JSE listed chemicals group Omnia officially launched its R1.4bn nitric acid plant in Sasolburg yesterday promising a more secure supply of explosives to the mining sector and an environmentally friendlier facility.
The facility boasts a capacity to produce nitric acid output of 330 000 tons a year which will lift South Africa’s total capacity to about 1,4 million tons a year. Omnia said the facility will also reduce the need to import nitrogen products necessary for the manufacture of explosives for the minerals industry. The facility is launched under BME, a subsidiary of Omnia.
“This added production will improve BME’s security of supply, which means that it can further improve its service offering, particularly to countries within the Southern African region,” said BME managing director Francois Hay. He said the recent upsurge in mining activity in Africa had strained the supply of mining equipment, skills and other inputs.
“Because explosives form the basis of most mining operations, mine owners have actively been seeking solutions to their twin requirements of security of supply and the diminishing pool of skills available in this arena,” said Hay.
The company already holds a significant market share in the explosives industry in West and Southern Africa, and is expecting to further improve its competitive position. Hay added that BME had developed a stable emulsion product that could be safely transported across vast distances without compromising quality.
The new production capacity puts BME in the same league as competitor Sasol, which previously dominated the market with about 50% of nitric acid produced.
Omnia said the new plant also boasts “impressive ‘green’ credentials, having installed cutting edge EnviNOx® technology from ThyssenKrupp Uhde of Germany, to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions”.
The technology, which is already in place at the group’s older nitric acid plant in Sasolburg, will allow the new plant to generate about 400,000 tons in carbon credits annually at full load, in terms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
According to Danie Oosthuizen, group project director, all nitric acid plants produce greenhouses gases, but the EnviNOx® process effectively destroys 98% of these gases by converting them in a reactor into nitrogen and water vapour.
“In line with government commitments to reduce outputs of greenhouse gases, we have invested considerably to ensure that our plants are environmentally-friendly,” said Oosthuizen.
The group said the new plant is also self-sufficient in terms of its electrical energy needs, even generating more than it needs for its own processes and ‘exporting’ electrical energy into the local Omnia grid that feeds its Sasolburg operations.
“This allows us to be effectively independent of Eskom’s national energy grid, and to feed some into the Omnia network on the same site.”