert advice, so we have every assurance our response has been robust."  "As part of our commitment to safety and environment we also undertake annual external audits of our operation here at the Mount to hold ourselves to the highest possible standards."  The Mount site is accredited to ACC's highest tertiary level and the international environmental management standard ISO 14001.  "We live here too - this is our community. The last thing we want to do is put our people, community or environment at risk."

MTPD - Metric Tonne per Day           STPD - Short Ton per Day
MTPA - Metric Tonne per Annum      STPA - Short Ton per Annum
SA - Single Absorption
DA - Double Absorption
 

* Coordinates can be used to locate plant on Google Earth