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Title: Power Outage Leads to Release of Gas

By Erwin Seba, Journal-World Reporter

Wednesday, April 26, 2000

A power outage affecting southeast Lawrence forced Farmland Industries to release gas containing ammonia early Tuesday morning.

The outage began about 2:20 a.m. and affected 5,600 customers along with Farmland. Power was restored by about 4:30 a.m., except for Haskell Indian Nations University, which was without power until about 6 a.m.

Mark Schreiber, community relations manager for KPL, said the outage was caused by the failure of a substation near the Farmland plant.

"Deposits on the insulators caused a short circuit," Schreiber said.

He said reports of a transformer explosion at the plant were unfounded.

"Nothing of ours exploded," Schreiber said.

When the power failed, automatic safety systems caused the release of "process gas," at the Farmland plant, said Kevan Vick, general manager of Farmland's ammonia plants.

Finished ammonia never was released into the air, Vick said.

The process gas, however, does contain some ammonia, and that led to the ammonia smell pervading the city during the morning.

According to information from Douglas County Emergency Management, the amount of ammonia released was between 3 parts and 5 parts per million. Ammonia is considered a health risk when it reaches a level of 100 parts per million.

The ammonia levels were monitored by Lawrence/Douglas County Fire & Medical and Farmland personnel.

Natural gas, water and air are all used in the making of ammonia at the plant, Vick said. The components were vented to reduce pressure in pipes and containment vessels.

Natural gas was burned off, water vapor was released as steam and the air was vented, he said.

Low wind and high humidity Tuesday may have led the smell to linger, Vick said.

"Certainly, we were very conscious of the situation and were monitoring it closely," he said. "At no point in time did we have any indications of threats or harm to anyone."


-- (, April 26, 2000

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