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The changing ammonium nitrate business

Summary

Bernard Brentnall, Chairman of British Sulphur Consultants, takes a look at the trends which are changing the nature of the market for ammonium nitrate.

Abstract

In a recently completed report, “The Outlook for Ammonium Nitrates to 2003”, British Sul­phur Consultants has revisited a group of fertilizers which receive relatively little attention when compared with urea or merchant ammonia, but still play an important role in the overall nitrogen market. The report presents a full analysis of both the main fertilizer grades of ammonium nitrate and of low density ammonium nitrate which is used primarily as a blasting agent. The outlook considers changes to the structure of the industry and market as well as pressures for change as a result of safety, environmental and economic considerations.

The ammonium nitrate market still represents a substantial part of total world fertilizer production and demand and low density ammonium nitrate a significant component of the non-fertilizer nitrogen market. World capacity for concentrated ammonium nitrate stands at about 44 million tonnes. This includes plants for both fertilizer and non-fertilizer grades. Calcium ammonium nitrate capacity amounts to about 18 million t/a. Production of ammonium nitrate products in 1997 amounted to 46-47 million tonnes, if we include less significant members of the family such as ammonium sulphate nitrate. Much of the surplus capacity is located in East Europe where ammonium nitrate was an important component of the domestic market. With the collapse of demand in countries such as Russia and Ukraine, capacity utilization has fallen sharply, despite a sharp growth in exports.

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Some Corrosion Problems in Ammonia and Methanol Plants

Summary

The processes used to produce ammonia and methanol can be corrosive. Cesare Miola* and Elvis Lazzari of the equipment supplier, FBM-Hudson Italiana discuss the types of corrosion that may occur and how they can be combatted.

Abstract

Ammonia and methanol processes are considered to be moderately corrosive. In practice, most of the materials used in such processes are selected on the basis of either the materials’ mechanical properties (usually carbon steel), or because of their resistance in hydrogen environments (low-alloy steels).

Nevertheless, the plant designer has to consider the corrosion problems that can be encountered in particular process sections due to the combined presence of some potentially aggressive media (carbon dioxide, ammonia, oxygen, chlorides, etc.) and condensed water. In this article, we emphasise some of the corrosion problems that occur in ammonia and methanol plants, including:

  • Stress corrosion cracking in the carbon steels used for ammonia storage applications.
  • Hydrogen embrittlement of low-alloy steels in high-temperature service.
  • General corrosion of carbon steels due to humid carbon dioxide, nitriding, condensation of sulphur compounds, etc.
  • Localized corrosion in stainless steels, due to the presence of chlorides in the cooling water.
  • Other general and localized corrosion.

 

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1999 Nitric Acid Producers' Meeting

Summary

The 1999 Nitric Acid Producers' Meeting was held on June 28th 30th, at the Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee.

Abstract

This year’s nitric acid producers’ meeting, the 26th, followed the normal format; that is a closed round table for the production companies, with an afternoon session for vendor presentations. This latter occurred on Tues­day the 29th of June. However, this year there were two differences from the previous meetings. The first was a larger than normal attendance from producers outside of North America. There was a particularly large contingent from Australia – five representatives. There were also people from Thai­land, Germany, France, Aus­tria, Holland, UK, Norway, Mexico and Brazil. The only country normally present which was not represented was South Africa. The Aus­tra­lian group was so large because two of them, from Incitec Ltd, were involved in the start-up of the Simplot nitric acid plant at Brandon, Manitoba, Canada which is using the Incitec cobalt oxide catalyst.

The other major difference was in the number of vendors present, which this year had grown to 48! This year’s host was Laroche Industries Inc of Cherokee, Ala­bama, with David Kelley being the team leader. The vendors’ coordination was as usual by Kirk Richardson of Oremet Wah Chang.

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Retrofitting for improved efficiency

Summary

The National Fertilizers' nitric acid plant at Nangal, India was commissioned in 1961. Param Parkesh* and Sanjay Sharma** detail the improvements that have been made to the plant's ammonia burners to improve efficiency and increase reliability.

Abstract

National Fertilizers Ltd of India’s nitric acid facility at Nan­­gal is a medium-pressure plant and was supplied and commissioned by M/S Printsch BAMAG of Germany in 1961. The plant was designed to produce nitric acid at 54% concentration, at a capacity equivalent to 554 t/d of 100% acid. The acid is produced from two parallel streams that both operate at a pressure of 3.25 atm (abs.).

In the years since the plant was commissioned, modifications have been made to the burners and other parts of the plant. This article focuses on the improvements that have been made to the ammonia burners.

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Still waiting for the thaw

Summary

The nitrogen market has been upset this year by the refusal of Russian and Ukrainian producers to play their normal role of swing capacity. Amid fifteen year price lows and a flurry of dumping accusations, Nitrogen & Methanol looks at the situation in Russia and the Ukraine in the wake of last year's financial crash.

Abstract

The 1990s has seen tough times for the world nitrogen industry. Although demand growth has continued to grow in the developing countries of Asia, in particular China and India, the collapse in demand in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union actually outweighed this, and simultaneously pushed a large quantity of cheap nitrogen products onto the market. For a while in the mid-1990s it looked like things were starting to come right again; economies were finally turning around in the former eastern bloc, and demand was starting to rise. However, in the past year, non-market factors have returned to make life miserable for producers again. A combination of import sub­­stitution policies in India and China, sometimes in defiance of economic realities, the Asian economic crash, and a second economic collapse in Russia and some of its surrounding states, has led to some of the lowest prices for nitrogen seen for a decade and a half.

It is generally accepted that Russia and the Ukraine, still two of the largest producers of nitrogen fertilizers, hold the key to any market upturn. But just how likely is that?

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From neutralisation to granulation

Summary

Axel Erben* of Krupp Uhde GmbH summarises his company's current ammonium nitrate technologies, including processes for urea ammonium nitrate plants and granulation technologies for the production of AN and CAN fertilizers.

Abstract

Krupp Uhde (formerly Uhde GmbH) has designed amm­o­nium nitrate plants for almost half a century. During this time, the company has developed its own process designs for all types of ammonium nitrate plants, includ­ing neutralisation, urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) solution preparation, high- and low-density prilling and granulation plants. In addition, Krupp Uhde has transformed pro­cesses from other licensors into well running ammonium nitrate plants.

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