Frequently asked questions
Who are the shareholders in IFFCO Canada?
IFFCO (India), through subsidiary Kisan International Trading (KIT), is the majority shareholder in IFFCO Canada. The other shareholders are La Coop fédérée, Investissement Québec and Pacific Gateway Energy. To learn more about our shareholders, go to ABOUT / IFFCO Canada / Company.
What prompted IFFCO to set up a plant in Québec?
IFFCO Canada chose to set up in Québec following an analysis of some forty potential locations in North America. The ready availability and abundance of competitively priced resources – natural gas and electricity, proximity to agricultural markets, and the demonstrated interest of one particular shareholder (La Coop fédérée) already extensively involved in fertilizer distribution in Québec and Canada figure among the leading factors which prompted IFFCO to settle on Québec for the setup of the company’s new fertilizer plant.
How does IFFCO Canada intend to fulfil intentions in the matter of sustainable development?
IFFCO Canada is intent upon seizing the opportunity to make the Québec plant a model of sustainable development in the industry. Corporate intentions are detailed in a series of 10 commitments set out in a resolution drafted by the company’s board of directors. These commitments are keeping with the 16 principles defined and set out in the Sustainable Development Act of Québec. To learn more about IFFCO Canada commitments in the matter of sustainable development, go to ABOUT / IFFCO Canada / Social responsibility and sustainable development.
How does IFFCO Canada intend to ensure that production technology is consistent with the sustainable development thrust?
New plants comparable to the proposed IFFCO Canada facility employ technology which involves the use of natural gas in combination with some 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity. These plants emit an estimated 850 000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (t/CO2).
From the very outset of project planning and in an effort to reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions, IFFCO Canada examined a technology scenario which increased electricity use from 30 MW to 48 MW, thereby scaling back direct emissions to 678 000 t/CO2 and resulting in a 20% reduction in aggregate emissions compared with similarly sized plants.
This scenario was presented in the impact study subject to validation. Indeed, IFFCO Canada had yet to receive confirmation of the technical feasibility of the process, not to mention assurance of being able to secure a bloc of more than 50 MW electricity which requires the approval of the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Seeking to further reduce direct emissions, IFFCO Canada subsequently examined a second technology scenario deemed to represent the ultimate in terms of what was economically and technically achievable (BATEA1 Method) in the circumstances. Under the second scenario, electricity use would rise from 48 MW to 65 MW, thereby trimming direct greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 15% or 20% to a level of some 575 000 tonnes. In parallel, the Ministry of Natural Resources guaranteed IFFCO Canada a secure 65 MW supply of electricity.
This latter scenario is the one that has been confirmed for the project at hand, meaning that the Bécancour fertilizer plant will figure among the most energy efficient in the world.
1 BATEA Method: Best available technology economically achievable
What exactly does the IFFCO Canada project entail?
The IFFCO Canada plant at Bécancour represents an investment of the order of $2 billions. The project will create between 1000 and 1500 jobs during the peak of the three-year construction phase and some 250 permanent jobs once the plant becomes operational.
The location selected for the proposed plant is a site formerly occupied by Norsk Hydro in Bécancour Port and Industrial Park. As a result, the project does not entail any need for expropriation.
The region is home to what is doubtless the best industrial site in Québec for a plant of this nature given factors which include as follows: Bécancour has a well developed industrial area with ship, train and truck access, quality infrastructure, secure supplies of natural gas, electricity and water, a proper buffer zone between industrial and residential areas, not to mention a ready availability of skilled workers.
What are the products that IFFCO Canada plans to produce?
The plant will produce granular urea (tiny white particles measuring between 2 and 4 millimetres in diameter) and lesser quantities of liquid urea. Liquid urea will be destined for the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) market. This product is used to reduce the polluting emissions of diesel-powered vehicles. Another byproduct, ammonium sulphate, will also be marketed as a fertilizer. This byproduct derives from the transformation of residual production waste.
What is urea and for what is it used?
Urea is a fertilizer used extensively in regions around the world owing to exceptional stability and ease of handling. With a nitrogen content of 46%, urea provides plants with an element essential to their growth. Urea is also used in the industrial sector, notably in the composition of some resins.
What is diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) and for what is it used?
Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is a solution comprising urea and deionized water. The DEF market is currently booming as a result of Canadian and US legislation requiring stricter controls of polluting emissions generated by diesel-powered engines. Analysts predict that North America will soon become the premier DEF market in the world, followed by Europe and Brazil.
What is ammonium sulphate and for what is it used?
Ammonium sulphate is a fertilizer containing 21% nitrogen in the form of ammonium and 24% sulphur in the form of sulphate. It is often mixed with other mineral-based fertilizers to limit the acidifying effect of its high sulphur content. Crops such as potatoes, cranberries and blueberries, which grow better in acidic soil, are the primary users of ammonium sulphate.
How is urea produced?
Urea is one of the oldest industrial products. Despite remarkable developments, the various production technologies are all variants of the process developed in the 1900s.
The process requires the use of ammonia and carbon dioxide under pressure. Production takes place in several stages in two production units: an ammonia unit and a urea unit.
Ammonia is produced in the ammonia unit when nitrogen from the air reacts with hydrogen in the natural gas. This stage generates carbon dioxide which is fully consumed to form urea in the second production unit. The urea is then dried in granular form or mixed with water to form liquid urea or diesel exhaust fluid (DEF).
For which markets will urea produced at Bécancour be destined?
Urea produced at Bécancour will be destined to meet the needs of Québec and Canadian farmers who already use urea but who must currently rely on imports from Northern Europe or the Middle East. Once markets in Québec and Canada have been served, IFFCO Canada will funnel production to the United States and perhaps even markets abroad.
