US Nitrogen lawsuit describes problems during construction

Austin Powder’s new $225+ million ammonium nitrate plant was supposed to begin operations in March 2014. Now, more than two years late, the US Nitrogen plant at Greeneville, TN, is still in start-up mode.

Yes, there has been a lot of local opposition. Yes, permit revisions and all the appeals have slowed progress. But there were also technical, engineering causes for the ongoing delays.

US Nitrogen recently made some of these problems public, by filing a lawsuit against its engineering design and procurement contractor, Weatherly (owned by KBR since January this year).

The court documents, available online through the PACER system, only present US Nitrogen’s case as yet, though a response from Weatherly should be filed in the next few weeks.

If there weren’t so many serious concerns – safety, reputation, investment – some of these allegations might be whimsical: “design defects included … pipes which did not meet … pipes that terminated in concrete … steel beams that did not meet or provide proper support.” You can find more details in my Research Note for the Greeneville, TN, ammonium nitrate plant.

In positive news, US Nitrogen has (finally) found an owner-operator for the site’s CO2 plant – Praxair announced last week that it aims to start up in late 2017.

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