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Publication > Issue > Articles

China is still the key for methanol industry

Summary

The CMAI World Methanol Conference was held at the Ritz Four Seasons Hotel, Lisbon, from December 8th-10th 2008.

Abstract

The credit crunch seemed to be biting a little as methanol industry attendance in Lisbon was more subdued than in previous years, and the long-heralded slump in methanol prices has finally arrived. All eyes were on the situation in China, which is driving both the supply and demand side of the methanol industry at the moment, and developing the new fuel and energy markets for methanol that have the potential to radically change the industry.

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Italian Insight

Summary

With the Nitrogen+Syngas 2009 conference taking place in Rome in late February, Nitrogen+Syngas magazine asked a number of leading Italian companies in the nitrogen and syngas sectors about their achievements over the last decade, what projects are on the go, and how they see the industry moving forward in such a turbulent global economic environment.

Abstract

With the Nitrogen+Syngas 2009 conference taking place in Rome in late February, Nitrogen+Syngas magazine asked a number of leading Italian companies in the nitrogen and syngas sectors about their achievements over the last decade, what projects are on the go, and how they see the industry moving forward in such a turbulent global economic environment.

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Revamping urea plants for increased production and efficiency

Summary

Changes to the urea synthesis section of a urea plant can improve output and plant efficiency with only relatively minor modifications to the vessel internals. JSC NIIK describes the results of laboratory and field studies.

Abstract

JSC NIIK (Research and Design Institute of Urea), with 55 years of experience in design of new and revamping of old urea production units, has a series of new developments aimed at increasing capacity and saving energy. One of the basic elements in the revamping concept developed by NIIK is the modernisation of the synthesis unit. This unit is the most important part of a urea plant, as its efficiency determines the recycle ratio of unconverted feedstock, and thus energy consumption of the production unit. Enhancing the efficiency of the synthesis unit not only improves operation parameters, but also increases final product output.

There are several possible urea production flow-charts, but in this article we will focus on high pressure synthesis via the CO2 stripping process. For this type of plants NIIK offers revamping of the synthesis section without significant capital investments. Revamping does however require a short shut down of the production plant. The equipment revamped in­cludes: the urea synthesis reactor; the high pressure stripper; the high pressure carba­mate condenser;·the high pressure scrubber, and the high pressure ejector.

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Petroleum coke as a feedstock

Summary

High oil and gas prices have encouraged a fresh look at other feedstocks for syngas production. While coal has been favoured in some countries, in North America, and increasingly elsewhere, petroleum coke from refineries has also been suggested.

Abstract

As a rule, interest in gasification tends to follow peaks in oil prices. Following a period of intensive interest during the late 1970s and early 1980s as a means to converting coal to transportation fuels, interest in gasification waned for most of the 1980s and 90s as natural gas appeared to be fairly cheap and relatively readily available as a feedstock for power and chemical production. During the recent run of high oil prices, gasification of heavy feedstocks again gained momentum, and although oil prices have dropped sharply following the economic crash at the end of 2008, they still remain at historically high levels, and may well have gained a higher ‘floor’ value as some OPEC countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia rely heavily on oil revenues to look after rapidly growing populations.

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Good vibrations

Summary

Ravi Khosla of Pennwalt Ltd reports on developments in vibrating screens for nitrogen fertilizers with particular focus on the performance of Viboscreens for urea prill screening.

Abstract

In the fertilizer industry the end products are generally in the form of granules/prills. During the production of these granules there will be some oversize material as well as dust or fines. Typically, urea prills are produced in a size ranging from 1 to 3 mm. The prills greater in size than 3 mm (oversize) and the fine particles (dust) less than 1 mm size are removed before packing the product.

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Mega-scale urea

Summary

Following extensive pilot tests at Yara, Rhewum multi-deck screening machines have been selected for the world's largest urea production line at Qafco V.

Abstract

Qafco (Qatar Fertilizer Corporation) is planning the start up of the fifth production line for urea fertilizer in Mesaieed, Qatar. The fifth production line will be the largest of its kind. Four Rhewum Multi-Deck Screens Type MDS will be used to screen 3,800 t/d of urea granules.