Which sources of energy are used to produce urea?
The most common sources of energy used to produce urea are coal, natural gas and electricity. Other sources such as liquefied natural gas, naphtha and propane are used whenever natural gas in unavailable, albeit applications of the like are quite rare given the high cost of these alternate sources of energy.
Natural gas is, by far, the most widely used source of energy, followed by coal. Plants which use natural gas have a lower carbon footprint than those which use coal.
Electricity alone cannot be used to produce urea. Electricity can be used to electrolyse water and produce hydrogen, but a source of CO2 is still required. Although progress is being made, existing technology for producing hydrogen by means of electrolysis is neither safe nor proven for the volume envisaged at the IFFCO Canada plant.
IFFCO Canada has committed to the setup of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. What can be expected in this regard?
For IFFCO Canada, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is more than just a concept. It is a management philosophy based on values, principles and commitments which orient action in favour of sustainable development.
From the outset, IFFCO Canada has demonstrated commitment to a corporate social responsibility (CSR) process. It is in this spirit that the company moved quickly to initiate dialogue with the host community of the future IFFCO plant, an exercise which led to basic enhancements early in the project design phase. Company commitment in this regard has also translated into concrete action by IFFCO Canada in favour of sustainable development.
Dialogue with stakeholders will continue through the Joint Municipal Industrial Committee (CMMI) and Citizen Advisory Committee of Bécancour Port and Industrial Park (CCC – PIPB) with which IFFCO Canada already entertains ties.
What is the estimated cost of the project?
Project setup is estimated at $2 billions. To the latter figure must be added annual operating expenses of the order of $270 million. The various levels of government can expect to reap considerable revenue through personal and corporate incomes taxes, and other applicable taxes and levies.
How many jobs will be created?
Between 1000 and 1500 workers will be required during the peak of the three-year construction phase. Once operational, the plant will create about 250 direct jobs and some 500 indirect jobs.
Will the existence of a Québec-based urea plant impact prices paid by agricultural producers?
Urea is a commodity broadly used at the international level with pricing established based on the balance between supply and demand. The presence of a plant in Québec is not expected to upset the balance significantly. Readers will bear in mind that some 160 million tonnes (Mt) of urea are produced and used annually in regions across the globe and that the IFFCO Canada plant will generate between 1.3 and 1.6 Mt.
What are the anticipated benefits of IFFCO Canada’s presence for agricultural producers in Québec?
The presence of a urea plant on Québec soil limits the risks associated with overseas sourcing, maritime transport in particular. In addition, as a partner in the project, La Coop fédérée is likely to reap the benefits of plant operations, thereby enhancing its own financial position. Indeed, La Coop fédérée is hopeful that this partnership will boost dividends paid to members.
Will the IFFCO Canada plant be safe for workers and neighbouring industrial facilities?
IFFCO is a skilled, experienced, world class builder and operator. Safety risks have been addressed through strict design criteria using the latest technology. The plant will be equipped with multiple layers of safety features which meet or surpass safety codes and regulations currently in force in Québec and Canada.
The plant will be certified under the OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series) safety standard. This standard is the international reference in the matter of the management of health and safety in the workplace. The aim is to reduce the number of accidents occurring on production sites while ensuring that companies comply with applicable laws and regulations in force, thereby contributing to enhanced corporate performance.
Employees will be trained in all manner of potentially hazardous occurrences. They will also enjoy access to all necessary intervention equipment in the event of an incident and will be poised to intervene at all times. An intervention team of first responders will be on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Is there a plan for intervening in the event of an industrial accident?
Provision has indeed been made for an Emergency Measures Plan. This plan will take into account various possible scenarios and will be drawn up together with the stakeholders responsible for public safety in the Town of Bécancour. Regional stakeholders are grouped together on the Joint Municipal Industrial Committee (CMMI). IFFCO Canada’s plan for intervening in an emergency will be aligned with the municipal emergency measures plan.
In the event of an incident, IFFCO Canada will rely upon an intervention team of first responders poised and ready around the clock. All operating technicians will be members of this team and will receive requisite training. These individuals will be poised to intervene rapidly to minimize the consequences of any accident for workers, the citizenry and the environment.
IFFCO Canada will be certified under ISO 9001, 14000 and OHSAS 18001 standards, and will implement a CSR program based on ISO 26000, BNQ 21000. What do these standards mean?
They are quality and safety standards which demonstrate IFFCO Canada commitment to excellence and ongoing improvement. They apply to a number of facets of company operations, namely corporate governance, management, production, the environment, and health and safety.
ISO 9001. This is one of the most recognized standards of quality in the world. It aims to ensure that customers obtain goods and services of uniform quality. This standard is used in more than 170 countries by over a million companies and organizations.
ISO 14000. This is the international standard governing the control and enhancement of corporate environmental performance. It seeks to reconcile corporate profitability with reduced impact on the environment.
ISO 26000. This standard provides a framework that establishes international guidelines in matters of corporate social responsibility. Accordingly, it defines how organizations can and must contribute to sustainable development. In concrete terms, this standard requires that companies take action in an ethical, transparent manner with a view to contributing to the betterment and wellbeing of society.
BNQ 21000. Québec’s BNQ 21000 approach seeks to encourage and facilitate allowance for and application of the principles set out in the provincial Sustainable Development Act as the latter applies to organizational management. This management framework applies to Québec-based companies and is supported by the Government of Québec.
OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series). This standard is the international reference in the matter of the management of health and safety in the workplace. The standard aims to reduce the number of work-related accidents occurring on production sites while ensuring that companies comply with applicable laws and regulations in force, thereby contributing to enhanced corporate performance.
Could an explosion at the IFFCO Canada plant have a domino effect on neighbouring plants?
An explosion at the IFFCO Canada plant would have no domino effect on neighbouring plants. However, nearby buildings could sustain damage which is estimated at moderate to low (broken windows, etc.) in the impact study.
Has IFFCO Canada conducted an environmental impact study for the future plant?
IFFCO Canada has conducted an important environmental impact study. Interested individuals may consult a number of documents on the subject, including as follows:
Would the quality of the ambient air be impacted by the existence of the plant?
The impact of the IFFCO Canada plant on air quality, calculated by means of the mathematical modelling of sensitive receptors (i.e. residential dwellings) and added to initial concentrations of various contaminants of interest in the ambient air have been compared with air quality standards set out in the Clean Air Regulation. When consideration is made for initial concentrations of these contaminants in the ambient air, the proposed plant is found to have no negative impact on human health given anticipated compliance with air quality standards in the vicinity of the sensitive receptors.
Granulator emissions will be wet processed with a view to scrubbing both the urea and ammonia. The planned processing of ammonia emissions will exceed basic Environment Canada requirements pertaining to industrial emissions in Canada’s ammonia sector. Dust emissions at urea transfer and handling points will be collected using a suction-based extractor and then scrubbed by means of systems in place.
Who is responsible for controlling the quality of atmospheric emissions by plants in Bécancour Port and Industrial Park?
The Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks (MDDEFP) conducts periodic controls. That said, each company is responsible for implementing an environmental management program and controlling emissions in compliance with regulations in force. Companies are required to advise MDDEFP officials who may conduct back-up checks as required. Bécancour is equipped with an ambient air monitoring station located nearby the municipal arena.
What is the risk of urea dust emissions in the vicinity of the shiploading dock?
Shiploading activities in the dock area will be carried out using a totally self-contained conveyor system. Any urea dust as might be emitted will be collected using a dust extractor.
Will plant operations generate any smoke?
The plant’s cooling towers will generate vapour plumes. These plumes will always be visible and, in some weather conditions, result in fog or the icing over of two streets adjacent to the plant. There is no anticipated impact on Bécancour Blvd.
However, in certain weather conditions (less than 3% of the time), plumes could reach areas located within the limits of the Town of Bécancour. In instances of the like, neither fog nor ice would be an issue as the plumes would form in the air overhead.
Where will plant water be sourced?
Water will be sourced from the Bécancour Port and Industrial Park pumping station which uses raw water from the Saint Lawrence River. Water will be used in the urea production unit, the cooling towers and for vapour production. About 25% of all water used will be discharged back into the river following treatment.
Does IFFCO Canada plan to treat the water prior to use at plant facilities?
All water will indeed be treated prior to use. It will be used to cool various equipment and to produce vapour. It will be demineralized and treated prior to use in the cooling towers and the boiler.
How will plant wastewater be treated?
Wastewater will be generated as a result of cooling tower and demineralization unit purges.
The demineralization unit will be used to remove minerals naturally occurring in the water. These minerals will be concentrated and removed using a high pressure jet of water. Cooling tower wastewater will contain minerals naturally occurring in the water since some of the water evaporates upon contact with the air, which results in the concentration of minerals present.
At the design stage, specifications will be drawn up to ensure compliance with environmental discharge objectives (EDOs) and filed with MDDEFP authorities as required.
Where will wastewater be discharged?
Wastewater will be discharged through the existing Bécancour Port and Industrial Park discharge pipe which empties into the Saint Lawrence River. It is important to bear in mind that black water will not be mixed with industrial wastewater. Rather, black water will be treated at the Bécancour Port and Industrial Park water treatment plant.
Will plant activities impact the quality of river water?
Final wastewater from the plant will comply with environmental discharge objectives set by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks (MDDEFP) to protect water quality and aquatic life. Wastewater will always be treated prior to reuse in the production process or definitive discharge into the river.
What will the temperature of water discharged into the river be?
The temperature of final wastewater will vary based on ambient air temperature. That said, it will generally exceed the temperature of the outside ambient air by about 5°C. Average maximum temperatures in summer and winter will therefore be 25°C and 10°C respectively. Given the dispersion effect of the river (wastewater outfall located at a depth of more than 10 metres), the aggregate warming impact will be less than 0.5°C at 300 metres from the point of discharge. There will therefore be no thermal plume.
Additionally, IFFCO Canada plant operations do not risk resulting in the formation of algae in the vicinity of the wastewater outfall or in conditions conducive to the establishment of invasive species. Concentrations of nitrogen and other potential contaminants will comply with environmental discharge objectives designed to safeguard aquatic life.
What are the anticipated sources of noise?
Stationary sources of noise will be attributable to the mechanical equipment of a plant located in an industrial setting. Equipment will include compressors, pumps, cooling towers, transformers and air intake fans.
Noise will also be generated by mobile sources associated with the transport of urea such as locomotives and other rail equipment. On the dock, the primary source of noise will be the dust extractor installed on the shiploader.
What impact will plant noise have on neighbouring areas?
The impact study clearly demonstrates that noise will be negligible for the entirety of the area under study and that plant activities will not result in a significant increase in noise on the north shore of the river. However, measurements taken at an isolated residence nearby the plant site indicated a potential increase in the noise level by some 5 decibels which could be perceptible.
Will the plant give off any odours?
