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Air Liquide fined for ammonia leak

CANADA: Industrial and medical gases manufacturer Air Liquide Canada has been fined CAD$100,000 (€66,000) for the release of around 815kg of ammonia. 

The court in Sarnia heard that the leak occurred in 2017 from an ammonia refrigeration system at the company’s facility in the County of Lambton, southwest Ontario. The plant produces food grade carbon dioxide and is supplied with raw carbon dioxide from a neighbouring supplier. 

The carbon dioxide flows from the supplier through a dedicated pipeline, which is then liquefied and purified with the assistance of an ammonia-based refrigeration system.

The Air Liquide facility is staffed during daytime hours seven days a week but does not have staff on-site during the night.

In the early morning hours of April 16, 2017, when no staff were at the facilty, the flow of raw CO2 unexpectedly increased. As a result, raw carbon dioxide exceeded the refrigeration capacity at the facility and caused approximately 815kg of ammonia to vent through cooling system pressure release valves. 

Two employees at a distribution plant, approximately 1km downwind from the facility, were forced to seek shelter from the ammonia release, leaving the distribution plant unattended and creating a potentially dangerous situation.

The company was convicted of one violation under Canada’s Environmental Protection Act and was fined CAD$100,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of CAD$25,000, with eight months to pay the fine.

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