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AkzoNobel Fined for Chemical Release

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

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AkzoNobel is facing serious federal safety citations and a $63,000 fine in the wake of a toxic chemical release at an Illinois plant in May.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has accused Akzo Nobel Surface Chemistry LLC, a unit that manufactures chemical surfactants in Morris, IL, of serious violations of OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standards.

The allegations include lack of competent inspectors, lack of required inspections, and failure to address identified equipment problems.


 Photos: AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry

The company’s surfactants are used in the oilfield industry.

“Failing to follow process safety management procedures to reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous chemicals is unacceptable,” said Kathy Webb, OSHA’s area director in North Aurora.

AkzoNobel did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Chemical Safety

PSM standards govern the management of hazards during processes that use highly hazardous chemicals. The standards include technology, procedures and management practices.

AkzoNobel is the world’s largest paint and coatings company and one of the world’s largest specialty chemical producers.

The Morris, IL, plant is one of two AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry operations scheduled for major expansion in the next two years. Surface Chemistry brands include Arquad, Ethoquad, Armid, Armeen, Armosoft, Redicote, Berol, Bermocoll, Aromox, Duomeen, Triameen, Armac, Duomac and Ethomeen.

Serious Violations

The serious violations allege that the plant failed to follow “generally accepted good engineering practices” in a variety of inspections and testing. OSHA documents note, for example:

• Certified inspectors did not review inspection results of the Arquad Unit Reactor and its pressure vessels, as well as those of the Ammonia Storage and Transfer Unit.

• The plant has not identified or calculated corrosion rates in the Arquad reactor as required.

• Interiors of three large tanks have not been inspected in at least 10 years, as required by API 510.

• The company did not address or correct minimal-thickness deficiencies on three pieces of equipment.

Other serious violations allege:

• Failure to conduct a process hazard analysis on the 10,000-pound Hydrogen Storage and Transfer Unit;

• Failing to record required equipment inspections and conduct testing at required intervals;

• Lacking the required design basis for seven pressure relief safety valves;

• Failing to address abnormal situations (such as overpressurization or overcharging) in its operating procedures;

• Failing to test or inspect a half-dozen pumps and other pieces of equipment;

• Deficiencies in written procedures; and

• Failing to correct deficiencies uncovered in a 2008 PSM audit.

A serious violation involves “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Methyl Chloride Exposure

No additional information about the chemical release was available Wednesday.

Acute exposure to Methyl Chloride can have serious effects on the nervous system, including convulsions and coma, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Other effects include dizziness, blurred or double vision, fatigue, personality changes, confusion, tremors, uncoordinated movements, slurred speech, nausea, and vomiting.  These symptoms develop within a few hours after exposure and may persist for several months.

Akzo Nobel Surface Chemistry has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to contest them or comply.

Surfactant Expansion…

In October, AkzoNobel announced a $20 million expansion of its Surface Chemistry plants in Morris, IL, and in Itupeva, SP, Brazil. The Chicago-based Surface Chemistry business said it would expand production capacity for fatty amine derivatives, used in the petrochem, agrochemical and other industries.

“We are committed to support our strategic customers in the Americas by constantly improving our manufacturing sites and, as a result of our unparalleled innovation efforts, enabling them to develop and produce new products,” Bob Margevich, Managing Director, AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry, said at the time. “Our objective is to grow with our customers.”

…And Acquisition

In July, AkzoNobel announced that it was expanding its specialty surfactant business in Asia with the acquisition of Boxing Oleochemicals, a leading supplier of nitrile amines and derivatives in China and throughout Asia.

AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry has announced expansions in the U.S., Brazil and China this year.

Established in 1993, the Chinese company will be integrated into the Surface Chemistry unit. Boxing had revenues of about $136 million in 2010. The deal was to be finalized by the end of 2011.

AkzoNobel also said it would “enhance the process capabilities and increase capacity” at the current Boxing site in the province of Shandong.


Tagged categories: AkzoNobel; Chemical Plants; Coatings manufacturers; Health and safety; OSHA; Violations

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