Orica’s Newcastle plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions with new technology

One of NSW’s biggest industrial polluters is set to halve its greenhouse gas emissions with an investment of $ 37 million in new technology.

Orica’s factory on Kooragang Island, Newcastle, produces huge amounts of ammonium nitrate to produce explosives for the Hunter Valley’s coal mining industry.

Each year, the plant’s chemical process for the production of nitric acid generates about 1,900 tons of the potent nitrous oxide (NO2), a greenhouse gas 300 times stronger than carbon dioxide (CO2).

Orcia says its new emission reduction technology will reduce nitrous oxide emissions by 92 percent.

“Basically at the end of our [nitric acid] At the factory, we install this catalyst, which converts the nitrous oxide that we generate from our manufacturing process into nitrogen and water, “said factory general manager Paul Hastie.

“Much like how you have a catalytic converter on the exhaust pipe of a gasoline-powered car that reduces emissions from the car’s engine.”

Paul Hastie in a safety helmet and high vis vest, the factory behind him
Paul Hastie says the new technology will reduce the plant’s total emissions by 48 percent.(ABC News: Ben Millington)

The NSW government provides $ 13 million in grants

The project will be funded by a $ 24 million loan from the federal government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation and a $ 13 million grant announced today by NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean.

“This is the first of many major projects being funded by our $ 750 million Net Zero Industry and Innovation Program,” said Mr. Kean in a statement.

“Orica’s new emissions reduction system is expected to reduce 567,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents each year, equivalent to emissions from 50,000 Newcastle homes.

“This is a massive reduction on one of the state’s largest heavy industrial plants, which will help New South Wales achieve its goal of halving emissions by 2030.”

The front entrance to the Kooragang factory with the Orica sign in front and the factory in the background
Orica’s ammonium nitrate is used to make explosives.(ABC News: Ben Millington)

The project is expected to be completed in early 2023 and reduce total emissions from the Kooragang Island area by 48 percent.

Keith Craig of the Stockton Community Group said the announcement was a long-awaited welcome news.

“If you look at greenhouse gas emissions, it’s the worst in Newcastle, and globally ammonia plants emit 1 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gases,” Mr Criag said.

“In addition, the ammonium nitrate product goes exclusively to the coal industry, which creates so many more problems globally when burning that coal.

“So the whole scenario has affected society for many years.”

An aerial view of the plant with several chimneys and steam coming out of them.
Orica hopes to install emission reduction technology in early 2023.(Delivered: NSW Government)

CO2 and PM2.5 concerns

The plant is also a major source of carcinogenic PM2.5 particles, which a 2016 CSIRO study found were at elevated levels in the nearby suburb of Stockton.

Orica recently received development approval to install scrubbing brushes in its prill towers, which will capture 99 percent of the fine particles.

Hastie said the project should be completed by the end of 2023.

The plant also produces a significant amount of carbon emissions from the production of ammonia.

Orica is working with Mineral Carbonisation International to develop a pilot plant that they hope will capture its CO2 emissions and reuse them to make products such as gypsum boards and cement.

The Orica company has more broadly committed to a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 based on 2019 levels.


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