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Publication > Issue > Articles

Pressure drop improvements in a fixed bed reactor two case studies

Summary

Venkat Pattabathula and David Craig of Agrium discuss how significant reduction of pressure drop was achieved with the installation of two different catalyst support systems. The modifications were very minor, inexpensive, resulting in energy savings and increased production rates.

Abstract

With the trend to rising natural gas prices there has been a push to reduce the front-end pressure drop in ammonia plants, both to improve energy efficiency and to increase production rates. In the past, the front-end pressure drop has been reduced by short loading catalyst volumes in the secondary reformer and in the high and low temperature shift converters. This paper discusses how significant pressure drop reductions were achieved with the installation of a catalyst support grid, and low differential pressure (?P) support balls in the shift converters. Analysis of modifications to the catalyst support system and the resulting benefits are also addressed. These modifications were made in the Agrium plants located in Borger, Texas and Redwater, Alberta.

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Inching towards a solution to the N2O problem

Summary

Having cracked the problem of acid-forming nitrogen oxides, the nitric acid industry is still seeking elegant solutions to the nitrous oxide problem

Abstract

Nitrogen has a number of oxides corresponding to its various valence states. There are three which have anything more than just a transient existence under normal conditions. These are nitrous oxide, N2O, nitric oxide, NO, and nitrogen dioxide, NO2. In the presence of oxygen at ordinary temperatures nitric oxide is transformed reversibly into nitrogen dioxide, which will react with water to produce nitric acid, although it is not the true anhydride of nitric acid. These two oxides are therefore bracketed together as “acid-forming oxides of nitrogen” or “NOx”, which distinguishes them from nitrous oxide, which is not related to any nitrogen-containing acid.

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Eastern Europe after privatisation Bulgaria as a case study

Summary

The past decade has seen great changes in the eastern European fertilizer industry. Companies have been forced to adapt to new market realities and higher feedstock prices, and many companies have been privatised. In this article, Kiril Petrov and Zornitza Kirova of MM Consult revisit Bulgaria after privatisation to see how the industry has fared since then.

Abstract

In 1999 Nitrogen & Methanol published an article on the fertilizer sector in Bulgaria (issue 239, May/June 1999, pp13–21). The Bulgarian fertilizer industry has seen numerous changes during that time, the major one of which has been the total privatisation of the industry, and the resultant closure of one of the four producers; Agrobiochim. Two of the companies; Neochim and Agropolychim, have increased capacity and improved their financial performance. Chimco, however, has seen its situation deteriorate.

The main products of the fertilizer sector in Bulgaria are ammonia, ammonium nitrate, urea, triple superphosphate (TSP), liquid nitrogen fertilizers and ammonium sulphate. Complementary product groups include caprolactam, carbamide glue, formalin, and technical gases. In 1999–2001 nitrogen fertilizer consumption in Bulgaria differed from the slow growth in consumption for the world as a whole and for Europe after the mid-1990s. In 1999–2001 nitrogen fertilizer consumption in Bulgaria decreased 3.3% as compared to 1986–1990. Fertilizer production is mainly exported to the Mediterranean, Balkan countries, Middle East, North America, West Europe, South America and Africa. In 1998, 62.9% of the ammonium nitrate and 91.8% of the urea were exported. In 2001 ammonium nitrate and urea exports decreased to 41.1% and 47.7% of production respectively.

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Turning the supertanker

Summary

Over the past couple of years the Russian government has finally begun to tackle the challenge of changing the course of the juggernaut that is Gazprom, the privatised gas monopoly. Nitrogen & Methanol looks at the story so far, and the possible impact on the Russian and eastern European fertilizer industries.

Abstract

Gazprom is the world’s largest gas company, producing 94% of Russia’s gas and 23% of the world’s output. It is also the biggest company in Russia, with sales of $20bn in 2001, and it is responsible for 8% of Russia’s GDP. It employs 300,000 people and has 600,000 shareholders. It also supplies 20% of western Europe’s gas, and nearly all of eastern Europe’s. It also owns all or part of numerous fertilizer manufacturers.

Gazprom supplies 20–25% of the Russian government’s tax revenues, which has always given it a powerful voice in the corridors of power, making it almost a separate ministry. It contributed large amounts to the campaign fund of president Yeltsin, and in the stints that former Gazprom chairman Victor Chernomyrdin spent as Russian prime minister the company was guaranteed an easy ride from government. Although Gazprom was privatised in February 1993, and the government retained a 38% share, the Yeltsin government was content to let the company do much as it pleased, provided that it remained a reliable cash cow. As a result, many of the Soviet-era management structures and attitudes remained, and Gazprom was infamous for being an impenetrable organisation. It is perhaps because of this that, in spite of having gas reserves six times larger than ExxonMobil, Gazprom retains just one twentieth of the market capitalisation.

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The other kind of AN

Summary

Whatever its future as a fertilizer, ammonium nitrate will continue to be produced for technical uses. A safer alternative to conventional high explosives, it now forms the basis of the vast majority of commercial explosives for civilian use.

Abstract

As last year’s cataclysm at Toulouse reminded us, ammonium nitrate can be explosive, and that property is exploited commercially on quite a large scale. ANFO – a composition of about 94% ammonium nitrate and 6% fuel oil – is widely used as a civil explosive in mining, quarrying and tunnelling. Ironically, the reason for the growth of ammonium nitrate as the basis of civil explosives is that it is much safer than alternatives such as dynamite. That is because the explosive composition does not have to be made up in a factory: the ammonium nitrate can be transported and stored at the site without any need for a magazine and is simply mixed with the correct amount of fuel oil when it is needed. And even when it is made up, it takes more than a single cap to detonate it.

Ammonium nitrate is also the basis of the more recent modern emulsion explosives, which are actually more powerful than ANFO.

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