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Publication > Issue > Articles

Methanol in China

Summary

China is in the middle of an unprecedented expansion of both methanol demand and capacity which is changing the way the global methanol market works.

Abstract

As a basic chemical building block, methanol is used in a wide variety of applications. For this reason, as China rapidly industrialises, so the growth of demand for methanol in China has been dramatic. China is attempting to keep pace with this by large-scale capacity construction, but imports continue to pay a major role.

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Will biofuels save the world?

Summary

Escalating oil prices and energy security concerns have led to a huge increase in interest in so-called 'biofuels', based on agricultural inputs. There are implications for the syngas- based chemical industry both in the demand for nitrogen fertilizer, as well as demand for and competition for methanol and its derivatives. But the arguments are not always as clear-cut as they are sometimes presented.

Abstract

The past two years have seen a huge increase in interest in biofuels, as oil prices climb to unprecedentedly high levels and remain there for an extended period. The issue has become part of political manifestos around the world. At first glance, it appears to provide a win-win solution for governments; guaranteeing farm incomes for rural populations who are often under severe pressure from globalisation; lowering carbon emissions as part of Kyoto targets; and reducing dependence on oil imported from far-flung and occasionally dangerous or unstable parts of the world. However, does the reality match the rhetoric?

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They come in all sizes

Summary

Big methanol projects are all the rage at the moment, but the technology needs to be backwards-compatible.

Abstract

Little by little, the predictions of climate scientists about global warming are being taken more seriously by communities and their governments around the world, even in countries that have not implemented or even signed up to the Kyoto Protocol. At the same time, the predictions are rapidly becoming much gloomier, as exemplified by the newly-released report to the UK government by Sir Nicholas Stern. Even in the United States, a much greater consensus is appearing in the scientific community and the public at large has begun to show more concern.

Ironically, just as the world starts to take global warming seriously, there is a large resurgence of interest in coal – the most carbon-rich fuel of all – on account of actual or prospective shortages of other fuels in certain areas. These result from a combination of resource depletion and geopolitical factors, as in the United States and Europe, or from rapid economic development, as in China. Inevitably, though, the political and moral climate is beginning to change for projects entailing the large-scale exploitation of new sources of any fossil fuel (hydrocarbons and coal). Increasingly, these projects will have to be evaluated in the light not just of the normal economic parameters but also of their global warming potential (GWP) and the predicted cost of abatement of their carbon dioxide emissions – no mean task, as most of the technologies proposed for that purpose (“carbon sequestration”) are so far little more than pipe-dreams.

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Improving reliability and life of WHBs

Summary

A proposal for the ammonia and associated industries to set up a Joint Industry Project to develop a Recommended Practice.

Abstract

Waste-heat boilers used in ammonia and related types of process plants are prone to unexpected failures. These failures typically result in unplanned plant shut-downs for repair and/or emergency maintenance work. This work and the lost production are obviously costly for the plant operator, so it is desirable to increase the reliability of waste heat boilers and maximize their useful life through appropriate inspection, maintenance, and repair work during planned shut-downs and turnarounds.

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Retubing reformers

Summary

Replacing aging reformer tubes offers opportunities to upgrade plant performance and efficiency. To get the maximum benefit, it is important to know not only how to do it properly, but when.

Abstract

The primary reformer is at the heart of any ammonia plant and represents the largest capital expenditure unit operation. It is also the largest energy user on the plant. In spite of being made of some of the most temperature-resistant alloys known, the catalyst tubes have a finite life and will start to fail after a period of time. The standard design life for reformer tubes over many decades has been 100,000 hours. At that point it is time to consider replacing them all unless the first one failed because of an obvious malfunction which did not affect any of its neighbours, such as a hot spot resulting from uneven catalyst packing. However, the pattern of failure of reformer tubes tends to follow a Gaussian curve, which means that it could be a considerable time after the first tube fails before the next one does, and the majority of the remaining tubes still have considerable useful life.

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