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Syngas in the alps

Summary

The Second Casale Symposium for Customers and Licensors was held at the company's home town of Lugano, Switzerland in May.

Abstract

Delegates from 25 countries converged on Lugano in May for Casale’s second symposium, set in the beautiful lakeside city of Lugano in Switzerland’s Italian Ticino region. The conference spanned four days and 30 papers, and included an excursion to the nearby city of Lucerne, the other side of the spectacular St Gotthard Pass, and spanned all of the activities of the busy Casale Group, from ammonia, urea and methanol as well as other chemicals.

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Emissions trading and nitric acid production

Summary

Because of the high global warming potential of nitrous oxide, the nitric acid industry stands to gain from the introduction of carbon emission trading, both in Europe and worldwide.

Abstract

The average temperature of the earth’s surface has risen by 0.6 degrees C since the late 1800s. It is expected to increase by another 1.4 to 5.8 degrees C by the year 2100 – a rapid and profound change. Even if the minimum predicted increase takes place, it will be larger than any century-long trend in the last 10,000 years. With the exception of a few holdouts, the scientific consensus is that this has been due to increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere due to the industrial revolution which continues to transform the world around us, together with large-scale clearance of forests in some developing nations.

The average sea level rose by 10–20cm during the 20th century, and an additional increase of 9–88cm is expected by 2100, as higher temperatures cause the ocean volume to expand, and melting glaciers and ice caps add more water. If the higher end of that scale is reached, the sea could overflow the heavily populated coastlines of such countries as Bangladesh, cause the disappearance of some nations entirely (such as the island state of the Maldives), foul freshwater supplies for billions of people, and spur mass migrations. Changes in global weather patterns and increased storm activity due to more heat energy in the atmosphere are also predicted.

As a result, in 1994, most countries in the world signed up to an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to begin to consider what could be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable. More recently an addition to the treaty has been approved by a number of nations: the Kyoto Protocol, which has more powerful and legally binding measures.

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The rounded approach

Summary

Spherical ammonia synthesis catalysts have some advantages over conventional irregularly-shaped catalysts, especially in radial-flow converters. Alvigo has a process for producing them by granulation.

Abstract

Leaving aside its seemingly brief flirtation with the exotic and enormously toxic ruthenium a few years ago, the ammonia industry has used basically the same catalyst for the final stage, in which the ammonia is actually created from nitrogen and hydrogen (equation 1), for its entire history: reduced magnetite.

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Improving ammonium nitrate

Summary

Ammonium nitrate is still the best source of nitrogen for the short cropping seasons of the temperate zones. If only it were better behaved...!

Abstract

Plants preferentially absorb nitrogen from the soil in the nitrate (NO3-) form, and it follows that, if a nitrate is applied to the soil, it will be assimilated readily by the crop. The only problem is that assimilation is by no means the only mechanism that removes nitrate from the soil. Unlike phosphate anions, which tend to associate with and thus be arrested by various cations in the soil, nitrate is highly mobile and is quickly washed out by rainfall. But even if the farmer judges the moment of application to perfection and there is no more rain than is needed to wash the fertiliser into the soil, nitrate disappears quite quickly because the soil is populated with denitrifying bacteria that exploit its chemical energy content as their source of vital energy. So the nitrogen contribution of, for example, potassium nitrate is short-lived. But half the nitrogen content of ammonium nitrate is in a form which, in spite of its even greater energy content, the denitrifying bacteria cannot use, at least until it has been converted to nitrate by the action of other, nitrifying bacteria. That may take as long as a few days, which means that ammonium nitrate effectively gives the crop two bites at the cherry – a peak quickly after the first application and another one a little later, when the nitrate ion concentration is boosted by the conversion of the ammonium ions to nitrate.

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