The Italian engineering company Snamprogetti, part of the Saipem Group, is the general contractor for the project and Uhde Fertilizer Technology, Germany, is the licensor of the urea granulation process.

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Higher capacity screening of granules

Summary

With a handling capacity of up to 400 t/h, Megatex XD screeners are Rotex's latest development to meet the requirements of ever larger fertilizer plants, especially urea plants.

Abstract

Rotex has been successfully supplying its screeners to urea processing plants for many years. A large number of Rotex machines are installed all over the world, in all fertilizer industries, especially for urea.

High-capacity Rotex screeners are widely used throughout the fertilizer industry for the removal of oversize and fines in processing and warehousing operations. To meet the higher capacity requirements of even larger fertilizer plants, Rotex now offers its latest development, Megatex XD screeners (Fig. 1).

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Grand designs

Summary

The capacity of methanol plants is increasing with plants of up to 10,000 t/d being considered. The capital cost of large-scale methanol plants is substantial and the choice of technology for syngas production is an important factor in the economics, accounting for up to 60%. Lisa Connock reports on how the latest technologies for large-scale syngas production compare.

Abstract

The capacity of methanol plants has increased significantly during the last decade. In 1996 a world-scale meth­anol plant had a capacity of 2,500 t/d. Today, several plants are in operation with double this capacity.

The production of methanol from coal is increasing in locations where natural gas is either unavailable or expensive. China, with its abundant coal reserves, is becoming a new global player in the field of methanol, not only in terms of supply and demand, but also increasingly for mega-scale meth­anol production processes, targeting important chem­icals and fuel-related products. However, the majority of methanol production still comes from natural gas. Several new plants have been constructed in areas where ­cheap natural gas is available such as in the Middle East and (cheap) natural gas is expected to remain the predominant feed for methanol production for many years to come.

Methanol has traditionally been used as the feed for the production of a range of chemicals including acetic acid and form­aldehyde but, in recent years, methanol has also been used for other markets such as the production of DME and olefins or as a blendstock for motor fuels. Consequently, plants with capacities of 10,000 t/d or more are being considered and planned, for example, for the production of methanol for the methanol-to-olefin (MTO) process. Given the substantial investment in such large-scale plants, there is considerable incentive to maximise single-line capacity to take advantage of economy of scale. Capital cost is the single biggest input into the economic feasibility of a gas to liquids (GTL) or large methanol project, but CO2 emissions are also increasingly an important factor. To be competitive, the traditional natural gas industries (ammonia and methanol) and the developing areas such as GTL and MTO need synthesis gas generation technologies that are exceptionally capital and energy efficient.

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Revamp for better ­energy efficiency

Summary

KBR has developed a new proprietary revamp technology to upgrade the ammonia synthesis loops of ammonia plants built in the 1960s to 1980s to a high-grade heat recovery synthesis loop, by implementing a simple modification in the existing ammonia converter and incorporating a HP steam raising boiler in the synthesis loop. Shashi Singh of KBR discusses the key ­features of the new system.

Abstract

More than 150 KBR technology based ammonia plants, installed in the 1960s to 1980s all over the world, use a vertical ammonia synthesis converter with an internal gas to gas heat exchanger installed at the top. As shown in Fig.1a, the catalyst beds are axial flow and arranged in series. Bed inlet temperatures are controlled using feed gas quench.

Plant owners have revamped many of these converters over the years using different types of internal basket retrofits. For example, some plants have replaced the original axial flow type baskets with axial-radial basket design retaining all the bed temperature controls as quench type. This allowed use of a smaller size catalyst and thus improved the ammonia conversion. Other plants have replaced the original axial configuration with axial-radial basket designs where some beds are kept with the original quench type temperature control but other bed has an additional internal heat exchanger in between the beds to control bed feed temperature which improves the ammonia conversion further. In spite of retrofitting the internal baskets, the basic configuration of these original KBR converters has to remain unchanged where the feed gas is relatively cold at about 130-155°C and consequently the converted gas exiting the converter is at low temperatures in the range of 320 to 360°C. Being limited by the converter pressure vessel design, the feed gas temperature can not be increased beyond the present low values.

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