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A central Issue

Summary

In December 1998, in association with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Office (UNIDO), the International Fertilizer Industry Association (lFA) published a comprehensive manual, Fertilizer Industry Manufacturing Processes. This is a template that outlines the issues the industry is committed to addressing, and its main points are summarised in this review. At the heart of the document is an underlying belief that uprevention is better than cure."

Abstract

The fertilizer industry acknowledges the supreme importance of environmental issues, as these relate to the complete chain of production, storage, transport and consumption. In addition to the risk of pollution of air, water and soil, there are hazards to be avoided in each section ofthis chain. Nor should issues of occupational health and safety of plant staff be ignored. In order to achieve the lowest possible levels of environmental impact, fertilizer producers must adopt the highest standards of operation and maintenance. It is also necessary to monitor emissions to atmosphere and discharges to water from the production plants, in order to enable the plant operators to take corrective action. Suitable technology now exists for the control of most potential pollutants resulting from fertilizer manufactute, and considerable progress has been made in environmental management techniques. As a result, in certain regions, there have been significant reductions in emissions to the air and effluents to water. But elsewhere, much progress is still to be made with the handling and release of toxic chemicals and the long-term management of waste, and even the best-managed companies can still improve their performance.

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A core strategy

Summary

Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co. (GPIC) has placed environmental management at the core of its operations. In this review of his company's commitment to sound environmental policies presented at the IFA Technical Conference in 1998, Yousif AbdullaYousif explains that such a policy helps GPIC achieve its financial goals, too.

Abstract

Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co. (GPIC), Bahrain, has adopted an integrated approach to safety, health and environmental management, and the company recognises that the harmonisation of quality, safety and the environment is fundamental to the company's success. Safety and care for the environment require substantial investment, but GPIC acknowledges that such investment is sound and offers a real rate ofreturn to the overall business. This integrated approach has ensured that the company enjoys a record ofsafety, health and care for the environment that is comparable to the best petrochemical companies in the world, and it has also led to prestigious awards from the US National Safety Council and the UK Royal Society for the Prevention ofAccidents.

GPIC's commitment to manage safety, health and the environment starts at the highest level in the organisation, and the company's policies in this field have been developed and endorsed by the General Manager and Managing Director. Fertilizer plants are potentially hazardous in nature. However, these hazards can be properly controlled through good and safe engineering design, safe working practices and safe operational procedures, together with the commitment of a well-trained workforce. Indeed, GPIC recognises that all accidents can be, in principle, prevented through managing safety.

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Setting the standard

Summary

Kemira Agro Oyj has gained over 25 years' experience in developing its mixed acid NPK process. The company has kept environmental considerations to the forefront, ensuring that the process is well within the Best Available Techniques (BAT) levels, as stipulated by the European Fertilizer Manufacturers' Association (EFMA). H. Kiiski outlines the criteria Kemira has adopted to meet these exacting standards.

Abstract

The Finnish-based Kemira Agro Oyj group recognises that fertilizer manufacturing processes require the use of finite resources, and it is important to ensure that these are not wasted. Kemira Agro's manufacturing plants operate consistently within the limits set by the environmental regulation agencies, and the company has adopted a policy of Responsible Care, encouraging a safety and environment culture among employees and customers. Kemira Agro supports new codes of good agricultural practice and the development of sustainabie agricultural systems and integrated farming.

Kemira practices this philosophy at its own production locations. During the 1980s, Kemira reaped the fruits of its intensive R&D programme by investing in gas scrubbing units, which were installed in severalNPKproduction units. The scrubbers led to a significant reduction in emissions, to below the levels proposed in international standards, including EFMA's BAT levels. Emissions are controlled by on-line instruments, which also detect sudden, exceptional disturbances in .the process. The main components. in the analysis are nitrogen components and fluorine. The long-term operation ofKernira'sNPKprocess in severallocations gave an opportunity to conduct experiments, using several technical processes. These experiments - allied with Kemira's R&D expertise - sought to gain a greater understanding of scrubber performance and related chemical reactions, and were devised with the intention ofadopting the solutions thus found as Kemira group standards.

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Recouping the value in waster

Summary

The steam reforming process for the production of ammonia employs catalysts which must be replaced after 2-6 years of service. The disposal of spent catalysts is a sensitive issue, as these contain various metals, including zinc, iron and nickel, as well as valuable metals. Most of the catalysts are returned to the manufacturer or companies which specialise in the recovery of metals. One such company is Johnson Matthey, whose expertise in the field of precious metal recovery is described here.

Abstract

Johnson Matthey is the world's largest supplier of catalyst gauzes for use in the manufacture of nitric acid and caprolactam, and from its two main production sites in Royston, UK and West Whiteland, Pennsylvania, USA, Johnson Matthey has pioneered much of the technology which now forms the industry standard. The use of platinum and later rhodium/platinum alloys as a catalyst can be traced to the early years of the 20th Century, and catalysts were latterly manufactured as a woven gauze with either 0.060 mmor 0.076 mmwire diameter and 1024 mesh/cm2 . Johnson Matthey introduced a major innovation in catalyst design in 1990, when it began to market "knitted" catalysts. These offered the nitric acid industry major benefits, and knitted catalysts were quickly adopted as the standard application in this sector.

