Sole ammonium nitrate fertiliser producer, Sable Chemicals has laid off 130 workers, an official said yesterday. Sable Chemicals chief executive Jack Murehwa said that the dismissed workers were working in ammonia manufacturing plants, which the firm recently decommissioned. “In short, we used to make our own ammonia in the country using electrolysis which requires a lot of power. We do have a power deficit, so we could not continue using that much power to make the ammonia so we had to phase the ammonium manufacturing facilities offline.
“Having done that, it then meant that plants that were used to make ammonia had to be switched off and therefore all the people who were working in those areas; we had to part with them,’ he said.
Murehwa added: “We are operating on reduced power, so we had to reduce our operations. We parted with about 130 people.”
He said Sable Chemicals is now importing ammonia.
“But we still have the plants that convert ammonia to fertiliser so we import the ammonia and convert it to fertiliser. Those plants are the ones that are still running and that is the way we are now operating,” he said.
Last October, Government directed that 40 megawatts (MW) of electricity that had been dedicated to Sable Chemicals be diverted to residential areas as a result of power shortages.
At that time, the country was generating around 1 000MW a day, 400MW less than it produced before a drop in water levels at its Kariba hydropower station forced the introduction of water rationing.
Sable then responded by adopting a different production model that saw it decommissioning its high power consuming electrolysis plant which was commissioned in 1972. At full capacity, Sable Chemicals required 115MW to produce 240 000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser per year. — New Ziana.