Flawed process upgrade leads to £5,000 fine for Croda

Major solvent recoverer Croda Solvents has been fined £5,000 for an unauthorised release of ethylamine from its Knottingley works in Yorkshire. The release caused several people downwind of the site to suffer breathing difficulties and nausea.

The incident occurred on 11 March 1997 when an 8,000-litre batch of dimethyl acetamide was being heated prior to distillation. A few weeks earlier Croda had fitted a new, more efficient heat exchanger to the still. Because this permitted rapid heating, some 80kg of ethylamine - a volatile contaminant present in the mixture - was driven off at such a rate that it overwhelmed the plant's wet scrubber.

The chemical is a lung irritant with a

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