Little did Ballance Agri realise that when embarking on major plant upgrades they’d end up a finalist in the 50th anniversary of the annual Innovate NZ awards.
The company has been honoured by the merit achievement for the project, while also capping off a successful deconstruction of its sulphuric acid production plant.
Whangarei-based Balance Agri-Nutrients shut the plant mid-2013, but following an assessment decided to shelve the original plan to restart within a few months.
There was plenty of work to do. The 50-year-old plant needed so many repairs and upgrades that the economics of math didn’t add up to a restart.
The dangers in a plant of this type are obvious: 98% pure sulphuric acid does not corrode steel, but diluted with water it becomes highly corrosive.It is also highly corrosive to skin, regardless of its concentration.
With lines full of acid, well-laid plans were needed. Many parts had also accumulated sulphur dust which, if mixed with water, would turn to acid.
Enter Beca to project manage.
The first step was for Beca to start a risk review process involving the plant owner, operations and maintenance staff, to determine potential risks to the deconstruction team and the actions needed to minimise them.
Ballance created an internal team to sensitively manage its workforce transition.
Culham Engineering Company’s (CEC) tender for the deconstruction was successful, because its submission explained in detail how the company would manage the key risks. While its submitted price was not the lowest, Ballance could offset the extra cost, as less input would be required from its own team and Beca.
According to awards’ organisers, the project successfully delivered smooth workforce transition and no lost time injuries in 12,000 hours work. Ballance, CEC and Beca worked together to achieve this outcome through close collaboration, including open and constructive reviews of all opportunities and incidents.