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Publication > Issue > Articles

Using plant analysis as a decision-making tool

Summary

Effective plant analysis holds the key to getting the best results from the latest precision agriculture technology. Dr. Kim Polizotto, Chief Agronomist of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS) explains how.

Abstract

Have you ever applied fertilizer but not seen a growth or yield response? When working with precision agriculture technology, do you wonder why the fertility maps and yield maps don’t match up very well? The answers are not simple, but what it basically comes down to is the fact that many other factors besides soil test levels affect crop nutrition. Plant analysis gives you a “snapshot” of nutrient uptake of the crop during the season. It can also be an excellent decision-making tool.

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Petrokemija meets the challenge of deregulation

Summary

Having lost a major share of its one-time monopoly following the break-up of Yugoslavia, Croatia's leading fertilizer producer, Petrokemija, has had to adjust to new market conditions. The past few years have not been easy, as the company was faced with rising input costs, lower sales in a much-reduced domestic market, and weak prices in international markets. Now, a new gauntlet has been thrown at Petrokemija's feet – the challenge of deregulation and privatisation. David Hayes investigates...

Abstract

The last ten years have been a time of great change for Petrokemija of Croatia, one of the largest fertilizer producers in southern Europe. Originally established with a monopoly of supplying fertilizers to western Yugoslavia, Petrokemija has had to cope with widespread disruption to its key markets in the aftermath of the break-up of Yugoslavia, as well as problems in supplying the international fertilizer market. As if that were not enough, Petrokemija’s senior management has also been handed the task of managing the transition from being a state-owned organisation serving a centrally-planned economy to one competing in an open market as a privatised company.

 

The latest in a long list of challenges to face Petrokemija was the government’s decision in January 2001 to cancel fertilizer import duties, thus opening Croatia to imports for the first time. Previously protected by a duty barrier but reliant on a government which had sole authority to set fertilizer prices, Petrokemija has been given permission to set its own fertilizer prices in response to competition in its home market. “We now have a 100% market share, but expect to lose 7% to 10% of our market to imports,” commented Josip Jagust, Managing Director of Petrokemija Fertilizer Co. Ltd.

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Partnerships point the way forward

Summary

Africa is blessed with a high potential of phosphate rock reserves, which the US Geological Survey estimates to total nearly 70% of the world reserve. These vast reserves are largely untapped but will undoubtedly help Africa to expand its global presence in the phosphate ­sector. Significant steps are already being made to develop this potential still further.

Abstract

Most of the western world’s largest producers of phosphate rock are located in Africa, and the phosphate reserve base in the entire continent is estimated at nearly 70% of the world’s total reserves. These vast untapped reserves will help Africa to extend its global presence in phosphate markets, and the leading regional producers such as Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Senegal, Togo and Algeria are expected to remain major producers in the longer term, while North American production will ultimately decline. For the whole of Africa, phosphate rock production totalled 38 million tonnes in 2000, representing 29% of the world production. (Fig. 1) Over the medium term, Africa will produce more phosphate rock than any other region.

The African phosphate producers moved early to establish downstream facilities, notably for the production of phosphoric acid. Africa today has the second largest phosphoric acid capacity by region in the world at 6.45 million t/a P2O5, or around 17% of the world’s total. Phos­phoric acid production in 2000 totalled 5.21 million tonnes P2O5, down slightly on the record output of 5.36 million tonnes P2O5 achieved in 1999. Phos­­phoric acid exports from Africa account for over 60% of the world total. (Agri­culture and Fer­tilisation in Africa, R. Dhkil, IFA Vice President for Africa. Presentation made at the IFA En­larged Council Meeting, Rio de Janeiro, November 2000.)

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No gloom at Clearwater 2001

Summary

The 25th Annual Memorial Weekend Convention of the Central Florida Section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) at Clearwater took place on 15-16 June. David Leyshon reports on the meeting's highlights.

Abstract

Despite the current shutdowns and bankruptcies, the 2001 Clear­water AIChE meeting went off virtually as if this were a normal year. Over 250 registrants enjoyed the well-attended workshop programme on Friday, 15 June, as well seven hospitality suites, and two full technical sessions on the following morning. Nalco, Mustang, Monsanto, Jacobs, Koch/Blitsch (Maurice Knight Division), SGL/HAW, and ARR-MAZ provided the food and a full bar service, including some better-than-average wine. ARR-MAZ also hosted their usual Saturday lunch, which was located at poolside. The line, at one point, extended some 200 feet back into the hotel, maybe suggesting the attendees were more desperate than usual for a free lunch.

