Thursday, November 30, 2023

WoolWorks Awatoto plant eyes year-end opening

Neal Wallace
Wool diverted to other plants as clean-up continues in awful conditions.
Flood waters and silt from Cyclone Gabrielle extensively damaged the WoolWorks Awatoto site.
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Woolworks’ flood-damaged Awatoto wool scour plant is being rebuilt and expects to be operating again from November.

In the interim New Zealand’s largest wool scour is ramping up capacity at its two other sites at Clive in Hawke’s Bay and Washdyke, Timaru, adding double shifts to help bridge the shortfall in capacity.

Co-owner David Ferrier said flooding and silt has damaged buildings, electrical systems, high density wool presses, drainage and water infrastructure, and contaminated five to six million kilograms of wool, which have been, or are being, assessed by insurance companies.

A new sorting floor is already under construction and new wool grease recovery and effluent systems have been ordered.

Ferrier said staff have been working in horrid conditions, removing silt and cleaning buildings.

In a note to customers, WoolWorks quotes expert advice that the natural absorbencyof wool means there is a high likelihood bales that were under flood water would have absorbed toxic odours from decomposing materials and sewage.

Those odours are likely to remain present in the end product despite further treatment.

Ferrier said it is important for pipeline integrity and Brand NZ that contaminated wool is appropriately disposed of. 

Awatoto handles 1100tonnes/week of greasy wool. Clive handles 550t/week and Washdyke 1200t/week.

Both were untouched by the weather and will take up the overload.

Wool is being transported south to Timaru, where there is plenty of storage.

Ferrier said the late shearing season has slowed the season anyway, and while February’s flooding caused further problems, he is confident the changes will temper any significant delays.

WoolWorks chair Rob Hewett said the message for farmers, brokers and merchants is that Awatoto will reopen later in the year, but in the meantime WoolWorks has a solution to ensure the continued scouring of wool.

Last year WoolWorks processed more than 100m/kg of wool and is budgeting for a similar amount this year, which Ferrier said he is confident will be achieved.

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