The site is operated by its recently acquired subsidiary from Japanese group, Ajinomoto.
On Friday, May 21, at around 1pm, a breach of the manhole cover of a storage tank containing around 170 m3 of hydrochloric acid led to the rapid leakage of its contents into a retention basin. This spill caused a limited overflow in the immediate vicinity of the retention area, according to a statement from METabolic Explorer (METEX).
The METEX group said its recent acquisition of AANE, the leading European producer of amino acids for animal nutrition, enables it to realize its ambition to become one of the world market leaders in functional ingredients produced by fermentation.
“In close collaboration with the authorities, all employees and local residents were quickly brought to safety with the help of the fire brigade, which then led the operations team to secure the site and pump out the spilled acid in order to avoid any evaporation.
“These operations were carried out until Friday night and enabled the evacuation of all the hydrochloric acid spilled in the retention basin and the surrounding area. The hydrochloric acid tank in question was scheduled for replacement in September 2021 as part of the investment plan.
“Five people were taken in by the emergency services for superficial care without consequences. Aerial samples taken on the site during the entire management of the disaster showed no environmental impact,” read the statement.
Impact on facility and operations
The company said a regional environment regulatory agency, DREAL, located in the Somme, came on site on Tuesday morning for an initial review.
“The plant’s management is also assessing the event’s impact on its facilities and operations.”
That assessment will take several days, at the end of which management will present an action plan providing all the necessary means to repair the damage and return to normal production as quickly as possible, added the company.
“The subsidiary’s net cash position at the end of April 2021 was €19.1m, enabling it to cope with this event.”
The company added that it is aware of the consequences of this exceptional situation for its customers: the sales teams will work with them and their agents to inform them of the consequences of this event. At the same time, discussions will be held with employee representatives on the measures to be put in place during this period.
“The exemplary responsiveness of our teams, who alerted the authorities very early on, enabled us to deal effectively with this event. I would like to sincerely thank them for this. I would also like to express my gratitude for the efficient action of the Prefecture and the fire department. In view of this case of force majeure, we will have to temporarily stop production in the next few days in order to carry out a precise assessment of the situation and define an action plan. We will only restart production once we are certain that it will be done in optimal safety conditions,” said David Demeestere, plant manager.