Our new nitric acid complex
A major milestone in Omnia’s history was reached in March 2012 when its advanced new nitric acid complex in Sasolburg commenced production.
Sited next to the Group’s existing nitric acid plant, the R1,4 billion facility comprises a nitric acid plant, an ammonium nitrate plant, a porous ammonium nitrate plant (PGAN), and a fleet of 145 specialised ammonia rail tankers. The new complex has the capacity to produce 73 000 tons of nitric acid (N) per annum – some 40% higher than the first nitric acid plant’s capacity.
Taking the brakes off future growth
Nitric acid is a key material in fertilizer and explosives production. Omnia’s first nitric acid plant was commissioned in 1983 and since 2000 Omnia has been purchasing its growing nitrate requirements from local and international sources – the cost of which is substantially higher than own produced nitrates. Between 2000 and 2009, Omnia’s mining explosives and fertilizer businesses grew considerably such that the volume of nitrates that Omnia was purchasing had grown to the point where the construction of a nitric acid complex was justified. The production of calcium nitrate (used in fertilizers and explosives) added to the nitric acid demand.
In 2010 Omnia took the bold decision to build South Africa’s first new nitric acid plant in decades. It went into production a record-breaking 21 months later.
The nitric acid complex is a much-needed investment in the future of South Africa’s mining and agriculture sector and is Omnia’s biggest investment to date, clearly demonstrating Omnia’s commitment to southern Africa’s mining and agricultural sectors. Not only does it create a new growth path for Omnia but it is also, together with the existing plant, a major step in ensuring security and continuity of supply for Omnia’s mining explosives and fertilizer businesses.
Now that Omnia’s core raw material supply is secured for the foreseeable future, the Group can go full steam ahead into Africa’s fastgrowing agricultural and mining sectors.
Designed for green sustainability
The new nitric acid complex is designed to exacting world-class and ‘green’ standards. Omnia has installed the EnviNOx® emissions mitigation technology at both its new and old nitric acid plants in Sasolburg, which eliminates 98% of greenhouse gas emissions. Omnia is already the first company in South Africa to amass over 1 million carbon credits (42% of the southern African total), and the new nitric acid plant alone should generate up to 350 000 carbon credits annually.
When the new plant is running at full capacity, waste steam from the production process piped through a turbine generates approximately 50% of the total electricity demand for the entire Sasolburg site, including both plants. This will substantially reduce power costs and the effect of steep electricity price increases, while further reducing the Group’s carbon footprint.
An astonishing engineering achievement
The construction of Omnia’s new nitric acid complex was a genuine engineering coup on several fronts. The entire project was managed by Omnia’s Engineering Services team, while the core technology was supplied by Uhde, a ThyssenKrupp company (Germany) that is arguably the world’s best designer and builder of these plants. Due to sluggish global spend on infrastructure in 2010, the Group was able to negotiate keen pricing on all sourced components which together with stringent project management by the Omnia team ensured that not only did we budget to build the complex for significantly less than international benchmarks for similar plants but were able to still come in under budget. International benchmarks for similar plants are USD500 million compared to the cost of less than USD200 million for our complex.
Inspired work by the project team within extremely tight deadlines delivered a finished plant within 21 months, which was better than expectation for a complex of this size and complexity.
- Total cost of nitric acid complex: R1,4 billion plus R89 million capitalised interest
- Improve margins by substituting expensive purchased nitrates with lower cost own produced nitrates
- Take full advantage of expected growth opportunities in mining and agricultural markets of southern Africa
- Creates opportunity for growth into new markets and additional product ranges
- Five to six year payback period
- Production capacity: 73 000 tons nitric acid (N) per annum
- 60% – 70% capacity utilisation on start‑up
- Two nitric acid plants reduce risk and enhance operational flexibility