Designed to deliver the necessary infrastructure required to enhance the safety of the company's emulsion manufacturing process, the state-of-the-art site - which is a result of the company's biggest investment in 25 years - was formally unveiled by Olivier Obst, chairman and CEO of the EPC Groupe.
The bulk emulsion, otherwise known as ammonium nitrate blasting intermediate (ANIB), is the primary raw material in EPC-UK's Blendex range of site-mixed bulk explosives and is used by the company's ‘Rock-on-Ground' service teams, as well as by its direct supply customers.
The new facility has been created by adapting existing buildings to enable EPC-UK to house the process equipment and raw material storage vessels. Two new structures accommodate an ammonium nitrate silo, used at the beginning of the process, and a final product silo at the other. A new steam and condensate line have also been installed whilst the access road to the plant has been widened and a new weighbridge installed.
As an upper tier control of major accident hazards (COMAH) site, EPC-UK can ensure that the production of its emulsion matrix meets the most stringent safety requirements and this new plant is built to the latest standards in order to be compliant with UK legislation, as well as meeting international and EPC Groupe standards.
Using safety instrumented systems (SIS) in accordance with BS EN 61511 (functional safety) to achieve the highest levels of safety, the facility provides a safer and more ergonomic working environment for both operations and maintenance personnel. It is understood that it is the first emulsion plant to comply with the majority of the criteria cited.
From a design perspective, significant attention has been paid to the facility's ability to heighten safety with the incorporation of new control system displays, the variety of access and egress improvements and the colouring and labelling of process pipework.
Chris Barlow, operations manager at EPC-UK's Rough Close Works operation, commented: "This is the largest investment the EPC Groupe has made in the UK for some years. Not only is it allowing us to ensure stringent safety standards are adhered to, it is also enabling us to create a manufacturing process that is more efficient in terms of energy usage, reducing the company's carbon footprint and production costs, whilst having the flexibility to vary production rates."
The plant's combination of advanced infrastructure and innovative equipment also serve to improve production turnaround times, meet primary environmental targets to produce zero waste and provide an appropriate facility for EPC-UK to deliver enhanced levels of competence training.
Barlow continued: "By working to such exceptionally high levels within the emulsion plant, we are ensuring that EPC-UK's emulsion production is truly ‘best in class' for functional safety. Following the opening ceremony at Rough Close Works, special guests and employees of EPC-UK were given the opportunity to look around the new facility, understand its role and ask any questions they wished to be answered. The opening was an extremely fitting start for our new facility, with Olivier Obst's attendance demonstrating the importance of the site, not only to EPC-UK but also to the wider EPC Groupe."