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Conversion of a CO2 removal system

Summary

Incitec Pivot converted the carbon dioxide (CO2) removal system in its Gibson Island ammonia plant from SulfinolSM to aMDEAŽ in early 2007. The SulfinolSM system had been used for more than 35 years and a solvent change was needed to reduce ongoing chemical costs of the ammonia plant. Venkat Pattabathula of Incitec Pivot Ltd and Dr. Torsten Katz of BASF describe their experience of the change over.

Abstract

Incitec Pivot operates an ammonia plant originally of 600 t/d, designed by J.F. Pritchard, which has been upgraded to 800 t/d over the years since its commissioning in the late 1960s. The unique features of this ammonia plant are a low pressure (450 psig, 32 bar) front-end, a high-pressure back-end (2600 psig, 182 bar), a medium pressure steam system (400 psig, 28 bar, 750°F, 400°C), a closed loop refrigeration system and a jet engine that drives a reaction turbine, which in turn drives the synthesis gas (syngas) compressor. The site also has a urea plant of Vulcan Cincinnati design, which has also been upgraded over the years to about 850 t/d. The urea prilling section was replaced with a Hydro Agri (now Yara) fluidised bed granulation unit in 1999. The plant is located at Gibson Island (GI) in the suburbs of Brisbane City on the East Coast of Australia.

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DME: eastern promise

Summary

Dimethyl ether (DME) is now the fastest-growing methanol derivative, and continues to attract considerable interest as a syngas-derived clean fuel, especially in Asia. Nitrogen+Syngas takes a look at new developments in the fast-changing world of DME.

Abstract

Global DME capacity was about 150,000 t/a in 2004, mainly for use as a CFC-free aerosol propellant. However, by 2006 this had leapt by an additional 275,000 t/a, and this year a further 800,000 t/a of capacity has already or will come on-stream. This million tonnes is scheduled to become 10m t/a over the next five years, meaning that DME production will have increased more than 60-fold in just a decade. Suddenly it seems that the entire world has woken up to what DME proponents have been saying for years; that this is a fuel whose time has come.

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The hydrogen economy; dream or reality?

Summary

Governments and companies are now committing serious money to the issue of developing hydrogen as a fuel for homes, business and transportation. But is the "hydrogen economy" likely to become a reality, and what might that mean for the syngas industry?

Abstract

In his 2003 State of the Union Address, President Bush announced a five year, $1.2bn Hydrogen Fuel Initiative (HFI). The stated aim of the initiative was to reverse America’s growing dependence on imported oil by developing the technology needed for commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells for cars, trucks, homes, and businesses. America currently imports 55% of the oil it consumes; that is expected to grow to 68% by 2025, and two-thirds of the 20m bbl/day that is currently consumed is used for transportation.

US government spending on hydrogen research and development has leapt from $70m per year to closer to $300m. Although the Bush administration has been reticent on issues like global warming and the Kyoto Protocol, an unstated aim of the HFI is also to reduce US emissions of carbon dioxide.

However, while hydrogen-powered fuel cells offer a potentially emission-free power source for vehicles, the envisaged “hydrogen economy” essentially relies on hydrogen as an energy carrier. The problem with this is that hydrogen must be produced, stored and transported to where it is needed, and as a very low density gas with a very low boiling point, it poses many problems in storage and handling. Finding production methods which do not add to carbon dioxide emissions is also a potential headache.

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Elegant solutions for today's challenges

Summary

Larger single train capacities and alternative feedstocks are two of the key factors driving the developments of recent innovations in methanol plant design. Nitrogen+Syngas reports on how the industry has been responding to these requirements with the latest plant and equipment designs to meet current demands and expectations for the future.

Abstract

In the past, the methanol synthesis loop has been relatively straightforward with simple loop designs but a variety of reactors on offer. With the move to ever larger plants this situation is changing with designers looking for ways to increase capacity whilst using equipment that is cost-effective, and avoiding pipework that becomes as expensive as pressure vessels at large diameters. This has spun off a series of new designs of synthesis loops and reactors, some of which are now in use in the world’s largest plants.

The movement towards coal as a feedstock for chemicals manufacture has changed the goalposts again with coal gasification based synthesis gas introducing new challenges due to the highly reactive nature of the gas.

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Partners in profitability

Summary

Regular recovery of platinum and rhodium losses in nitric acid plants has become a significant factor in overall plant economics. Alan E. Heywood of Sabin Metal Corp. presents a general overview of the causes of PGM losses, the recovery of these valuable precious metals, and the sampling and refining procedures used to maximise their recovery.

Abstract

The production of nitric acid via the oxidation of ammonia over a rhodium-platinum alloy catalyst, generally known as the Ostwald Process, is based on the following equation:

4NH3 + 5O2 -> 4NO + 6H2O, in the presence of Pt / Rh (Pd), with delta H = - 906 kJ (1)

This highly efficient exothermic reaction results in significant platinum losses. Subsequent reactions are:

2NO + O2 -> N2O4 (2)

3N2O4 + 2H2O -> 4HNO3 + 2NO (3)

(NO is subsequently reoxidised to NO2)

The extraordinary increase in platinum and rhodium values that has occurred over the past five years (Figs 1 and 2) dictates that regular recovery from nitric acid plants is now a significant factor in overall plant economics, and thus, profitability. In fact, global annual Platinum Group Metal (PGM) losses from the Ostwald process at today’s prices amount to approximately $500 million.

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