Gas ‘leak’: Audit exposes chinks in MFL armour?

Even before tension over seized ammonium nitrate in Manali could fully be addressed, a safety audit of Madras Fertilizers Limited (MFL) has exposed chinks in its armour.

Published: 11th August 2020 04:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th August 2020 04:33 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

gas leakCHENNAI: Even before tension over seized ammonium nitrate in Manali could fully be addressed, a safety audit of Madras Fertilizers Limited (MFL) has exposed chinks in its armour. The plant has reportedly been found operating without an adequate monitoring system, including ammonia sensors.

However, an MFL official told Express, “A purchase order for the sensors has been placed. The delivery is  getting delayed owing to the pandemic.” The official said this had been conveyed to TNPCB in an official response and had been recorded by the National Green Tribunal.

In May, Express had reported an ammonia gas leak from MFL, following which the southern bench of NGT took suo moto cognizance and ordered TNPCB for a safety audit of the plant. The NGT had formed a joint committee to investigate, which submitted its interim report and safety audit.  

MFL restarted unit without installing ammonia sensors, says interim report 

The audit team has made critical observations and recommended around 20 measures.
"Damaged buildings, damaged roof with erosion and corrosion of pipelines and support structures and elevated platforms can result in serious accidents and cateroscopic failures. To ensure safety, suitable isolation should be provided till these are rectified or removed from service," the audit report said.  

It also highlighted that some parts of the plant operating system might undergo fast deterioration, might fail and get damaged unexpectedly due to slippages in preventive maintenance schedules and process deviations.  "It is, therefore, recommended for a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) study by maintenance experts and to develop planned maintenance schedules and control plan for the plant and the identified critical equipment," the report said.

The study will be conducted by IIT-Madras. Madhav Kumar, associate professor from Environmental and Water Resources Division will commence the monitoring work from August, according to the joint committee constituted by the bench.The bench, had recently  granted IIT-Madras three months to submit the report and posted the matter to November 25.

No ammonia sensors
After the May incident, TNPCB had directed MFL to restart the unit only after installing at least two ammonia sensors at the rear end of the unit towards the village, from where a complaint was received. However, MFL has restarted the unit without the installation, according to an interim report submitted by the joint committee.

MFL was to install 11 ammonia sensors  before June since the existing 10 were not functioning since 2016, sources said.  The plant was also asked to restore the Continous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Systems. Out of five, four are not in operation. 

Also, Electromagnetic Flow Meters  were not linked to Care Air Centre, TNPCB and Central Pollution Control Board. MFL told the TNPCB that output from Electromagnetic Flow Meters were available locally but could not be uploaded due to outdated instruments. Latest meters will be procured by December.


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