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Advances in sulphuric acid equipment

Summary

Despite being a mature process, there is always scope to make improvements to the equipment used in sulphuric acid plants to improve the reliable operation of the plant, reduce energy consumption and lower emissions. Lisa Connock reports.

Abstract

Over the past decade, the changes in sulphuric acid technology have focused on subtle refinements to the equipment used in sulphuric acid plants rather than broad changes to the process. Environmental regulations and market forces have shown a need for lower emissions, higher energy recovery and increased reliability.

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Saudis expand their sulphur horizons

Summary

Saudi Arabia is poised to implement the first major expansion to its Master Gas Gathering System (MGS) in over 20 years, as Saudi Aramco moves to integrate gas into its established refinery operations. Jason Stevens takes a closer look.

Abstract

Sulphur recovery capacity will be increased by a total of 1.1 million t/y and by 2002 production could exceed 2.2 million t/y.

Saudi Arabia has been operating its Master Gas Gathering System (MGS) at full capacity for most of 1998 to meet increasing domestic requirements for natural gas. The kingdom’s Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) production represents more than 60% of the total NGL production in the region. The Hawiyah gas processing plant development is the largest project in the domestic Saudi gas sector, but programmes aimed at expanding Khuff gas handling capacity are being implemented at the existing Berri, Shedgum and Uthmaniyah processing plants.

Since 1993, Saudi Arabia has recovered almost 7 million tonnes of sulphur from refinery and gas operations, with the latter source making it the dominant producer of sulphur-from-gas in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia contains vast reserves of associated and non-associated gas reserves, placing it in the same league as North America and the former Soviet Union.

Recent discoveries include the Waqr, Tinat, Qatif and Haradh fields in the Eastern Province. It is however in the Hawiyah area of the Ghawar field that Aramco has sparked major international interest with its project proposal to build a new gas processing plant to meet rising demand in the Saudi kingdom.

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Up, up and away!

Summary

Four new smelter projects are nearing completion in Australia, which will lift total smelter sulphuric acid capacity to the 3.4 million t/y mark by the year 2000. Jason Stevens takes a closer look 'down under'.

Abstract

The biggest project by far is WMC Fertilizer’s sulphuric acid plant, to be built alongside the Mount Isa copper smelter in Queensland which will produce 1.2 million tonnes of acid when it comes on-stream sometime in 1999.

It is however anticipated that the typical pattern of operations will result in the production of something over 800,000 t/y being attributable to the smelter off-gas sulphur dioxide gas stream with the balance produced from elemental sulphur or made up by buying in acid form from other sources.

The gas collection system will be commissioned from July 1999, and its expected that the acid plant will be able to reach full production by the start of 2000.

The new plant is part of WMC Fertilizers’ A$650 million Queens­land Phosphate Project that will involve the mining of a phosphate rock deposit at Phosphate Hill, about 150 km south of Mount Isa, and the production there of high analysis fertilizers – diammonium phosphate and monoammonium phosphate – from on-site manufactured phosphoric acid and ammonia.

It is expected that copper production has the potential to rise by over 8% per annum because of the avoidance of smelter shutdowns in the future when local air conditions put the Mount Isa facilities upwind of residential areas.

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Lo-Cat II goes offshore

Summary

A Lo-Cat II unit is in the final fabrication stages for offshore installation at Unocal's Mobile Block 916 "AP" Platform. The unit will be the second of its kind designed for offshore application in the Gulf of Mexico. William Rouleau, US Filter Applications Engineering Team Leader for Lo-Cat Products discusses the implementation of Lo-Cat II units for offshore H2S removal.

Abstract

Many of today’s gas wells contain significant amounts of acid gases which must be removed to meet current sales pipeline specifications. Hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide and water create a very corrosive environment within pipelines.

When considering offshore pipe­lines, this type of corrosion can lead to expensive repairs and maintenance costs, as well as possible environmental contamination if the pipeline fails.

In the United States, 15-20% of gas production is currently treated for H2S removal, but this is expected to rise in the future.1 It should be noted, however, that outside of the Mobile Bay production, Gulf of Mexico reserves and production have been typically sweet.

Future additional gas production is likely from offshore reserves, which currently represent about 25% of US production, and deeper wells are likely to play a major role. Deeper reserves are more likely to be sour and contain H2S in small quantities, equivalent to less than 5 t/d sulphur. These small sulphur capacities are typically removed using liquid redox technologies such as US Filter’s Lo-Cat process.

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Moroccans flex new muscles

Summary

Morocco's new import facility at Jorf Lasfar can now receive sulphur in both liquid and solid form, as well as sulphuric acid if the need arises. Jason Stevens provides an update on this important destination for international sulphur producers.

Abstract

At Jorf Lasfar, a new $5 million pipeline built by Moroccan parastatal, Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), linking the phosphoric acid plant operations of Maroc-Phosphore to the port of Las­far on the coast, demonstrates an ability to receive greater volume of product at a quicker pace.

The new pipeline has already been put through its paces. The first acid cargo, a 4,000 tonne vessel from Spain, has been unloaded recently. Further shipments are expected later this year.

If market conditions turn and see a dramatic fall in sulphuric acid prices, OCP will also be able to immediately begin acid imports.

It was reported recently in Sulphur no 254, p7, that Elf Aquitaine delivered its first molten sulphur cargo to Jorf lasfar in late November 1997, ­totalling 9,000 tonnes. The liquid sulphur pipeline was built at a cost of about $1.5 million. Further shipments have been performed since then.

