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Towards a fertile future

Winner — Chemical safety: Omnia Fertiliser

The recent construction of a R46-million plant at the Omnia Group’s Sasolburg fertiliser-producing facility will reduce its nitrous oxide (N2O) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions and earn the company about 420 000 carbon credits a year.

This is in line with the Clean Development Mechanism Protocol of the Kyoto Protocol, which set up a system of Certified Emissions Reductions to allow carbon credits to be traded in global markets.

Omnia will contribute to the reduction of global greenhouse gases as identified by the Kyoto Protocol, an internationally legally binding agreement under which industrialised countries are required to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 by an average of 5,2% compared with 1990 emissions.

The company aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 500 000 tonnes a year. It hopes to address its impact on the air quality in the Vaal Triangle — a declared national priority area in terms of the National Environment Management: Air Quality Act.

The plant was installed in January and Omnia Fertiliser estimates it can reduce its NOx and N2O emissions during the production of nitric acid, a raw material used to manufacture fertiliser and explosives, to almost zero.

Peet Janse van Rensburg, the group’s safety, health, environment and risk manager, said it had observed a 98% reduction in emissions already.

“We accessed the technology from a company in Germany to remove N2O emissions from the air,” he said. “This is a classified greenhouse gas with a global warming potential estimated to be 310 times greater than CO2.”

It is the second-largest project of its kind to be registered in South Africa and the third-largest in Africa. It reflects the Omnia Group’s drive to use alternative technologies for sustainable development, effective risk management and continual improvement, said Janse van Rensburg.

The Omnia Group is a specialist chemical service provider in the chemicals, mining and agricultural markets. It has “committed itself to the implementation of an integrated management system based on international ISO 9001:2000, ISO 14001:2004 and OHSAS 18001:1999 principles,” he said.

“We recently established our environmental management system which was certified,” said Janse van Rensburg, “and we have started addressing the risks we identified as part of our safety, health, environment and quality policy.”

The policy commits the company to conform to international best practice and the principles of Responsible Care, set out by the Chemical and Allied Industries’ Association. This means striving to minimise its affect on the environment, while protecting its employees and community from health and safety risks associated with chemical production.

“For me, water quality is a major concern as South Africa is a water-scarce country and water is a commodity with which we cannot survive,” said Janse van Rensburg. “Air quality is also important, but it gets far more emphasis in the South African environmental field and water tends to slip by the wayside.”

Noting that climate change is a hot topic at the moment, the Greening the Future judges said any initiative by the chemical industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is welcome. “Nitrous oxide is particularly important as it has a large impact factor relative to carbon dioxide in its global warming potential,” they said.

“The construction of the new plant underlines Omnia’s commitment to sustainable development and the removal of obnoxious gases from the workplace and surrounding environments.”

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