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Publication > Issue > Articles

Building big

Summary

For grassroots urea projects, substantially increasing the production capacity from a single line is the main preoccupation at the moment. We look at the approach of two process licensors to aspects of large-scale urea production.

Abstract

The largest single-line urea plant built to date is a 3,500 metric tons per day (t/d) unit that Snamprogetti built for Profertil in Argentina. That plant has recently been running at up to 107% of its rated capacity. But, believe it or not, that is not enough urea for some people! The main process licensors are now setting out their proposals for single-stream plant concepts for grassroots projects with a capacity of 4,500 t/d or more, just as their counterparts in the ammonia process field are preparing to give them the single-line capability for the 3,300 t/d or more that will be needed to feed these monsters (see pages 41–46 in this issue).

Given the serious investment entailed in such gargantuan projects and the traditionally cautious approach of the fertilizer industry towards overtly innovative technology (which, it has to be said, is not always unjustified), the challenge for the licensors is to achieve this quantum leap in production capacity without recourse to new and untried process steps and without either materially scaling up critical items of high-pressure equipment and machinery from the largest current designs or placing unfamiliar stresses on any of them in operation.

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Taking a global approach

Summary

Granulation aids and anti-caking agents for fertilizers particularly ammonium nitrate are one of the specialities of CFPI-Nufarm, of France, and its US-based partner company Lobeco Products, Inc.

Abstract

Originally founded in 1928 as Compagnie Française des Produits Industriels, a manufacturer of agrochemicals, surfactants and other speciality industrial chemicals, CFPI-Nufarm assumed its present name in 1998, when it was acquired by the Nufarm group of Australia. Nufarm is a science- and technology-based global company with two core business sectors: crop protection and speciality industrial chemicals, so its acquisition of CFPI was a very logical extension of Nufarm’s core business. Employing more than 2,300 people world-wide, it has manufacturing operations in at least 12 countries and market and trading activities in many more.,Originally founded in 1928 as Compagnie Française des Produits Industriels, a manufacturer of agrochemicals, surfactants and other speciality industrial chemicals, CFPI-Nufarm assumed its present name in 1998, when it was acquired by the Nufarm group of Australia. Nufarm is a science- and technology-based global company with two core business sectors: crop protection and speciality industrial chemicals, so its acquisition of CFPI was a very logical extension of Nufarm’s core business. Employing more than 2,300 people world-wide, it has manufacturing operations in at least 12 countries and market and trading activities in many more.

Back in the mid 1980s, CFPI had established a US manufacturing base by purchasing the existing synthesis facility of Lobeco Products, Inc. (LPI), which takes its name from its home town in South Carolina. LPI ran as a subsidiary of CFPI until Nufarm took over. Subsequently the hierarchy was re-organized, a number of unprofitable activities were sold off, and now CFPI-Nufarm and LPI are sister companies under the Nufarm umbrella, linked by a global Manager for Performance Chemicals in the person of the President of LPI. The co-operative relationship between the two companies is even closer than before, and the possibility of formally integrating CFPI-Nufarm and LPI into a single company is currently under discussion. Back in the mid 1980s, CFPI had established a US manufacturing base by purchasing the existing synthesis facility of Lobeco Products, Inc. (LPI), which takes its name from its home town in South Carolina. LPI ran as a subsidiary of CFPI until Nufarm took over. Subsequently the hierarchy was re-organized, a number of unprofitable activities were sold off, and now CFPI-Nufarm and LPI are sister companies under the Nufarm umbrella, linked by a global Manager for Performance Chemicals in the person of the President of LPI. The co-operative relationship between the two companies is even closer than before, and the possibility of formally integrating CFPI-Nufarm and LPI into a single company is currently under discussion.

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Methanol forum comes to London

Summary

Synetix's sixth methanol technology operators' forum was held at the Thistle Hotel, Marble Arch, London, from June 24th-27th.

Abstract

The biennial Synetix ICI Meth­anol Technology Operators’ Forum (IMTOF) aims “to provide a focal point for every plant operator to communicate and share experiences, problems and successes” as well as to provide an opportunity to meet informally and develop better contacts and friendships. For its sixth incarnation, the meeting returned to London, with its largest-ever attendance – some 120 delegates from 20 different countries.

Bob Coxon, CEO of Synetix, opened the conference. He claimed some methanol experience of his own, having worked with the Metafrax and Tomsk methanol plants in what had been at the time the USSR. He also summarised Synetix’s activities, now branching out from catalysts into application and service technology and provision of technical information. Following the acquisition of the Celanese catalyst business earlier in the year, Synetix was now the leading catalyst supplier in methanol, edible oils, and inks, and the second largest in ammonia, hydrogen, oleochemicals and now oxo-alcohols. The company is now developing new business areas such as chiral pharmaceuticals, polyesters and gas to liquids technology.

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A new process for large-capacity ammonia plants

Summary

The capacity of a single-train ammonia plant can be extended well above today's largest whilst still using proven contemporary equipment by conducting the final synthesis in two stages running at different pressures.

Abstract

Over the years there has been an inexorable upward trend in the capacity of individual ammonia plants.1 The objective, of course, is to reduce specific production costs through so-called “economies of scale”. The challenge – today perhaps more than at any other time – is to achieve the desired economies of scale whilst retaining proven technology that will instil confidence in those making what is, after all, a very significant investment decision.

Krupp Uhde and Synetix have addressed this demand by developing a large-capacity process based on currently available technology and catalysts. The new flowsheet delivers a capacity of 3,300 t/d (3636 st/d) using well tried and tested equipment. It also provides the basis for even larger plants. The synthesis loop configuration can deliver a capacity of over 4,000 t/d using currently proven equipment, while the Uhde reformer can readily be designed for even greater capacities.

The “front end” of an ammonia plant can be scaled up without major problems; in fact, a primary reformer based on Krupp Uhde’s design already operating in a methanol plant has about 100% more tubes than would be needed in a 3,300-t/d ammonia plant. On the other hand, synthesis gas compression and the ammonia synthesis loop require particular attention in order to achieve very high capacities. This article concentrates on the development of the new ammonia synthesis concept and presents an example of a 3,300-t/d flowsheet using high-pressure equipment not larger than equipment in operation in today´s 2,000-t/d plants such as the one that Krupp Uhde is to build for Qafco.

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