The new facility forms part of its policy of ‘maximum diversification’ which entails sourcing its future liquid and solid requirements from all major suppliers – mainly under long-term contracts.

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Forward looking at SPCC

Summary

Southern Peru Copper Corporation is in the process of expanding its mines and modernizing its smelter at Ilo to improve efficiency and, especially, environmental performance. A 100% capacity expansion of the Kvaer­ner Chemetics single-absorption sulphuric acid plants feeding on off-gas was completed earlier this year, and future plans will give SPCC one of the best sulphur capture rates in the world. Alexander More reports.

Abstract

Copper mining and smelting operations tend to be in remote and inhospitable areas, and Southern Peru Copper Corporation (SPCC) is no exception. The Southern Peru Copper Corporation was set up around 1950 to exploit ore deposits developed during an exploration campaign by Northern Peru Copper (a subsidiary of ASARCO, Inc.). The project did not come into operation until 1960. South­ern Peru had to install extensive infrastructure in the area, including a new port, townsites, maintenance shops and a railroad. SPCC has two mines on the east side of the Cordillera de la Costa (the coastal mountain range): the original mine at Toquepala and a second one at Cuajone, which began operations in the mid 1970s. A tortuous 200-km private railroad links the Toquepala mine to a smelter, copper refinery and port facility on the coast at Ilo, which is as far up the coast as the Coastal Highway has yet reached. The nearest commercial airport is two hours’ drive south at Tacna, close to the Chilean frontier. The only land access to northern Peru is by a link road running up through the mountains to the Pan-American Highway. The terrain surrounding Ilo is at the northern tip of the Atacama Desert and is commensurately barren and arid. There is precious little agriculture in the area, and apart from the small fishing fleet that operates out of the town’s harbour and a couple of local fish meal factories, the fortunes of which are at the mercy of the much-publicized climatic phenomenon known as El Niño, the local economy is underpinned almost entirely by SPCC.

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Improving the quality of sulphur

Summary

Impurities and acidity in solid elemental sulphur create problems for the consumer. Gerrie du Plessis of IOF discusses the problems and reports on the measures that have been taken at Richards Bay, South Africa, to improve the quality of the sulphur received by the consumer.

Abstract

Many operators of sulphuric acid plants suffer from the perceived disadvantage of having to use solid sulphur instead of liquid sulphur as a feed material for their operations. Plants using liquid sulphur do not require melting or filtration facilities to prepare the sulphur feed. Since there is no filtration there is also no sulphur filter residue to be disposed of and catalyst screening is only required every two years.

One can understand the need to melt solid sulphur, but is it really necessary to generate the large quantities of filter residue associated with the use of solid sulphur? Do you have to compound this even further by adding a polishing filter and generating even more residue before you can expect to get a decent run out of your plant, without having to screen large quantities of dust out of the catalyst?

Problems associated with the use of solid sulphur manifest itself in many ways, but when investigated can be traced back to a few common causes. The first section of the paper is a description of some of the symptoms encountered by Indian Ocean Fertilizer (IOF) at Richards Bay, South Africa.

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Sun and sulphur in Arizona

Summary

As Hurricane Mitch was wreaking its dreadful devastation in Central America, winter temperatures were moving into most of the continental United States and the great European washout continued, a group of over 300 lucky delegates met in the clean air and brilliant sunshine of Arizona at British Sulphur Publishing's Sulphur 98 conference and exhibition, which took place at the Westin La Paloma, Tucson, from Sunday 1 to Wednesday 4 November this year. The day following the end of the conference a party of delegates visited the San Manuel smelter and acid plant of BHP Copper.

Abstract

This conference is the only major annual event that brings together sulphur producers and the principal users of their product – sulphuric acid manufacturers. 1998’s programme of 40 papers comprehended a range of commercial, regulatory and technical topics relating to elemental sulphur and sulphuric acid, partly in plenary and partly in parallel sessions, and for the first time at a British Sulphur conference two half-day sessions (one on sulphur recovery, the other on sulphuric acid) were given over entirely to panel discussions on operations and maintenance. The simultaneous exhibition, set up in the section of the ballroom also used for conference registration and coffee breaks, attracted a record number of 29 exhibitors, who displayed literature, products, instruments and process equipment items. In addition to the opening “mixer” on Sunday 1 December, hosted as usual by British Sulphur Publishing, the conference featured two special outdoor events supported by various outside sponsors. A “Western Evening” on Monday 2 November, with Country and Western music, rope jugglers and opportunities for guests to win trophies in hat- and axe-throwing contests, was jointly sponsored by nine Canadian companies: Amoco, CP Rail, The Enersul Group, Fertecon, Husky Oil, Kvaerner Chemetics, Prism Sulphur Corporation, Shell Canada and Sul­tran. The following evening Interacid Trading SA hosted a “South of the Border” evening by the swimming pool, with Tex-Mex food and a mariachi band.

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Changing trade patterns

Summary

Dick Van Meurs highlights recent trends in sulphur production and demand, which are of strategic importance to the world's largest sulphur marketer – ICEC – and its major principles and customers.*

Abstract

The ICEC group, apart from fertilizers and other fertilizer raw materials, markets about 2.5 million t/y of sulphur both as principle and as agent.

As the world’s largest sulphur marketer, ICEC is unique in that it sources – under term contracts – from the Middle East, Europe and North America.

This is of great strategic importance to ICEC, as well as to its major principles and customers.

This paper highlights what has happened in the recent past, what is happening now and what may happen in the coming years.

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