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Ammonium nitrate producers' study group meeting - a report

Summary

The ANPSG (Ammonium Nitrate Producers' Study Group) is an annual forum for the ammonium nitrate industry to meet and discuss common problems. The meeting was held at the Snow King resort, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, from October 5th to 8th 1998.

Abstract

This year’s meeting was sponsored by Coastal Chemicals Inc of Chey-enne, Wyoming, with the evergreen co-chairmen Bill Stampe of IMC at East Dubuque, Illinois, and Ahmad Hujabe of PCS at Geismar, Louisiana. Despite an excellent technical programme, the turnout at this year’s meeting was reduced by the economic situation prevailing in the nitrogen sector, both low prices and the threat of dumping in the ammonium nitrate industry. We can only hope for a recovery during 1999 to bring back the attendance to normal at next year’s meeting.

The programme has become very much more a general nitrogen symposium than one specifically on ammonium nitrate – so much so that in previous years there have even been discussions about changing the name of the conference. This more ample platform is very good as it allows for the presentation for example of specific papers in the nitric acid field, which is impossible at the nitric acid producers’ meeting due to its round table format.

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Gas and nitrogen production in the Caribbean

Summary

Nitrogen & Methanol takes a look at Venezuela and Trinidad, two very different gas-rich countries vying for dominance in the ammonia and urea export market from the Caribbean.

Abstract

Oil and natural gas deposits in the Caribbean are essentially limited to an area which extends across northern Venezuela and into the waters around Trinidad and Tobago, and it is these two countries which have become the focus of nitrogen-based export industries over the past two decades. The two countries are very different; for a start, Venezuela is obviously far larger than Trinidad, both in terms of physical size, and population. Venezuela also has far larger gas reserves than Trinidad: standing at 4,050 bcm in 1998, or roughly nine times Trinidad’s 450 bcm. Venezuela produced and consumed 30.9 bcm of gas in 1997, while Trinidad produced and consumed just 7.1 bcm.

Both countries are, however, similar in that their economies have been essentially oil-dominated for most of the past half century, and both have struggled to diversify in recent years. Venezuela is the sixth largest oil producer in the world, and the third largest in OPEC. Like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela has tried to break oil’s stranglehold on the economy by diversifying into natural gas and petrochemicals. Petroquimicos de Venezuela (Pequiven) was formed in 1977 as a subsidiary of then newly nationalised oil company PDVSA to add value to the country’s hydrocarbon reserves. Venezuela’s chemical and petrochemical industry now employs 30,000 people and was responsible for $3.2bn of sales in 1997, of which petrochemicals formed 60%. Of these, some 45% of petrochemicals are exported, earning Venezuela $840m abroad.

Most of Venezuela’s gas reserves – around 93% – are as associated gas, whereas most of Trinidad’s are in stand-alone fields. This has meant that as Venezuela has dramatically increased oil production over the past few years, it has also produced a glut of gas which the country is trying to find uses for. Pequiven has a long-term strategy to develop Venezuela’s downstream petrochemical industry, which is comparatively small for a country with such enormous oil and gas reserves. Nevertheless, the sector has approximately doubled in size over the past 7 years, and aims to double again by 2005. Gas production, currently 2.5bn cubic ft/day, is expected to reach 8bn cubic ft/day by that time. To do so, it will need to attract more foreign investment capital. In September 1998 the Venezuelan senate passed a low for the promotion of petrochemical and related activities, allowing Pequiven to sell 49% of its shares and re-invest the estimated $8.3bn raised.

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Sulphurless promoted catalyst for HTS conversion

Summary

In this article, G. Christov and S. Ljubenov of Chimco, Bulgaria describe operational results gained with their company's new high-temperature shift (HTS) conversion catalyst.

Abstract

In 1993 Chimco first commercially introduced its new sulphurless catalyst for high-temperature shift conversion under the trade mark CK-03.

The new catalyst has several advantages to the standard types of catalyst, which are promoted with copper. High selectivity is combined with increased thermal and mechanical consistency, especially in extreme temporary operating conditions, such as water leakages from the boilers downstream of the secondary reformer. During failures of the industrial plant connected with interruption of the supply of steam and extremely high levels of chlorine poisoning, the catalyst has showed high stability, resuming its activity and preserving its mechanical qualities.

The low inlet temperature of 310°C to the catalyst allows the plants to operate with higher heat flows to the boilers between the secondary reformer and the reactor for high-temperature shift conversion. In addition, the complete lack of sulphur in the catalyst allows the start- up of the syngas CO2 removal section immediately after its reduction. The saving of natural gas is more than 50% from the catalyst value. This catalyst characteristic is most significant with the high capacity plants.

