Ennore ammonia gas leak | 67.6 tonnes of ammonia gas estimated to have leaked, committee tells NGT

The report submitted before the Tribunal says the pipeline may have been damaged by boulders along the shoreline that moved during Cyclone Michaung

February 07, 2024 12:30 am | Updated 04:45 pm IST - Chennai

A view of Coromandel International Limited, Periyakuppam village in Ennore in Chennai

A view of Coromandel International Limited, Periyakuppam village in Ennore in Chennai | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

The technical committee constituted to probe the ammonia leak in Ennore has estimated that 67.638 tonnes of the gas was leaked from the undersea pipeline of Coromandel International Limited on December 26, 2023.

During the hearing of a suo motu case on the gas leak by the Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the counsel appearing for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) on Tuesday, February 6, 2024 submitted a detailed report by the committee, which included the sequence of events that led to the leak.

It was said that huge boulders along the seashore moved during Cyclone Michaung, which hit the city in early December 2023, and possibly damaged the pipeline. The damage was not detected by the unit before pre-cooling, a process carried out prior to the unloading of 6,000 tonnes of ammonia.

“As the unit failed to take necessary safety precautions for the safe operation of offshore ammonia pipeline, the pre-cooling operation resulted in the release of ammonia gas into the environment and affected the health of the people in nearby villages and the quality of ambient air and sea water. Hence, the unit is solely responsible for the above accident and shall be legally liable to pay environmental compensation for the damage caused to the environment and public health,” the report stated.

As per the report, none of the 19 ammonia sensors located within the plant detected an abnormal amount of ammonia. The reason for this, according to the committee, was that the sensors were in the west and northwest direction of the pipeline, whereas the wind direction was southwest.

On February 4, the Tamil Nadu government directed the TNPCB to take legal action against the fertilizer unit and ordered a compensation of ₹5.92 crore. As per the committee, the last audit (to be done every five years) under the supervision of the Indian Register of Shipping was held on July 22, 2022 and the last internal audit (to be held annually) was carried out by the unit on March 17, 2023.

The Bench, comprising Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana and expert member Satyagopal Korlapati, asked the committee to check if there was any leakage from the storage tank inside the premises of Coromandel. It also demanded a response from the company on safety measures in the event of such a leak and the functioning of automatic safety shutters. The case has been posted for hearing on March 5.

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