28 September 2001 13:13 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--The future of melamine production at Atofina's Toulouse chemicals complex in southwest France has been placed in serious jeopardy by last week's explosion at the French group's adjacent fertiliser complex, CNI learned on Friday.
A source within Atofina's marketing department confirmed that production at the 21 000 tonne/year capacity plant had been halted by the blast at the Grande Paroisse fertiliser facility, which killed 29 people and left hundreds injured.
He said none of the approximately 30-35 people working directly in the melamine facility were killed or injured. However, he said the plant had sustained some serious damage and, of course, could no longer receive urea and ammonia feedstock from Grande Paroisse.
The fertiliser complex has been very extensively damaged and, given the widespread French public concern over the location of hazardous plants near to urban centres plus continuing surplus capacity in fertilisers, may never be rebuilt.
A spokesman for Atofina's parent company TotalFinaElf said, however, that no decisions had been made about restarting fertiliser production, although he confirmed that operations would remain interrupted "for a long time".
The Atofina marketing source confirmed that melamine production could not, resume without express permission from the regional authorities. This is thought most unlikely to be given before a thorough investigation into the cause of the fertiliser plant explosion is completed.
However, without easy access to alternative feedstock the melamine plant would be unable to function.
Most of the plant's output was used by Atofina, with only a small proportion being sold to third parties. The Atofina marketing source confirmed that force majeure had been declared on these contracts.
Melamine, though, is in plentiful supply in Europe and the Toulouse outage has had no immediate effect on prices.
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