The plant will not give off any perceptible odours. Ammonia has a distinctive olfactive signature. However, ammonia emissions from the granulator will be wet processed. Residual concentrations in the ambient air will therefore remain well below odour perception thresholds and comply with Clean Air Regulation standards.
Will the plant be built in a wetland area or on a floodplain?
Albeit IFFCO Canada has chosen to set up in an industrial park designed for heavy industry, a small proportion of plant property, namely the conveyor support pillars, will be located on a floodplain. However, they do not pose any danger or threat to the environment. IFFCO Canada has committed to compensating for areas such as these impacted by the project.
In broader terms, the impact on wetland areas will not affect the integrity of the larger wetland complexes in the surrounding area and temporary construction-related disturbances will be accompanied by mitigation measures.
Readers will bear in mind that IFFCO Canada first chose a site with more wetland areas than the current site. It was following initial community consultations that the company selected the current site – formerly occupied by Norsk Hydro, a site that has already been cleared of trees, is located farther from neighbouring residential areas and includes fewer wetland areas.
What action does IFFCO Canada intend to take to lessen the impact of construction activities on wetland areas?
IFFCO Canada has provided for a number of mitigation measures.
- To the extent possible, carry out work during periods when water levels are low with a view to avoiding periods of heavy precipitation and spring freshet.
- Respecting isolated wetland areas on the proposed plant site (permanent loss), if backfilling is required when water is present, employ measures specific to work carried out in water.
- Physically limit the areas where trees are to be cleared to avoid unnecessary deforestation.
- Protect trees and vegetation on the periphery of deforested areas.
- Preserve a maximum of herbaceous vegetation and shrubbery the length of the conveyor line.
- Limit machinery traffic to worksite areas.
- Preserve drainage conditions in unaffected wetland areas.
- Restore surface drainage conditions whenever possible.
- Re-establish vegetation upon completion of construction in temporarily disturbed areas using a mix of species (invasive species excepted) specifically adapted to geoclimatic conditions, the object being to provide for rapid redevelopment of the vegetation cover.
Will the plant comply with wetland regulations?
IFFCO Canada will comply with wetland regulations which call for mitigation measures and a compensation plan.
What will visual impact of the plant be?
Visual impact will be limited given that the plant will blend into the industrial landscape. Moreover, the presence of wooded areas around the plant will limit visibility of the facilities. Only the higher parts of certain plant structures will be visible from Autoroute 30 and Louis Riel Road, notably the main flare. Plant visibility from the north shore will be limited given the distance of several kilometres. Moreover, a landscaping concept will be developed to enhance the visual aspect of the industrial complex.
Will plant visibility from the north shore impact the countryscape?
The highest buildings will be visible, including the flare, albeit overall height is limited for safety reasons. On the issue of night lighting, industrial complexes such as the IFFCO Canada plant must maintain a level of brightness for safety purposes (the plant will operate day and night) and to ensure compliance with applicable regulations in force for this type of industrial installation. IFFCO Canada has committed to providing for plant lighting level mitigation measures from the lighting planning and specifications stage.
What will the impact be on road transport
Given medium impact during construction and low impact once operational, IFFCO Canada’s presence will not adversely affect road traffic in the region.
Medium impact during construction
An increase of between 800 and 1500 light vehicles a day (between 1600 and 3000 trips) during the three years necessary to construct the plant, and between 80 and 150 trucks a day (between 160 and 300 trips) over a consecutive period of 10 months. Given the reduction of some 1000 cars a day (2000 trips) as a result of the shuttering of the Gentilly 2 nuclear power station, the net increase will total about 500 light vehicles a day or 1000 extra trips a day.
Low impact during plant operations
Allowance being made for the shuttering of the Gentilly 2 facility, the road network will see a daily increase in traffic of between 250 and 300 light vehicles and between 70 and 120 trucks. In comparison, when the Gentilly facility was in operation, mean annual traffic flow stood at between 5600 and 8500 vehicles, in addition to 557 trucks, on a section of Autoroute 30 (MTQ, 2010).
What will the impact be on rail traffic?
IFFCO Canada’s presence will have a negligible impact on rail traffic in Bécancour Port and Industrial Park. Between 20 and 50 cars will be added to current daily trains or redistributed over the following days. Waiting time at level crossings will increase slightly otherwise a second daily train would be necessary.
What will the impact be on ship traffic?
IFFCO Canada’s presence will not significantly impact traffic on the dock, ship traffic on the river or fishing activities. Loading facilities will neither result in major congestion on the dock nor limit the use of the dock by other users. Between 2007 and 2011, the Port of Bécancour handled between 130 and 182 ships a year. The addition of between 1 and 3 ships a month (or no more than 36 ships a year) is in keeping with annual fluctuation rates. Shiploading will take about two days. Additional traffic will nonetheless positively impact port activities.
Why a risk study?
Because there is no such thing as ‘zero risk’. Recognizing that there are risks allows stakeholders to set up risk prevention, management and intervention programs, as well as emergency measures plans of proven effectiveness. IFFCO Canada will be well tooled to prevent risks and to confine and control them with proven measures.
The impact study makes mention of ‘technological risks’. What is the nature of these risks?
Technological risks are elements of danger which will exist once the plant becomes operational. Assessing technological risks is the first step in the development of a risk management program. In recognizing elements of danger and assessing the potential consequences of an accident, planners are able to develop prevention mechanisms at the project design stage. Knowledge of technological risks implies a three-step response: action to prevent the risk, management of the risk on a daily basis and preparation to intervene effectively should an incident occur.
Technological risks associated with the future plant are twofold:
- an explosion or fire fed by natural gas or hydrogen;
- an ammonia leak.