Nitric acid plants tend to be designed with either a medium- or a high-pressure stage for the oxidation of ammonia to nitric acid. For optimum conversion efficiency, the oxidation should be carried out at medium pressure and absorption at high pressure. This led the plant engineering companies to devise dual-pressure processes, but these can only be justified economically in high-tonnage plants, with a design capacity of around 1,000 t/d.

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Seeking the silver linings

Summary

The 6th International Bulk Blending conference ofAFCOME (Association Fram;aise des Cooperatives et Entreprises de Distribution et de Melange d'Engrais) convened in Angers, France, on 3-5 November 1999, against the backdrop of ominous pronouncements from the European fertilizer industry. Hannah Dyson reviews the contributions to the conference made by representatives of key enterprises and institutions in France, Brussels, the UK, North America and Russia.

Abstract

Just days before the conference opened, two of the largest fertilizer producers in Europe, Norsk Hydro and Kemira, announced that they were to restructure their fertilizer operations in Europe. Falling margins and even substantial losses, both companies implied in their statements, have forced them to consider closing some oftheir key manufacturing sites. These companies are not alone in facing such difficulties, but the outlook is not entirely negative, and the speakers at the conference illustrated that there is much ahead that will enhance the future for fertilizer producers in Europe, despite the short-term fight to restore profitability.

Luc Maene, Director General of the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), summarised the reasons why the fertilizer industry finds itself at this critical juncture, and cautioned against reliance upon broad economic trends as a means to dictate the future. While fertilizer consumption in developing countries will continue to expand, the question must be asked whether new production capaciry - particularly of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers - is coming on stream around the globe faster than demand can absorb the extra product.

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Scenting success in ghent

Summary

Intensive livestock rearing in north west Europe has generated an estimated 2-3 million tla in animal manures. How to make effective use of this material has for long exercised the minds of farmers, agronomists and environmentalists. A new development in Ghent offers a potential solution to this problem, as described by Bill Lavers.

Abstract

T he disposal of pig slurry has been an acute problem in the Flanders region of north west Europe for some years. Intensive pig farming fuels the large animal feed industry centred around the Belgian port of Ghent, but gives rise to great volumes ofliquid farmyard manure. Groundwater pollution regulations in recent years have imposed limits on what can be applied directly to the soil in this way, and other methods of treatment have been sought.

A pointer to potential operations in the future was signalled with the start-up in May 1999 of a bio-reactor system in the port of Ghent. This has been developed to treat 200,000 tla of waste materials, including pig slurry and other wastes, and to produce about 40 tid of granular fertilizers, along with electric power generated from the associated bio-gas produced during the bacterial fermentation process. The operation generates hardly any solid waste, and the liquid waste discharge is zero. In addition, there is no smell and no gaseous emissions from the installation, except combustion gases from the generation of electric power from the bio-gas produced in the bio-reactors. The plant is operated by MAV NY and can accept for treatment materials supplied by ship, barge or truck. Thus, it is estimated that the facils ity can be readily expanded without adding appreciable pressure to the local transport infrastructure.

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Helping to save a billion lives

Summary

The International Fertilizer Development Center (lFDC) celebrated its 25th anniversary on I November. Its launch was in response to a global food crisis. Since then, from its base on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Reservation at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, IFDC has accumulated many achievements, as it seeks ways to enable farmers throughout the world to raise their yields. IFDC has played a singularly important role in furthering the goals of the Green Revolution, which was just getting under way in Asia and Latin America.

Abstract

T he International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) celebrated its 25th anniversary on 1 November. Its launch was in response to a global food crisis. Since then, from its base on the Tennessee ValleyAuthority (TVA) Reservation at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, IFDC has accumulated many achievements, as it seeks ways to enable farmers throughout the world to raIse their yields. IFDC has played a singularly important role in furthering the goals of the Green Revolution, which was just getting under way in Asia and Latin America.

heavily stacked against the IFDC: it was born out of crisis, when the overnight quadrupling of energy prices threatened to reduce farmers in the developing nations to even greater penury. The world's most heavily populated countries, such as China and India, faced chronic food deficit problems, and harvests were subject to many vagaries, including climate and soil. Mass starvation was an all too prevalent threat, as it had been throughout the ages. Such visionaries as Dr. Norman Borlaug saw that mankind could finally break the grip of famine in the less developed regions. His work in developing the high-yielding cereal varieties that were the cornerstone of the Green RevoLution won Dr. Borlaug the Nobel Prize in 1970, but his work had to be consolidated ifworld food production was finally to outpace the growth in human population.

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