Staffing Yara Pilbara's new Technical Ammonium Nitrate (TAN) facility in Karratha, Western Australia posed unusual challenges - and got creative treatment.
At Yara we are dependent on a highly qualified workforce. Thus, we continuously invest in our employees, to stay competitive and remain an attractive employer. In Pilbara, Australia, a high portion of the process operators come from the mining sector, with little or no previous experience working with Yara’s products, such as nitric acid or ammonium nitrate. However, the Pilbara crew found a novel solution to the challenge. The focus had to be shifted towards developing the necessary skills in-house - and ahead of looming commissioning deadlines.
This was the genesis of the landmark training plan over six weeks in September/October 2014, which has taken the first batch of 15 process operators for Yara's new TAN facility to Spain, Chile and Sweden.
The training was broken up into two phases; first, all 15 operators undertook Process Technology training with the technology licenser Espindesa in Madrid, Spain. Then, the group split in two for practical plant-based training in Antofagasta, Chile and Köping, Sweden.
Enaex in Chile facilitated the training in a nitric acid plant with identical technology. Yara Pilbara's TAN sister plant at Yara Köping hosted not only the training in Yara-owned prilling technology, but also revealed the best practice in running integrated nitric acid and ammonium nitrate plants. The staff could learn from the Yara way of working, and have a glance at a state of the art bagging unit.
"The Madrid classroom training fostered group participation and interaction with the engineering designers. A rare opportunity which will ultimately provide added value and insight into the design basis," says Tecnicas Reunidas Commissioning Manager Pat Byrne.
"To then take this theory and relate it to real-time observations of operating plants and equipment in Chile and Sweden can only enhance the operators' preparation for the next phase of the project execution at site," he adds.
World class training
Surveying the opinions of the operators on their return, there was an undeniable feeling of positivity about the past weeks - and enthusiasm for the coming year. Asked about his overall impression of the training, Process Operator Matthew May said, "The orientation in Karratha and this approach to training was unlike any other I've ever experienced, truly world class!"
"I was amazed at the in-house capability and knowledge base in Yara," says John Peters, who visited the Köping plant. "From day one I felt like being part of Yara. The hospitality and kindness extended to us by our colleagues in Sweden was unprecedented. The opportunity to get first-hand information on Yara's best practices perfected over time was invaluable.
“The transfer of skills and knowledge from these trained operators to the new batch being recruited will be critical for the next step of writing operating procedures, manuals and commissioning,” says Mark Loquan, CEO, Yara Pilbara.
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