State-of-the-art ammonia production safety training has arrived in Russia, where a chemicals company has opened an integrated computer training facility.

State-of-the-art ammonia production safety training has arrived in Russia, where native chemicals and fertiliser company JSC Acron has opened an integrated computer training facility at its Veliky Novgorod site.



Acron claims that its new system, based on simulators used elsewhere in Russia and other former Soviet Union states in the petrochemical and oil refining industry, has been upgraded to take the complexity of ammonia production into account, and is the first of its kind in the region. Acron invested $500 000 (?272 000) in the project.

The company also argues that while Dutch, US, UK and German ammonia manufacturers use simulators, its version may have surpassed them. The facility is an imitation of a real plant, with equipment and surroundings designed to train users’ visual memory. There is room for eight trainees to work in parallel, simulating an entire shift, each working with his or her normal responsibilities. The company could put up to 400 people through training each year. Start-up and shutdown of individual parts of the plant or the entire plant can be simulated, either in real time, or at a faster or slower pace. Previously, training involved production management theory exams twice a year, along with practical courses under the guidance of a qualified instructor.

Valery Ivanov, Acron’s chairman said: ’When an emergency situation occurs during ammonia production, the staff have less than one minute to decide what steps to take to prevent catastrophe.personnel working at such production facilities very often are neither skilled enough to react promptly, nor do they realise in due course what decision should have been made.’

Hans van Balkan, director of technology, environment and safety at the European Fertilizer Manufacturers Association agrees that this type of training is invaluable for ammonia plant operators. ’Normal operation is always smooth so it is difficult for operators, especially new ones, to learn how to react in emergency situations,’ Balkan told Chemistry World. ’One can study this on paper, but doing it in "real life" with a training simulator is much better.’ He added that good-quality simulators for training are complex and therefore expensive. Helen Carmichael