What are the risks of a fire or explosion?
Risk of fire or explosion – natural gas or hydrogen
Natural gas will be fed into the plant via the existing pipeline. Natural gas will not be transported onto the site or stored on plant premises. The same applies to hydrogen: there will be no supply or storage of hydrogen on plant premises since all hydrogen generated will be consumed onsite. These measures limit considerably any risk of fire or explosion.
Risk of leak – ammonia
Ammonia will be produced onsite in the first production unit and used in its entirety in the second production unit to produce urea. Transport-related risks are therefore non-existent as ammonia will flow in closed conduits on plant premises.
The potential risk of an ammonia-based explosion is, in any case, extremely limited. The risk relates more to product toxicity in the event of a leak. Hence measures implemented seek above all to prevent and manage leaks.
In the event of a fire or explosion, would the inhabitants of Bécancour, Champlain and Trois-Rivières be affected?
The risk study demonstrates that the consequences of a fire or explosion at the future plant would essentially be limited to plant premises and neighbouring facilities in Bécancour Port and Industrial Park. Therefore, an occurrence of the like would not impact inhabitants in the surrounding areas.
What is ammonia? What are the effects of ammonia on human health?
Ammonia is an industrially produced chemical compound which is used extensively in a number of sectors, notably in refrigeration equipment.
Ammonia is toxic, colourless and not readily flammable. Its irritatingly acrid smell provides ample warning of its presence. Ammonia irritates the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms include tearing, nasal discharge, coughing and a burning sensation in the stomach.
In the event of an incident, the most important action to take is to move away from the source of the leak and any plume, and to remain in a sheltered location until the toxic fumes have dispersed.
What is the risk of an ammonia leak? What measures has IFFCO Canada taken to avoid a leak?
The probability of an ammonia leak is low. Despite the low probability of a leak of this nature, which is estimated at 1 in 100 000 according to the impact study2, IFFCO Canada is doing everything possible to avoid an occurrence of the like and formulating emergency measures to be implemented in the event of such an occurrence.
In the event of an ammonia leak, what is important to keep front of mind is that the farther one moves away from the leak and plume, the lesser the risk of intoxication.
In the event of a leak, the area most likely to be impacted would be the plant premises and, depending on the extent of the leak, possibly neighbouring industrial facilities. Hence all IFFCO Canada workers will be trained, tooled and supplied with proper protective gear to intervene quickly to stop any leak. Neighbouring industrial facilities will also be fully apprised of action to be taken in the event of an emergency via the Joint Municipal Industrial Committee (CMMI), thereby considerably reducing the risk for workers at these other plants.
The same applies to the potentially affected area defined and set out in the risk study. Albeit the scenario in the study makes mention of a 5 km radius, only a portion of this area would be affected in the event of an accident, depending on the direction in which the wind is blowing and the dispersion pattern of the toxic plume. However, for precautionary reasons, provision has been made for emergency intervention measures applying to the entirety of the potentially affected area defined and set out in the impact study.
Provision has been made for multiple layers of safety mechanisms to avoid an ammonia leak:
- Ammonia will be produced, stored on plant premises and used in its entirety during the urea production process. Ammonia will therefore neither be sold nor transported offsite.
- Ammonia reserves will be maintained at a minimum and stored in liquid form in two separate tanks with a capacity of 10 000 tonnes each.
- During normal operations, each tank will contain between 2000 and 3000 tonnes of ammonia. The quantity stored may rise to as much as 8000 tonnes should there be a production stoppage or should a tank require inspection. This explains the oversized dimensions of each tank.
- To ensure maximum integrity, each tank will be a doubled-shelled, tank within a tank, with the outer tank able to contain all the contents of the inner tank.
- Onsite, each tank will be erected within an impounding basin capable of holding 110% of maximum tank contents.
- The plant will be fitted with alarm systems and critical monitoring and control systems redundancy. By redundancy, we mean that all equipment deemed critical will have a back?up system. This back-up system will automatically engage in the event of a primary system failure.
- Flares will be installed onsite to safely vent gases.
- IFFCO Canada will rely on an onsite intervention team of first responders on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. These teams of first responders will be trained and poised to act quickly in the event of a leak and limit the impact of any such leak.
- The IFFCO Canada intervention team will work together with other plants in Bécancour Port and Industrial Park as well as with the regional CMMI to draw up, manage and implement various emergency measures plans.
2 Failure rate used for ammonia tanks, p. 8-37 of impact study.
What size of an area would be impacted by an ammonia leak?
Prevailing winds in the area generally blow either up or down the river valley, thereby decreasing the probability that neighbouring inhabited areas would be impacted. However, allowance was not made for this factor when drawing up emergency measures plans. In the case of the IFFCO Canada plant, emergency measures extend over a potentially impacted area located within a 5-kilometre radius of the plant.
This potentially impacted area theoretically includes a zone within which individuals would be exposed for up to an hour. Given the acrid smell of ammonia and people’s natural inclination to protect their respiratory passages, it is highly unlikely that individuals would remain in the vicinity of a vapour plume for an hour without protective gear or without seeking shelter. Seeking shelter and ensuring that doors and windows are properly closed is the first action to take to protect oneself against the effects of any toxic cloud. One must also bear in mind that the farther one is from the point of impact, the lesser the consequences.
Based on regulations in force, how far is a plant of this nature to be located from a residential area?
