News & Media
Orica Kooragang Island celebrates 50 years
20 Feb 2019
The Orica Kooragang Island site is turning 50 and will celebrate the occasion with a family open day for past and present employees on Saturday 23 February 2019.
General Manager Paul Hastie said he is expecting more than 300 people to attend the special event which will include site tours, visual displays and kids’ activities.
“Achieving 50 years of operation in manufacturing is not something that happens by chance. It requires the commitment, discipline and diligence of all involved, and is something of which all Orica employees can be proud.”
“The open day will not only be an opportunity to celebrate the site’s achievements but also an occasion where we can acknowledge and thank the people who have been a part of our 50-year story.”
The Kooragang Island site plays a key role in the New South Wales economy, supplying critical products to the mining, infrastructure, agriculture, water supply, food, dairy and medical sectors.
Since it commenced operations in 1969, then owned by the ICI-led consortium Eastern Nitrogen, the site has seen considerable growth. It can now produce around 350,000 tonnes of ammonia, 330,000 tonnes of nitric acid and 430,000 tonnes of industrial-grade ammonium nitrate per annum. In addition, the site supplies approximately 50 per cent of the NSW carbon dioxide market.
“Fifty years of continuous manufacturing has not been without its challenges, and the site has undergone significant changes to ensure that it continues to operate safely and efficiently, now and into the future,” said Mr Hastie.
“In recent years, more than $250 million has been spent on the biggest improvement program in the site’s history.
“In addition to investing in our infrastructure, we have also made considerable investments in the community. Over the last decade alone we have provided more than $1 million in funding to a wide variety of community projects, benefiting hundreds of local organisations.”
Orica Kooragang Island also makes a substantial contribution to the local economy. In 2018 it paid nearly $40 million in wages and spent $202 million on goods and services, with over $31 million going to 237 Hunter-based businesses. In terms of added value, it is estimated that the site contributed an additional $69 million in economic activity and supported an additional 878 full-time equivalent jobs in the Hunter region.
“The important role the Kooragang Island site has played in both Orica’s history and our region’s prosperity over these 50 years cannot be underestimated,” said Mr Hastie.
“We look forward to the continued success of Orica Kooragang Island.”
History of the Kooragang Island Site
1951: The Hunter River Islands’ Reclamation Scheme began, joining several islands including Dempsey, Walsh and Moscheto to become Kooragang Island.
1967: Construction of plants commenced at the Kooragang Island site, then owned by an ICI-led consortium Eastern Nitrogen Ltd.
1969: The site began producing fertiliser-grade ammonium nitrate (AN) for use in the agricultural industry. The No.1 nitric acid plant and No.1 ammonium nitrate plant commenced operation in February, while the ammonia plant became operational in November.
1970: Eastern Nitrogen Ltd joined forces with numerous other companies to form Consolidated Fertilisers Limited (CFL). The Kooragang Island site was renamed CFL Newcastle Works but also operated under the Eastern Nitrogen name.
1972: The No.1 ammonium nitrate plant was upgraded to enable production of both industrial-grade AN for the mining industry as well as fertiliser-grade AN.
1989: Eastern Nitrogen merged with neighbouring Greenleaf Fertilisers to form Incitec Kooragang Island Works. The No.2 nitric acid plant and No.2 ammonium nitrate plant commenced operation. The No.1 ammonium nitrate plant began exclusively manufacturing industrial-grade ammonium nitrate.
2003: Orica took ownership of the Kooragang Island site.
2004: The No.3 nitric acid plant commenced operation. The facility ceased producing fertiliser-grade ammonium nitrate.
2011: After several environmental incidents, including a release of hexavalent chromium that impacted the nearby Stockton community, the ammonia plant was shut down for around seven months. Orica was later fined after being convicted of offences against the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.
2012: The site began a $250 million improvement program, the largest in its history, focussing on safety and environmental performance. Orica installed a new monitoring station in Stockton, capable of producing real-time data on air quality.
2014: The site started using recycled water in its industrial processes. This switch is now saving the Hunter region up to 2.9 billion litres of drinking water a year.
2017: The installation of three flaring systems, designed to minimise the risk of ammonia emissions, was completed. The flares were part of a broader project to overhaul the way ammonia is managed at the site.
- There are approximately 8,000 pipes, more than 800 vessels and around 600 relief valves across the Orica Kooragang Island site. The largest vessel is the ammonia tank, which has a 12,000-tonne capacity. It was constructed on site using a special steel imported from England.
- The original feedstock used to make ammonia was naphtha, a type of oil, but in 1982 the site switched to natural gas. Story has it that the Sydney to Newcastle gas pipeline was built using the ammonia plant’s gas contract as guarantee for its viability. Today, the site uses between 10 to 15 per cent of New South Wales’ overall gas consumption.
- Orica Kooragang Island provides ammonium nitrate to approximately 85 per cent of the Hunter region’s mines.
- Since 2014 more than 1,000 high school students have visited the site to learn about ammonia manufacturing for the HSC Chemistry course.
Since 1969 the site has produced around:
- 9.5 million tonnes of ammonia, with nearly three million tonnes being sold to the agricultural and other industries. That’s enough ammonia to fertilise more than 14.5 million hectares of crops.
- 1.3 million tonnes of pure carbon dioxide for the food, beverage and medical industries. That’s enough CO2 to put the bubbles in around six billion cans of soft drink.
- 11.5 million tonnes of ammonium nitrate (AN), or nearly 360,000 truckloads. That amount of AN could move more than 14 billion cubic metres of overburden in mining operations.
- 9.8 million tonnes of nitric acid, with 9.7 million tonnes being consumed at the Kooragang Island site in the manufacture of ammonium nitrate.
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Orica (ASX: ORI) is the world’s largest provider of commercial explosives and innovative blasting systems to the mining, quarrying, oil and gas and construction markets, a leading supplier of sodium cyanide for gold extraction, and a specialist provider of ground support services in mining and tunnelling.
For more information about Orica, please visit: www.orica.com/about-us