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Fluid drum granulation of potassium nitrate

Summary

Potassium nitrate fertilizer is presently mostly produced via prilling of the finished melt. In this article, Kaltenbach-Thuring of France describes the application of fluid drum granulation technology to the process, and consequent improvements in product quality.

Abstract

Almost unknown 20 years ago, potassium nitrate is now used in more and more applications in over 60 countries. A binary high grade fertilizer (13.5% N, 44-45% K) potassium nitrate has a wide range of agricultural applications. Direct soil application is made by dissolution of KNO3 crystals in water (fertigation) or by direct prills spreading on field.

The use of KNO3 has many advantages as a fertilizer: it is totally soluble in water, 100% of the N content is available in nitrate form, leading to rapid assimilation by plants, and it is chlorine free. KNO3 is generally used for crops which generate high added value, such as tobacco, pineapples, oranges, etc. As farmers turn more and more towards these kind of products, so the consumption of KNO3 throughout the world will grow. Accordingly, Kaltenbach-Thuring have applied its fluid drum granulation (FDG) technology to KNO3 granulation.

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Is low-priced methanol here to stay?

Summary

The world methanol industry gathered in Frankfurt last December at a time when methanol prices were at lows not seen for a decade, and with little prospect of any upturn in sight. Needless to say the talk was all about when prices would rise again, if ever, and the conclusion seemed to be that low methanol prices will be with us for some years to come.

Abstract

The 1998 World Methanol Conference returned to Europe in December, when 330 delegates gathered in the Frankfurt Marriot Hotel from December 8th to 10th, to discuss the current shape of the world methanol industry. This was the 16th annual world methanol conference organised by James Crocco, formerly of Crocco and Associates and now part of the CMAI consultancy group.

The Tuesday evening before the conference began in earnest, Frankfurt-based engineering firm Lurgi Oel Gas Chemie GmbH, a subsidiary of the huge Metall-gesellschaft group, kindly invited delegates to a reception at their impressive new headquarters building nearby. Lurgi board member Dr Wolff Balthazar was on-hand to welcome the conference to Frankfurt.

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Revamp technology from Urea Casale

Summary

Federico Zardi of Urea Casale reports on his company's experience of revamping urea plants

Abstract

Urea Casale has been active in the urea field since 1985, as Ammonia Casale at first and, from 1991, as an independent company. From the beginning, the company’s activities have been concentrated on revamps of existing urea plants.

In the current circumstances of constantly increasing urea demand and economic uncertainty, there is a high demand for plant upgrades which can give additional capacity at a cost lower than through new plant construction.

Drawing from Urea Casale’s years of experience in the urea field, the company has developed several innovative and very powerful technologies for the revamping of urea plants (for a discussion of Urea Casale’s revamp technologies see Nitrogen & Methanol 231, Jan-Feb 1998, 49-51). These technologies are designed to achieve:

  • large increases in capacity
  • energy savings
  • pollution control
  • improvement in plant reliability The new technologies include:
  • new reactor trays to reduce steam consumption and increase capacity
  • a new urea production processes (High Efficency Combined and Vapour Recycle) for very large increases in capacity

Urea Casale’s general approach to urea plant revamping is to upgrade the reaction section in order to increase its efficiency, rather than to just add additional equipment. Most of the technologies have been developed to accomplish this goal.

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Pequiven – an important player in the Latin American nitrogenous fertilizer market

Summary

Roberto Mantellini Quintero, business manager for the Fertilizer Business Division of Petroquímica de Venezuela, SA discusses the company's current situation and future plans.

Abstract

Venezuela has been a leader in the growth of the petrochemical sector and particularly the fertilizer industry in South America. In this area, Pequiven, the petrochemical branch of Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA), has developed projects and strategies to increase the production of fertilizers in Venezuela and to increase its share in international markets. Its target is to start the next millennium as the most important company in the nitrogenous fertilizer market in the Latin American region. This will be based on adding value to the comparative advantages that Venezuela offers as a nation, such as geographical location and availability of large quantities of gas, so as to convert them into competitive advantages by creating mixed capital companies and/or strategic alliances with other major players in the fertilizer industry on the American continent.

As part of the company’s business plan for the next ten years, Pequiven will construct new, world-scale fertilizer installations (ammonia and urea) at the Jose Complex, situated in the east of Venezuela, whose products will be placed on international markets.

After 2000, Pequiven’s competitiveness in international markets will in part depend on the commercial strategies that are adopted today, given the reduction in excise advantages in Latin America under agreements for globalisation and commercial integration that are being negotiated, and in line with the idea of gradually achieving a larger market share as a result of comparative advantages.

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