The plant is isolated from neighbouring homes by means of a buffer zone greater in breadth than the minimum distance prescribed under the industry code of practice. Indeed, the Fertilizer Safety Council of the Canadian Fertilizer Institute prescribes a minimum distance of 500 metres between a plant and an isolated residence. The IFFCO Canada plant will be located 1.6 km from the nearest residence. The Council further prescribes a minimum distance of 1.5 km from the nearest urban area or sensitive environment (school, hospital, etc.). The IFFCO Canada plant will be located more than 3.6 km from the centre of Bécancour.
The future IFFCO Canada plant’s large buffer zone will therefore make it possible to reduce the impact of any potential industrial accident on neighbouring areas. The existence of this buffer zone, already in place, played a decisive role in IFFCO Canada’s decision to set up in Bécancour Port and Industrial Park.
What kinds of hazardous materials will be handled onsite?
The five main hazardous materials which will be handled onsite are natural gas, hydrogen, ammonia, caustic soda and sulphuric acid. Various laws and regulations govern the transport, storage and handling of hazardous materials. The latter are also subject to rigorous codes of practice which require special training for individuals likely to be exposed to or work with these materials.
Is urea considered a hazardous or explosive product?
Transport regulations in Canada do not consider urea a hazardous product. Granular urea is stable in normal conditions but can produce ammonia vapours when heated to a high temperature. Urea is not flammable and presents no explosive properties. It can, however, become combustible at high temperature. Granular urea presents a risk for workers who inhale urea dust during production. Measures will be taken to alleviate this risk.
Does the plant represent a risk to the health of residents living in the vicinity?
The proposed plant presents no risks for the health of residents living in the vicinity. The plant will be located in Bécancour Port and Industrial Park. Emissions will comply with all standards and air quality criteria prescribed by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks.
Any ammonia-related accident scenario would first impact plant workers and then area residents depending on the type of leak and direction of the prevailing winds. Potential effects could include eye and respiratory tract irritation, tearing, nasal discharge, coughing and a burning sensation in the stomach.
According to the impact study, the potentially impacted area theoretically includes a zone within which individuals would be exposed for up to an hour. This potentially impacted area is located within a 5-kilometre radius of the plant. Although there is little chance of the entire area ever being impacted, this worst case scenario allows planners to develop appropriate emergency measures plans and IFFCO Canada to detail, together with the Joint Municipal Industrial Committee, immediate action to be taken by the company’s intervention team.
What would the impact be in the event of a major flood? Would there be any risk of river contamination?
Only the support pillars of the conveyor line will be exposed to spring flooding. The conveyor line will be totally self-contained within a closed, waterproof structure to be erected more than 7 metres above ground level. A major flood would have no impact on the conveyor line.
Respecting the plant site itself, according to Regional County Municipality readings, only a section located in the northwest quadrant would be subject to strong currents in the event of flooding. Protective measures will be taken to ensure that facilities are built outside Zone 1: 100 years (1 chance in 100 that a flood would occur each year).
Accordingly, the ammonia tanks and water treatment pond will be surrounded by structures able to withstand a Level 1 flood: 100 years. Indeed, the entirety of project facilities will be located outside Zone 1: 100. The risk of river contamination would be minor as runoff likely to be contaminated by plant operating activities would feed into the wastewater treatment unit prior to discharge into the river.
What would the consequences be of a ship running aground and spilling its cargo of urea?
Readers will appreciate that river traffic is strictly regulated. All ships, without exception, are mandatorily guided by licensed Saint Lawrence pilots and the possibility of a ship running aground and breaking up is extremely low.
That being said, were such a scenario ever to occur, bear in mind that urea is not classified as a hazardous material under Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations. Any product-related risk would therefore be low in the event of an accident.
Urea gradually dissolves in water. Damage to the environment and aquatic life would be limited to the area in the immediate vicinity of the spill owing mainly to the reduced concentration of available oxygen for aquatic life. The urea would gradually dissolve into the river water, eventually dissipating completely.
In the event of a spill in an aquatic environment, various measures could be taken: mechanical cleanup, pumping, isolation of the affected area and monitoring of water quality.
Is there any risk of a rail accident similar to the one that occurred at Lac Mégantic?
There is no risk of any such similar accident. Existence of the IFFCO Canada plant does not involve the transport of petroleum by rail. Natural gas will be fed into the plant via the existing pipeline. Were an explosion to occur, the impact would be limited to the plant compound.
There will be rail cars loaded with urea but urea is not classified as a hazardous material. In the event of a spill on land, the urea could be easily recovered and the site remediated. In the event of a spill in an aquatic environment, various measures could be taken: mechanical cleanup, pumping, isolation of the affected area and monitoring of water acidity levels, use of neutralizing product.
A rail accident is always possible but the carrier responsible for handling IFFCO Canada urea, namely Canadian National (CN), is well known and renowned for equipment quality and operating safety.
Could IFFCO Canada experience an accident comparable to that which occurred on 17 April 2013 at West in Texas?
Not at all. The accident in Texas involved ammonium nitrate, a substance which will not be used at the IFFCO Canada plant. Readers will appreciate that there are no business ties between IFFCO, including IFFCO Canada and partners, and the Texas-based plant.
Where will the natural gas used by IFFCO Canada be sourced?
IFFCO Canada will secure a supply of natural gas through long term contracts with private suppliers. Natural gas could eventually originate from the Dawn trading hub which already serves Eastern Québec via a network of gas pipelines running from Western Canada and the United States, or any trading hub with sufficient capacity to Eastern Québec. Transport via pipeline will be assured over the longer term by a natural gas transport company which will ensure interconnection with the Gaz Métro network.
Could the advent of a major industrial consumer of natural gas foster the development of shale gas?
The IFFCO Canada project is in no way linked to the development of the shale gas industry in Québec. In fact, IFFCO Canada elected to set up in Québec despite the de facto moratorium on shale gas production in the province.
