26 Dec 2023: NH3 leak causes about 60 people hospitalised

Feb 2024: The New Minute video

“About 60 people have been hospitalised after an ammonia leak from a pipeline belonging to Company, the government said. The people were hospitalised after they had difficulty in breathing and a burning sensation in the eyes, and 52 people are still under observation, the government said in a statement.
The leak took place when Company manufacturing unit was preparing to receive an ammonia shipment through its 2.5 kilometre-long (1.5 mile) undersea pipeline.
“The unit observed pressure drop in the pipeline at around 11.45 pm and simultaneously observed pungent odour around the storage terminal and near the material gate,” the statement said.
“They will identify the exact location and the extent of pipeline damage within a day and will rectify the same before commencing the ammonia transfer.”
“All are safe and normalcy is restored. We have informed relevant authorities about the incident,” Company said in an exchange filing earlier in the day.”

Press release from Company involved:
“As part of routine operation, we noticed abnormality on 26/12/2023 at 23.30 hrs in the ammonia unloading subsea pipeline near shoreside, outside the plant premises. Our Standard Operating Procedure activated immediately, and we have isolated ammonia system facility and brought the situation to normalcy in the shortest time,” the company said. During the process, few members in the local community expressed discomfort and were given medical attention immediately. All are safe and normalcy is restored. We have informed relevant authorities about the incident. Company has always adhered to the highest safety standards and emergency response system”, it said.”

Update 5Feb2024: CHENNAI: Forty days after ammonia gas leak from a fertilizer plant owned by Coromandel International Limited created panic in Ennore and sent more than 50 residents to hospitals, the Environment, Climate Change and Forest Department has imposed a penalty of Rs 5.92 crore on the company. The authorities are also moving to initiate legal action against the company for violating the mandatory conditions given in the consent order under Air Act. At present, the plant is shut temporarily as per the order issued by the government after the ammonia leak. In a statement on Sunday, the department said the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has been directed to collect the environmental compensation for environmental mitigation and to also take legal action against the unit for non-compliance with the conditions of the consent order issued under the Air Act. The directions are based on a report filed by the technical committee formed to study the incident that occurred on December 26.

Update 8Feb2024: About 67.63 tonnes of ammonia got leaked in 15 minutes during the gas leak accident at the Coromandel Fertilizer Plant in Ennore on December 26 and none of the 19 ammonia sensors installed at the plant detected the leak. The shocking details were revealed in a report filed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) before the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Chennai on Tuesday.

Experts said if such huge quantity of ammonia got discharged directly into the atmosphere, it could have had fatal consequences. “The fact that the leaked ammonia got dissolved in the sea is a blessing in disguise. If it would have got released into the air directly, there would have been devastating consequences,” said a former official of the environment department.

The NGT had initiated suo motu hearing in the case based on a TNIE report dated December 27. The bench had earlier directed the TNPCB and Coromandel International Limited (CIL) to file a detailed report on the incident.

The state government had already accepted the recommendations of a technical committee constituted to ascertain the cause of the gas leak.

‘Pipeline could have been damaged due to cyclone’

The committee had recommended collecting Rs.5.92 crore as environmental compensation from the fertilizer plant.

Calculating the ammonia level in the storage tank of the plant before and after the incident, the technical committee had estimated that around 67 tonnes of ammonia was released into the atmosphere. “The industry has not provided any document on the quantity of ammonia present in the pipeline after leakage.

Hence, the committee is of the opinion that the unaccounted quantity of ammonia of 67.638 tonnes got released into the environment during the leakage on 26/12/2023,” the report filed before the green bench said.

The TNPCB has now directed the plant to replace all its ammonia sensors and also install new sensors near the offshore pipeline where the leak happened.

The state government in a press release on Sunday said the pipeline could have been damaged due to Cyclone Michaung. TNPCB in its submission to the NGT said the movement of granite boulders near the offshore pipeline could have damaged the pipeline. A visual inspection of the offshore pipeline was carried out by the CIL with the help of marine divers on December 23, but no damage was spotted.

Raising questions about the inspection, the NGT bench said, “Cyclone Michaung hit Chennai on December 5, the inspection was carried out on December 23. It is surprising that no damage was spotted during the inspection.”

The TNPCB had told the bench that CIL had not carried out safety checks as per prescribed norms and cracks get exposed only when pressure increases in the pipeline during pre-cooling process. In response, the CIL has filed an affidavit before the NGT on Tuesday.

The bench said the failure to notice the pipeline damage lies with the CIL. The pipeline had burst as the pressure increased and it would be right to call it a pipeline burst and not a leak, the bench said. “This is not an adversarial litigation. CIL shouldn’t just counter the arguments of TNPCB. A detailed explanation should be provided by the unit,” the bench told the CIL’s counsel.

Meanwhile, residents of 33 protesting villages staged a road roko in Ennore on Tuesday. The Ennore Makkal Paathukappu Kuzhu urged government to accept the people’s demand to shut the plant.

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