 

This was the 25th anniversary of the Central Florida AIChE meetings at Clearwater. In recent years, workshops have been held on Friday afternoon, featuring more informal presentations which are not included in the book of the printed Saturday presentations.

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Economics and ­experience of ­phosphate slurry pipelines

Summary

This paper by Ron Derammelaere, Steven A. Young and Yue Guang Che of Pipeline Systems Inc. was originally presented at the 14th Annual SME/AIChE/FIPR Regional Phosphate Conference, Lakeland, Florida. It addresses the economics of transportation of phosphate in slurry pipeline ­systems. A breakdown of capital and operating costs is presented for a generic project. Costs and ­comparative tariff escalation of alternative forms of transportation are discussed. An overviewis­provided of operational long-distance phosphate slurry systems around the world.

Abstract

Pipelines are an important and cost-effective means of transporting solids over long distances. Slurry pipelines are particularly competitive when the process used in beneficiation or downstream processing is in slurry form and requires a particle size suitable for economic pipeline transport. This scenario exists in the production of base metal minerals (copper, zinc, iron, etc.) and phosphate. However, long-distance slurry transportation can also be economical in cases where grinding and subsequent dewatering and drying are costs attributable to transportation, as is the case with steam coal. The economics of slurry pipeline transportation become more economical as volume and distances increase. The technical and economic feasibility of slurry pipelines was first demonstrated over 40 years ago with the Consolidated Coal pipeline in Ohio (1957), which forced rail rates down and saved the electricity utility over $5 million/year. Since then, dozens of long-­distance pipelines have been brought into commercial use. A summary of these pipelines is presented in this article.

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A blueprint for ­investment reform

Summary

The collapse of Communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union one decade ago were widely expected to herald a new climate for doing business in Russia, and for a brief while, potential investors showed great enthusiasm to exploit the opportunities offered by such a large, untapped market. These potential investors included representatives from the fertilizer industry. It is an understatement to say that their expectations were dashed. At last, there are causes for hope that promised reforms will finally transform the climate for investment.

Abstract

Private enterprises in the Russian Federation are still subject to heavy regulation by officialdom, and companies complain that there are too many procedures, many of which no longer serve any legitimate governmental purpose, and that these procedures are in most cases more complicated than they need be. Despite all the red tape, businesses are faced with much uncertainty over the interpretation and enforcement of the law. Whether considering the registration of a new company, acquiring land or paying taxes, the businessman is at the mercy of the individual official.

 

Corruption is also endemic in the system, as senior officials demand “partnership” in companies that offer the prospect of becoming profitable ventures, while lower-level officials may also demand some sort of payment for services rendered. These problems are far more acute in Russia than elsewhere in the Former Soviet Union, and all private companies appear to suffer in equal measure, whether the owners and managers are Russian or foreigners.

In addition to corruption, the major obstacles which businesses in Russia must face include problems with taxes and unstable government policy, inflation, and a judiciary that is seen as weak and prone to external influence. These are all are seen as barriers to investment. While businesses everywhere in the world typically want lower taxes, enhanced government services and lower inflation than actually prevails in the countries in which they operate, the complaints of private-sector businessmen in Russia are reaching a crescendo.

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Fertilizer investment – keep it in the family?

Summary

Too many of those companies which took the plunge and endeavoured to invest in the Former Soviet Union's fertilizer sector were chastened by their experiences. "Throwing money into a black hole," was how one executive characterised his company's experience after it abandoned a joint-venture operation with a Russian fertilizer partner. Kemira Agro, however, is undaunted and has reached an accord with JSC Acron to market NPK fertilizers. Meanwhile, Gazprom has been a major indigenous investor in the Russian nitrogen sector. What is the reality today of investing in Russia's fertilizer markets?

Abstract

Western companies have been conspicuous in their almost complete absence from investing in the FSU’s fertilizer and agricultural sectors since the demise of the Soviet Union a decade ago. This period has, of course, been marked by extended periods of poor profitability for the western fertilizer industry, and few North American or Western Europe companies had the funds to spare to take what was for them a proverbial leap in the dark. Even though many FSU fertilizer producers were financially weakened in the face of collapsing demand in the home market, the prevailing belief among their western counterparts was that there was more than sufficient fertilizer capacity globally, and that the ailing Russian companies deserved to wither on the vine.

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