Gas supplied to IFFCO Canada would be the same gas as is made available to all consumers in Québec – companies and individuals combined. Gaz Metro distributes gas which originates from various locations in North America. The molecule is the same be it natural gas or shale gas. It is impossible to distinguish between either the origin or the nature of the gas once it enters the distribution network.
Does substantial natural gas consumption by IFFCO Canada risk resulting in the construction of additional infrastructure?
The plant will require a flow station and hookup to the Gaz Métro network. Hence the project will not result in the construction of a new compressor station or the addition of a pipeline running under the river.
Does there exist a means of recovering and reusing CO2 with a view to providing for enhanced economic and environmental benefits?
Technology does currently exist which allows for the recovery of CO2, but the challenge lies in finding a use for the recovered gas. It is a challenge of interest to IFFCO Canada and it is entirely possible that the plant could eventually generate synergies in this regard.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
What quantity of greenhouse gas emissions will the plant generate
The Bécancour plant will rank among industry leaders from the dual standpoint of energy efficiency and carbon footprint. It will produce a minimum of 30% less GHG than comparable new plants to be built in North America.
IFFCO Canada will benefit from the competitive and environmental advantage of being able to use electricity in place of natural gas to the limit of what is technically and economically feasible. Based on estimates to date, by using 65 MW of electricity rather than just 30 MW (average used by comparable new plants), IFFCO Canada will reduce by a third (32%) its carbon footprint (575 000 tonnes versus 850 000 tonnes of CO2).
Will greenhouse gas emissions at the IFFCO Canada plant comply with standards currently in force?
There are no standards pertaining to CO2 emissions as CO2 is not considered a pollutant per se. CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions are part of a broader issue, namely global warming, and cannot be associated with one region in particular.
There exists a regulatory framework in Québec known as the SPEDE emissions cap and trade system by means of which it is possible to coherently manage industrial sector emissions, including those of new emitters.
Any emitter exceeding 25 000 tonnes of CO2 a year is governed under SPEDE which sets emitter-specific emission levels. If the emitter is not poised to comply with the limit imposed, emission credits must be purchased. If the emitter succeeds in enhancing performance, a portion of these emission credits may be sold. A carbon exchange has therefore been set up to allow participants to buy and sell carbon credits. Regulatory controls in this regard came into force in January 2013.
How will the IFFCO Canada plant be able to outperform other urea production facilities elsewhere in the world from the standpoint of greenhouse gas emissions?
IFFCO Canada estimates that new plants comparable to the proposed Bécancour facility use about 30 MW of electricity and generate some 850 000 tonnes of CO2 annually.
The IFFCO Canada plant will use 65 MW of electricity and generate 30% fewer or an estimated 575 000 tonnes of GHGs annually.
What led IFFCO Canada to advocate that Québec was one of the best places in the world for helping reduce the industry’s carbon footprint?
Following a comparative life cycle analysis, it is estimated that the IFFCO Canada plant will achieve about a 30% reduction in GHG emissions compared with the status quo which involves importing urea rather than producing it in Québec. These findings owe to the combined impact of three factors:
- IFFCO Canada will use less natural gas and therefore generate fewer GHG emissions by favouring the enhanced use of electrical power to produce urea.
- Hydroelectricity produced in Québec generates fewer GHGs than electricity produced using other forms of energy, resulting in additional savings of GHGs.
- The Bécancour plant will be located much closer to end markets than the regions from which urea is currently sourced (Middle East, Eastern Europe), thereby reducing the transport-related carbon footprint.
This study, commissioned by IFFCO Canada, was conducted by Ernst & Young and validated by the Interuniversity Research Centre for the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services (CIRAIG) based at Polytechnique Montréal. CIRAIG groups together renowned scientists from across the globe.
IFFCO Canada can therefore confirm that Québec is one of the best places in the world for helping reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, knowing that new plants will be built in locations around the world to satisfy the ever increasing demand for urea. It is for this reason that IFFCO Canada claims to be “building a model for the future”.
To consult the study: DOCUMENTATION / Reports / Studies / Documents tabled with BAPE
What is the nature of IFFCO Canada commitments for reducing the company’s carbon footprint?
IFFCO Canada intends to draw up a plan for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:
- by selecting the best available, economically achievable technology (BATEA3) for optimizing the use of hydroelectricity;
- by evaluating and implementing BATEA technology designed to minimize CO2 emissions;
- by exploring partnerships providing for CO2 recovery and supporting development in this emerging sector.
IFFCO Canada intends to work together with industry and the scientific community to explore innovative technologies designed to optimize the use of natural gas in urea production.
3 BATEA Method: Best available technology economically achievable
Will IFFCO Canada take part in the SPEDE cap and trade system applying to greenhouse emissions in Québec?
Like any major emitter, IFFCO Canada will be subject to SPEDE. Hence, the company will be required to purchase emission credits or reduce its carbon footprint. The current system applies from 2013 through to 2020. IFFCO Canada will come under SPEDE jurisdiction for the years 2019 and 2020, since the first full year of production is scheduled for 2018.
Has IFFCO Canada drawn up a carbon footprint report card for the plant?
Following a comparative life cycle analysis conducted by Ernst & Young, it is estimated that the IFFCO Canada plant will achieve about a 30% reduction in GHG emissions compared with the status quo which involves importing urea rather than producing it in Québec. This study was validated by the Interuniversity Research Centre for the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services (CIRAIG) based at Polytechnique Montréal.
To consult the study: DOCUMENTATION / Reports / Studies / Documents tabled with BAPE.
