BC Insight - Nitrogen+Syngas, Sulphur, Fertilizer International
Login
BCInsight Ltd
China Works
Black Prince Road
London, SE1 7SJ
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7793 2567
Fax: +44 (0)20 7793 2577

Publication > Issue > Articles

Still ripe for restructuring?

Summary

While the past two decades have seen the substantial reorganisation of the European fertilizer industry, developments in recent months suggest that the process has yet to be completed.

Abstract

Sometimes it takes an outsider to spot the real insights. While the recently-appointed Director General of the European Fertilizer Industry Association (EFMA), Esa Härmälä, is not strictly speaking an outsider, he does admit to being a newcomer to the fertilizer business. He spent a long part of his earlier career as a high-ranking civil servant in Finland who negotiated terms for agriculture and fisheries on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1994, when the country applied to join what was then the European Community. He has also served in the Finnish Farmers’ and Forest Owners’ Union. Addressing the International Fertiliser Society’s 60th anniversary meeting on 18 April 2007, Esa Härmälä said, “One of the first surprises in my new EFMA job was how small an industry the fertilizer industry in Europe really is.”

He and his EFMA colleagues estimated that the combined annual turnover of companies manufacturing nitrogen-based fertilizers in Europe is less than Euro 10 billion. “To put that into my national perspective,” Härmälä said, “It is the same as the turnover of some of the major Nordic paper and pulp companies, or only one quarter of Nokia Corporation’s net sales.” Ouch!

Add to basket


A power to be?

Summary

Blessed with abundant natural gas and other raw materials, including potash brines, Iran is keen to take further advantage of its resources. Current projects are reviewed.

Abstract

Iran holds 10% of the world’s proven oil reserves. It also has the world’s second largest reserves of natural gas, representing 15% of the world’s total. But these latter are exploited primarily for domestic use, and while Iran has a presence in world ammonia and urea markets and is also a significant exporter of sulphur, the country is widely perceived as performing below its full potential. Several projects to develop new capacity are under way, however, paving the way for Iran to raise its profile in the global fertilizer market.

ran’s principal oil fields are found in the central and south western area of the Zagros Mountains in western Iran, and additional oil is to be found in northern Iran and in the offshore waters of the Persian Gulf. The major refineries are located at Abadan, Kermanshah and Tehran. The main oil exporting ports are at Abadan, Bandar-e Mashur and Kharg Island. The oil and gas industries are in the state sector, but more recently, the country has entered into exploration and production agreements with overseas consortia. Production has averaged around 1.4 billion barrels/year, or 4 million barrels/day.

Add to basket


What can be done to beat the old enemy?

Summary

Here we examine how fertilizer products can segregate and what countermeasures can be applied.

Abstract

Segregation may be defined as the redistribution of particles within a packed bed, according to size, shape, density or surface texture from a condition of homogeneous population within a bulk. (Segregation During Fertiliser Handling: Occurrence, Assessment and Control, R.J. Farnish and Prof. M.S.A. Bradley, The Wolfson Centre for Bulk Solids Handling Technology. Proceedings No. 600, International Fertiliser Society [April 2007].)

When segregation occurs, the end effect can typically manifest itself in several ways, including:

  • Visual appearance when examining sack contents
  • Weight distribution through consecutive sacks filled from a batch
  • Inconsistency in chemical performance from batches when spread
  • Increased dustiness during handling
  • Poor handling characteristics.

Fertilizer materials are vulnerable to segregation at various stages throughout the manufacturing, transportation and final field distribution processes. Indeed, the successive stages of handling serve to intensify the risk of segregation. The severity of the problems experienced in a plant that handles segregable materials can vary considerably, according to the characteristics of the bulk solids and the design of equipment and processes to which it is subjected.

Add to basket


Revamps enhance production and efficiency

Summary

Debottlenecking, yield improvements and pollution abatement are just three of the factors which have prompted a wave of investments in established phosphoric acid plants. Some recent developments are summarised here.

Abstract

The progressive development of phosphoric acid production technology is making older plants less competitive. However, high investment costs (especially in this period of escalating raw materials and construction costs) and long payback times are a daunting obstacle to the replacement of obsolescent plants with new ones. Phosphoric acid projects around the world are thus becoming increasingly geared towards revamping existing facilities. The challenge is how to install the improved technology at a minimum investment cost and with the least disruption to ongoing operations, while ensuring enhanced productivity and environmental performance.

The goal of any plant revamp is to improve certain basic parameters, covering the following aspects:

  • Debottlenecking
  • Yield improvements
  • Feedstock and product changes
  • Improvements in operational efficiencies
  • Pollution abatement
  • Modernisation of the facilities
  • Rehabilitation of the facilities.

 

Add to basket


Uneasy bedfellows?

Summary

Manufacturing NP and NPK fertilizers directly from urea and a large quantity of super­phosphates is very difficult, given the different physical properties of the ingredients. However, new devel­opments suggest that a urea super­phosphate fertilizer can now be produced more reliably and more economically.

Abstract

Designing a plant for the production of high analysis urea-based NPK (USP) fertilizers has long posed a major challenge, the difficulties arising mainly from the high solubility and hygroscopicity of the principal ingredients. In particular, the hydrated salts of the urea and superphosphates release bound water during granulation, producing an excess liquid phase during the reaction:

Ca(H2PO4)2.H2O + 4 CO(NH2)2 -> Ca(H2PO4)2.4 CO(NH2)2 + H2O

Table 1 shows the solubilities of the various fertilizer salts used most widely in the manufacture of urea-based NPK fertilizers.

The solubility of all materials rises with increasing temperature: urea is by far the most soluble of the raw materials involved. (Flowsheet Options for the Production of Urea-Based NPK Fertilizers, D.M. Ivell, Jacobs Engineering. Paper presented at IFA Technical Conference, Beijing [April 2004].) In order for the mixture to granulate, it requires a certain amount of liquid phase – normally about 15%. This liquid phase is provided by part of the mixture dissolving in water present in the granulator. Most of this water is provided with the raw materials. As solubility increases with temperature, less water is consequently required to dissolve a certain amount of the mixture and thus less water is required for granulation.

Add to basket