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Blaming the bear

Summary

The debate over imports of Russian ammonium nitrate into the United States is likely to escalate, as US producers contend that the product is being traded unfairly. They have petitioned the US International Trade Commission, which ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support sanctions. Special US correspondent Cassandra Devereux reports on developments.

Abstract

The principal findings ofthe recent investigation by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) on Ammonium Nitrate: A Comparative Analysis of the Factors Affecting Global Trade offered cold comfort for the US ammonium nitrate producers when they were published in October 1998. The investigation was launched six months earlier, and was sparked off by concerns of US AN producers that imports of Russian ammonium nitrate had risen in the wake of the imposition of an anti-dumping order on such imports into the European Union (EU) in 1995. This EU order consisted of a variable rate duty on Russian AN imports, but at the request of the European Fertilizer Manufacturers' Association (EFMA) in 1997, the case was re-examined. Having found that the variable duty imposed did not lead to any significant change in prices, the EU imposed a specific duty on Russian AN in 1998.

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Fertilizers for the future

Summary

Controlled-release fertilizers offer a more predictable supply of nutrition. However, they continue to carry a significant price premium in comparison with conventional fertilizers. Throughout the world, the quest is on to make controlled-release fertilizers a more affordable source of N. This article, by Xu Xiucheng, Li Diping,Wang Haobin and Fan Xiushan, of Zhengzhou University ofTechnology, examines recent advances in China.

Abstract

China in 1995 could muster 94.97 million ha of arable land, of which the sown area totalled 149.88 million ha, giving a multiple crop index of 158%. In that year, China's population is estimated to have totalled 1.21 billion, while fertilizer consumption was around 35 million tonnes. On the assumption that 80% of the fertilizers consumed in China were on farm areas (with the remaining 20% accounted for use in meadows, orchards and other uses), China's average fertilisation level was equivalent to 303 kg/ha by farm area, 192 kg/ha by sown area, and 30 kg/head of population. This compares with a world average of 68 kg/ha by farm area and 22 kg/head of population.

While the level offertilisation in China is well above the world average, the country's population continues to grow, and this will put the available cultivated land under further pressure. The population is forecast to rise to a maximum of 1.6 billion in 2030. To meet the needs of this population, China will need to consume over 61 million tla offertilizers (35 million t/a N, 16 million t/a P20S' and 9.4 million t/a K20). Even ifthe present farm area remains unchanged and the multiple crop index rises to 200%, China's fertilizer requirements by 2030 would be equivalent to 520 kg/ha by farm area and 260 kg/ha by sown area.

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Going global

Summary

The Ist World Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container (FIBC) Conference and Exhibition was held in Amsterdam between 24-25 November 1998, and was organised by Millennium Conferences International Ltd. on behalf of the European FIBC Association (EFIBCA). As emphasised in this review of proceedings, and by the participation of delegates from 33 countries around the world, FIBCs have developed from their essentially European origins to become an increasingly global concept, and they have gone far in transforming notions of fertilizer packaging, distribution and marketing.

Abstract

In his welcoming address, Hendry M. Speirs, Director General ofEFIBCA, emphasised the increasingly global aspects of the FIEC sector. "The industry has seen rapid and sustained growth, and with a product used for transportation of goods between continents, it is natural that globalisation is of much current interest," he said. In particular, he singled out Norsk Hydro's international licensing programme for the single-loop FIEC, and the company's major contribution to EFIBCA, and International Polysacks GmbH, whose trading activities helped to open new frontiers, notably in the former Soviet Union. EFIECA has set standards of quality and safety that have been accepted both nationally and internationally as the norm.

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Plant efficiency: a material issue

Summary

For modern high-pressure urea plants to operate safely and at maximum efficiency, it is essential not only to equip them with materials that are tailored to withstand the intense operating conditions, but to ensure that the equipment is manufactured in line with the specific procedures prescribed by the process licensor. This review of the materials best suited for urea plants are the appropriate manufacturing practices is based on the paper presented by Cesare Miola, of FBM-Hudson Italiana SpA at the Nitrogen '99 Conference in Caracas.

Abstract

Modern high-pressure urea plants require special corrosion- resistant materials, as the nitric acid and the intermediate products which are formed in urea synthesis are highly aggressive fluids. These materials have been tailored according to the processes adopted, and they require special manufacturing precautions during the equipment manufacturing stages.

Corrosion-resistant materials are particularly crucial in urea plants, as they are not only essential for the safe performance of the plant, but also affect onstream factors and are a help or hindrance to improving the production process itself. Good progress has been made towards developing suitable corrosionresistant materials, but the process conditions, temperature, pressure and particular fluids composition in the various operating stages still require both the careful selection of construction materials and sound plant design. In addition, the manufacture of the equipment must be carried out with great care and in line with specific procedures issued by the process licensor.

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Rejuvenation at Togliatti

Summary

The Casale group has gained a worldwide reputation for enhancing the performance of fertilizer plants through revamps. The company has developed several notable breakthroughs that make the revamping of existing plants a very economical and cost-effective option, even when large increases in capacity are required. One recent case study is that of the Togliatti Azot complex in the Former Soviet Union. The key aspects of this project are outlined here.

Abstract

The Casale group of companies (Ammonia, Urea, Methanol and Chemicals) has gained worldwide recognition in providing the technology for revamping ammonia, urea and methanol plants to take advantage of advances in the latest process technology, thus enabling customers to increase their operating efficiencies and supply product ofever higher quality. To date, Casale has modernised over 100 hundred ammonia converters, over 50 urea plants and 16 methanol plants.

Urea Casale has been active in the field ofurea revamps since 1985, havingdeveloped several innovative technologies which enable producers to achieve:

  • Large capacity increases
  • Energy savings
  • Enhanced pollution control
  • Better plant reliability.

The plants which Urea Casale have revamped to date have ranged in capacity from 250 tid to 2,400 tid. Of these plants, some 70% were originally designed to employ stripping technology. The starting point for any Urea Casale revamp project - whether the objective is to raise capacity andlor reduce the steam consumption - is to install Casale High Efficiency Trays (HET) in the reactor. New types of reactor tray significantly increase the CO2 conversion factor, (by at least 4-5%), reducing the amount of steam required to recycle back the unteacted CO2, This reduces the specific load of the equipment in the HP loop in the stripping plant, while reducing the specific load for most of the equipment in total recycle plants.

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