QAFCO was founded in 1969, as a joint venture between the State of Qatar, Norsk Hydro Norway, Davy Powergas and Hambros Bank, in order to produce ammonia and urea by utilizing Qatar’s abundant gas resources. The company is now owned by Industries Qatar (IQ) and Yara Netherlands as 75 per cent and 25 per cent shareholders, respectively.
Over the years, QAFCO has steadily developed in terms of production quantities, quality, and the competitiveness of its products. To cater to rising world demand for fertilizers, it recently undertook a major expansion of its facilities. With the completion of these ongoing projects, annual production capacity will reach 3.8 million tons of ammonia and 5.6 million tons of urea. QAFCO is therefore set to become the largest single-site fertilizer producer in the world.
A major factor contributing to QAFCO’s steady growth and achievements is its commitment to management systems. It was certified for ISO 9001 (quality management systems) in 1996, ISO 14001 (environment) in 1997 and OHSAS 18001 (occupational health and safety) in 1999, becoming one of the few organizations in the Middle East to achieve this distinction at the time. In 2011, the company achieved management system certifications in RC 14001 (the Responsible Care technical standard) and the IFA Product Stewardship Programme. QAFCO catering and clubs are HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) certified and the company’s laboratory is certified for ISO 17025 (general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories).
QAFCO management has a well-defined policy covering the IFA SHE principles. It guides the company in sustainable development and in taking care of the safety and security of its employees, contractors, traders, customers and suppliers – along the supply chain, in neighbouring companies and in the community.
Sourcing and contracting
QAFCO does not limit its responsibility to safety, security and environment on its premises. It has taken stringent measures to ensure that health, safety, security and environmental concerns are taken into account by suppliers of raw materials (including gases and chemicals), through to transporters, contractors and distributors until products reach the company’s customers. Suppliers of chemicals, equipment and spare parts, as well as contractors, are selected following procedures that specify HSSE (health, safety, security and environment) compliance requirements and expectations. The performance of suppliers and contractors related to HSSE concerns is evaluated yearly. In-depth evaluation of contractors looks into all aspects of their safety and security programmes, including: employee accommodation and welfare facilities, the qualifications and experience of the contractor’s safety representatives, safety programmes in place, safety culture, personal protective equipment, and training programmes.
QAFCO has also instituted best performance awards for its contractors. It provides mandatory training to all contractor employees before any work commences. Additional training is frequently provided.
Supply chain to customers
QAFCO has a very large market presence, exporting products to more than 30 countries. It owns two vessels for transporting liquid ammonia and charters ships to deliver urea (loading after third-party inspection). The company has its own jetties, under the Mesaieed Industrial City (MIC) port authority, and has implemented International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) protocols. Monitoring and control are also in place for transporting other chemicals by road or sea.
The company’s products are sold through selected reputable dealers, with which a good rapport and close interaction are maintained. Through a contract agreement, QAFCO stipulates dealers’ responsibility for safety, security and environmental requirements with respect to distribution and use by farmers. All relevant information about product use is disseminated to users.
QAFCO employs the most advanced environment-friendly technology for its production processes, helping it to go beyond the environmental legislation of the State of Qatar. Emissions and discharges to sea are controlled and are well below prescribed limits. Plant modification projects are undertaken to improve safety and environmental performance. QAFCO has developed NOx abatement technology and provides guidance in this technology to all industries in Qatar.
Wastewater is treated and used in landscaping. Chemicals and oil drums are kept in secondary containment. Wastes are segregated in different containers and disposed in an environment-friendly manner through the MIC hazardous waste treatment plant. Batteries, used oil and catalysts are sent for recycling. All used paper is recycled.
Liquid ammonia is stored in double-walled, protected storage tanks. Urea is stored in bulk halls that are among the largest in the world, under controlled conditions. Chemicals are stored using adequate precautions and safety measures.
QAFCO has very well-structured risk assessment and aspect/impact analysis systems, involving employees at all levels. Employees are encouraged through a monthly safety award scheme to report near-misses, accidents, hazards for risk assessment, etc. The hazard identification programme is successfully carried out through the participation of employees at all levels, including top management. A well-controlled permit-to-work system ensures that all safety hazards are evaluated and suitable measures are undertaken before work begins. All these measures have paid off. The company’s excellent safety record includes more than 5 million man hours worked without any time lost to accidents.
Recently, QAFCO has made great efforts to strengthen security by carrying out Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) and taking many critical proactive measures to deal with security threats. Entry to QAFCO is controlled by a gate pass system scrutinized by the security services of both the MIC and QAFCO. Critical locations within the plant and jetty are monitored by CCTV. QAFCO has a full-fledged fire-fighting team. Contingency plans and emergency procedures are in place to respond to emergency situations, and mock drills are routinely carried out. QAFCO also conducts community fire awareness training as well as joint training and exercises with neighbouring chemical companies (including civil defence).
Environmental and social commitments
QAFCO’s initiatives to promote environmental awareness include:
• The Sahara Forest Project, undertaken with YARA, which is envisaged to utilize sunlight, deserts and seawater to produce food, water and energy1;
• The Reef Ball artificial reef project, and environmental custodianship of Al-Beshariya Island2;
• A Waste Exchange/Donation System (WEDS) to serve Qatar and possibly the Gulf Region3;
• Environmental awareness projects in schools; and
• The QAFCO flower and vegetable show, which has taken place annually for the past 20 years and is the biggest in the State of Qatar4.
To conclude, QAFCO’s business philosophy is symbolized in its logo. The leaf is a symbol of nature and growth. The jewels represent its products, which exist in harmony with each other. Formed into a circle, they create infinite opportunities for QAFCO.
For QAFCO, IFA Product Stewardship Excellence is not just another certification but embodies this philosophy itself!
2 Described in “Qatar Fertiliser Company: Preserving a Valuable Eco-Asset to Realize Sustainable Development”, Fertilizers & Agriculture, Sept. 2007. pp. 4-5.
(www.fertilizer.org/ifa/HomePage/LIBRARY/Our-selection2/Fertilizers-Agriculture/F-A-2007). Also see: www.qafco.com/al-besheriya_island.html
3 WEDS is a free and confidential waste materials exchange system. See www.qweds.com.qa/common/faq.aspx