Could the local production of urea lead to the overuse of fertilizer by Québec farmers?
Local production will have no impact on urea consumption by Québec agricultural producers as fertilizer use is dictated by a combination of the regulatory framework in place and the specific needs of individual crops. Product quantities will remain the same. Only product origin will change. Urea is the fertilizer most widely used by farmers in Québec.
Readers will appreciate that farmers must operate in accordance with an agro-environmental fertilization plan (PAEF) which sets the quantities of fertilizer to be used based on soil analyses and individual crop needs. There is no reason for farmers to use more fertilizer than necessary as plants can only absorb so much and any wasteful practices would ultimately have negative financial consequences.
Is the use of mineral fertilizers likely to have an impact on the environment?
Used irresponsibly and in a manner contrary to the spirit of existing guidelines, any fertilizer be it organic (manure, liquid manure, compost) or mineral (urea) is likely to impact the environment.
To reap maximum benefit from available fertilizers and limit their use, producers generally adopt an approach calling for the ‘right amount in the right place’. Obligation to operate in accordance with an agro-environmental fertilization plan (PAEF) makes it possible to optimize fertilizer use based on the recommendations of an agronomist. Agronomists are members of Ordre des agronomes du Québec which is governed under the Professional Code. As such, they are responsible for advocating a sound approach to fertilization when drawing up a PAEF.
Why is fertilizer essential for ensuring food safety in regions across the globe?
According to major independent market specialists, the demand for urea is growing by between 3% and 4% a year, a trend that is likely to be sustained. Indeed, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), improved agricultural land yield is the key lever for increasing grain production by 70% between now and 2050, the year in which the world’s population is expected to top the 9 billion mark.
Fertilizers play an important role in crop production, from the dual standpoint of quality and quantity. An increase in urea production, the most widely used fertilizer in the world, will therefore be required to satisfy future demand for agricultural products.
How does IFFCO Canada plan to assume social responsibility in the matter of the responsible use of fertilizers?
Québec currently imports the entirety of its mineral fertilizer needs. The proposed IFFCO Canada plant aims to produce a broadly used product locally and export any surpluses. Fertilizer use is governed under the Regulation respecting agricultural operations (REA) which falls under the Environment Quality Act.
La Coop fédérée, in the capacity of investor and exclusive distributor for Canada and certain regions of the United States, will play an important role in ensuring responsible fertilizer use. The organization advocates the 4R approach: the right source of plant nutrients at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place and has guided agricultural producers for nearly 15 years in matters of regulatory compliance through professional, responsible fertilizer recommendations.
Some 3500 agro-environmental fertilization plans (PAEFs) are currently being drawn up by the agro?environment departments of the member cooperatives of the La Coop fédérée network. These organizations also provide training and awareness initiatives for member producers.
What will the environmental impact of the proposed IFFCO Canada plant be on neighbouring organic farmers?
The impact study makes mention of an area covering a radius of 7 kilometres from the plant. The study demonstrates that there will be no impact on agricultural land. The closest farms are located more than 2 kilometres from the plant. As urea is a fertilizer, the impact would be marginal. Deposition rates are very low. The closest organic farm is located 8.5 kilometres to the east.
BAPE Commission of Inquiry and public hearings
What did the BAPE Commission of Inquiry and public hearings process entail?
The BAPE Commission of Inquiry and public hearings process was initiated in June 2013 at the request of the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks. IFFCO Canada itself filed a request for public hearings with the Minister. Indeed, the staging of public hearings by a neutral, independent body was in keeping with the company’s commitment to ongoing dialogue with the host community, an initiative incepted by the company at the outset of the environmental assessment process in relation to the project. An information session, organized by BAPE, took place on 9 July 2013. Some 120 individuals came seeking information about the project and had their queries and questions answered by members of the IFFCO Canada team in attendance.
The first segment of public hearings focused on project information and took place on 3 and 4 September 2013. Chaired by Pierre André, the Commission of Inquiry organized three public sessions where resource persons from a number of different ministries and IFFCO Canada representatives answered questions posed by both the general public and Commission members.
The second segment of hearings focused on public opinions about the project and took place on 1 and 2 October 2013. Of the 23 briefs filed with the Commission of Inquiry, a total of 17, plus 2 verbal opinions, were presented before the Commission during these two days of public hearings.
The Commission subsequently pursued analytical and investigative work which culminated with the filing of a report with the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks on 20 December 2013. This report was made public on 23 January 2014 and is available in the REPORTS / STUDIES section of our website.
What did the Commission of Inquiry conclude in its report?
The Commission of Inquiry considers that the proposed plant will fulfil a need and is acceptable from the economic, social and ecological standpoints. It was in these terms that Commission officials expressed themselves in their report which was favourably received by IFFCO Canada. The report’s highly detailed analysis will ultimately enable us to further finetune the project at hand. Any individual who has followed the public hearings and perused the briefs and documents tabled before the BAPE Commission of Inquiry can readily attest to the rigour and quality of the exercise which examined all aspects, human and technical, and all project phases from planning and construction to operation and distribution.
What are the next steps in the environmental assessment of the project?
The Government of Québec has authorized the company to move forward with the proposed fertilizer plant at Bécancour. Based on the report by the BAPE Commission of Inquiry and the environmental analysis conducted by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks (MDDEFP), the decree was adopted on 26March 2014 by the provincial cabinet, upon recommendation by the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks. The decree was published in the Official Gazette of Québec on 16 April 2014.
IFFCO Canada will be seeking over the next months several specific environmental authorization certificates needed to construct and operate the plant.