Richards Bay, South Africa


The Indian Ocean Fertiliser Company (IOF), a subsidiary of Foskor, received final approval in 1999 to expand its Richards Bay-based phosphoric acid and granular fertiliser production plant. IOF believes that the expansion will raise the plant turnover from $120m to $217m.

The IOF plant produces phosphoric acid mainly for export. As well as the actual fertiliser plant itself, the project also required the construction of raw materials storage, conveyor systems, the export tank farm and utilities.

Richards Bay fertiliser plant

The project is located on a brown-field site where the new facilities are accommodated. This required some early site works to institute a re-routing of services and the demolition of certain existing site facilities. The upgrade meets the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Traditional and Environmental Affairs' environmental approval conditions.

According to the company, the expansion had been necessitated by IOF's inability to meet demands from its growing list of international customers. IDC funding would result in a 77% increase in IOF's production capacity. The expansion project increased Indian Ocean Fertilizer's production capacity of 450,000t of phosphate per annum by 330,000t to around 780,000t per annum of phosphate.

Various services and utilities were constructed and in some cases existing facilities were moved or demolished to make way for the new plant. The facilities constructed were a sulphuric acid plant with a capacity of 3,000t per day and a phosphoric acid plant with a capacity of 11,000t per day. Work was also done on related infrastructure and utilities.

Richards Bay project timescale

Construction activities started in March 2000 and commissioning started during the first half of 2002. Construction activities peaked in the third quarter of 2001. The IOF project therefore comprised a 112-week upgrade to the sulphuric acid plant and a 118-week upgrade to the phosphoric acid plant.

Boost to the local economy

KwaZulu-Natal should receive a substantial boost to its economy. The expansion is expected to contribute $33m of total value added to the economy. The figure for the rest of South Africa is $34m. The total effect on South Africa GDP is expected to be $67m.

Project construction

The basic engineering packages were completed for both plants during 2000. The project included piling works for the whole new extension, civil works for construction of both of the process plants, off-sites, large tanks on site, vessel construction and prefabrication.

The project also included mechanical and piping, electrical instrumentation and equipment shipped from the US and Europe, and equipment supplies from local industry.

Sulphos joint venture and the IOF plant

The first phase of the upgrade of the Indian Ocean Fertiliser Plant in Richards Bay was awarded to the Sulphos Joint Venture.

The Sulphos Joint Venture, which consists of four engineering companies, SNC-Lavalin Europe, Monsanto, B E Morgan Associates and Engineering Management Services (Pty) Ltd (EMS) of South Africa implemented the upgrade. These four companies were also involved in the engineering and construction of the original IOF plant in the mid 70's.

SNC-Lavalin Europe was responsible for the basic engineering of the phosphoric acid plant while Monsanto was responsible for the basic engineering of the sulphuric acid plant. These packages were handed over to the Sulphos Joint Venture to complete as an EPCM Services Contract. EMS was primarily responsible for the execution of these two process plants.

The off-sites, consisting of raw materials storage, conveyor systems, the export tank farm and utilities, were the prime responsibility of BE Morgan Associates. The Sulphos Joint Venture managed project implementation, through detail engineering, procurement and construction supervision. The technology for the plant was provided by MECS.