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Publication > Issue > Articles

Sulphur is the key

Summary

Ammonium sulphate (AS) has suffered a long, slow decline from the days when it was the most popular nitrogen fertilizer in the developed world. However, growing sulphur deficiencies in fields have led to a revival of interest in some quarters in recent years.

Abstract

Ammonium sulphate is one of the oldest fertilizers. It was first produced on an industrial scale as a by-product from coke ovens and gasworks in the 19th century in the countries of the industrialised world. Its ready availability meant that it became favoured as a fertilizer, and it once formed the major source of nitrogen fertilizer in the developed world.

The discovery of the synthesis of ammonia in the early years of the 20th century meant that synthetic ammonium sulphate could be produced from ammonia and sulphuric acid, and this route gradually came to dominate the ammonium sulphate industry. By the 1960s, two thirds of all ammonium sulphate production was through such ‘voluntary’ synthesis. How­ever, the growth in synthetic fibres, especially nylon-6, has led to a third route for the production of ammonium sulphate; as a co-product from the production of synthetic fibre intermediates, in particular caprolactam and methyl methacrylate.

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India: Life on hold

Summary

The collapse in April of the government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has led to a caretaker administration and yet another general election: India's third in as many years. Although the BJP government had made some attempts at resolving India's growing fertilizer subsidy problem, its collapse has put all measures on hold until after elections unlikely to be held before October.

Abstract

Fertilizer producers in India will have to wait a few more months before they see any end to the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the industry for the past two years, and even then there is no guarantee that the new government will be any clearer on its fertilizer policy. The fall of the BJP-led government has effectively ended all of the previous piecemeal attempts at reform of subsidies and attempts at privatisation.

As if being without a government was not bad enough, India’s political problems have been compounded first by the row over nuclear testing last year, earning both India and Pakistan international financial sanctions, and more recently increasing tension with Pakistan over the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, disputed since 1947 and the cause of two wars between the two countries. Finally, the country has been affected economically by the aftermath of the Asian crash, which has caused the rupee to fall against the dollar to its current value of Rs 43: $1, and which has cut growth from 9% year on year to 5% for 1998. Things are no longer running smoothly in the world’s largest democracy.

Ironically, it is the growing level of political participation and awareness in India, particularly among the poor, which is leading to the destabilisation of the old order. In particular, the one party rule of the Congress party, which ruled for 45 of the 50 years since Indian independence, has been swept away, and now Congress and the other large national party, the BJP must contend with a growing multitude of regional and caste-based parties. The result has been a series of shaky coalitions, the last one led by the BJP but propped up by various parties including 18 MPs from the southern region of Tamil Nadu, the withdrawal of whose support caused the government to collapse.

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Methanol Technology in Focus

Summary

Denver, Colorado was the venue for the fifth ICI Methanol Technology Operators Forum. Nitrogen & Methanol reports on the proceedings and focuses on the discussions on reformers and the new technological developments that may fundamentally change the methanol industry.

Abstract

The fifth ICI Methanol Tech­nology Operators Forum (IMTOF) was held this year in the Inverness Hotel & Golf Club in Denver, Colorado, from 20-23 June 1999. The forum is organised by ICI’s catalyst business, Synetix and is exclusive to companies who use Synetix’s catalysts or have licensed ICI’s meth­anol technology. The forum’s aims are to allow delegates to share operational experiences, both good and bad, and to cover the technical and operational aspects of meth­anol production. Outside of the formal sessions, the forum schedule allowed ample time for delegates to question the speakers in more detail and meet each other in less formal contexts as there was an extensive social programme organised, allowing delegates and their partners to see some of the Denver area and take advantage of the In­verness Hotel’s on-site golf course.

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Boosting urea plant efficiency

Summary

Efforts continue to increase efficiencies at urea plants. Nitrogen & Methanol looks at developments from three technology licensors that aim to help urea producers cut costs and increase production.

Abstract

Most of urea produced today is converted into prills or granules in order to make the product easier to store, handle and apply. Historical­ly prilled urea has been dominant but an increasing proportion of the world’s urea supply is being taken up by granules, with all new export plants producing urea in granular form.

This article looks at some recent developments that may help urea plant achieve better process efficiencies and limit the investment costs for new plants.*

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