ORICA has put the reopening of its Kooragang Island ammonia plant on hold indefinitely following a false start last night.
A spokeswoman told the Newcastle Herald the plant wasn’t in the ‘‘condition’’ to be restarted last night and that work wouldn’t resume until Orica had addressed a number of problems.
She said they were committed to a safe reopening and were sending a message to the community that if they ‘‘weren’t happy then they were not going to proceed’’.
‘‘When we did the pre-start checking there was one bit of the plant that we felt required further work before we recommenced the start,’’ she said.
‘‘We have therefore put it on hold until we are certain that this has been addressed. ‘‘As we have stated, our priority is to restart the plant safely and this action is part of that commitment.’’
The spokeswoman couldn’t confirm when the ammonia plant would restart and said it would remain closed indefinitely.
Two United States-based experts had travelled to the Hunter to oversee the planned restart.
The representatives from Kellogg Brown and Root, the company that built the plant in 1969, joined nervous Orica managers and government regulators involved in the meticulous planning process behind the operation.
The last-minute change of plans followed two community briefings yesterday where newly appointed site manager Sean Winstone outlined what the company had done to improve the plant’s operation and safety.
They included a dramatic overhaul of the restart process to ensure there could be no repeat of the hexavalent chromium spill that occurred in August.
Significant changes had also been made to the plant’s management structure.
‘‘We are bringing senior managers back to the plant to ensure its operation is in line with what the community expects,’’ said Mr Winstone, who previously managed the site between 2001 and 2008.
‘‘We need to get it right.’’
He said resources had also been directed from the company’s proposed expansion to ensure the restart and operation ran smoothly.
‘‘There is no requirement for the plant to be up and running tonight or tomorrow,’’ he said.
‘‘The only requirement is for the plant to be run safely.’’