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New methanol synthesis catalyst

Summary

At the IMTOF conference in Amsterdam this June, JMC launched a new methanol synthesis catalyst, KATALCO APICO, with increased activity.

Abstract

Johnson Matthey Catalysts (JMC) launched what they describe as “a new generation of methanol synthesis catalysts” during the International Methanol Technology Operators Forum (IMTOF) in Amsterdam, on June 23rd. The new development, known as KATALCO APICO, is a higher activity catalyst with other significant features to allow for increased methanol production.

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The global gas industry

Summary

The bursting of the commodity price bubble has turned expectations for the gas market on their head. Far from looming shortages and high prices encouraging diversification into other feedstocks, predictions are now of overcapacity and five years or more of relatively low gas prices.

Abstract

Since the onset of global recession gas prices have crashed from their highs of September 2008. In the US, the recession has driven gas prices to roughly $4/MMBtu, dropping at one point to a six-year low of $3.15/MMBtu in April. NYMEX natural gas futures spiked above $14/MMBtu by the summer of 2008 as oil prices surged above US$140 per barrel, but have declined more than 70% since then. Figure 1 shows natural gas prices at the main US and European hubs (Henry Hub and National Balance Point respectively) for the past four years. European prices have actually taken longer to fall, but recent figures for June actually put NBP prices in the UK as low as $4.50/MMBtu. Although oil prices have stabilised and even risen slightly, gas demand appears to have simply evaporated. What is going on?

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Rough seas ahead

Summary

Ammonia is shipped primarily in large, pressurised refrigerated vessels also used for shipping liquefied petroleum gas, the market for which has seen a huge glut of capacity over the past two years.

Abstract

Ammonia shipping is conducted in pressurised, refrigerated liquid gas tankers, which are also suitable for a number of other cargoes, in particular propane or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). For this reason the market for ammonia shipping is occasionally overshadowed by the related market for LPG shipping. The global market for LPG stood at around 230 million t/a in 2007, of which seaborne trade represented 57 million t/a, or almost exactly 25%. The global ammonia market, by contrast, was smaller at around 155 million t/a in 2008, but – because it can be readily converted into urea, which is more easily transportable – the proportion of ammonia shipped is actually much smaller, at around 12%, or 19 million t/a.

In addition to LPG and ammonia, LPG tankers also carry ethylene, proplyene, butadiene and vinyl chloride monomer, which together had a total seaborne trade of around 11 million t/a in 2007. Of the total market for shipping liquid pressurised gases and similar petrochemicals, therefore, which was around 87 million t/a in 2007, ammonia represented only around 20%.

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De-bottle-necking a CO2 removal system

Summary

Fauji Fertilizer Co, in collaboration with BASF, has increased the capacity of its aMDEA® carbon dioxide removal system by more than 15% using a new BASF solution formulation (aMDEA® HICAP). The solvent was upgraded without requiring any shutdown and the system has been operating satisfactorily since May 2007. Sahban Zafar Ali of Fauji and AikMeam Tan of BASF present an overview of the process.

Abstract

The Fauji Fertilizer Company (FFC) is the leading urea manufacturer in Pakistan and operates three large-scale ammonia/urea plants licensed by Haldor Topsoe and Saipem SpA (formerly Snamprogetti). The FFC II plant, located at Goth Machhi-Punjab, was commissioned in 1993 and has a nameplate capacity of 1,100 t/d ammonia and 1,925 t/d urea. The plant has been giving satisfactory performance since inception, operating consistently at about 108% of design capacity.

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Better performance with reduced energy

Summary

Revamping of the CO2 removal unit in older ammonia plants is an economically attractive way to increase capacity and lower energy consumption. CO2 removal plants with twin parallel strippers and two-stage absorption were widely used in the past and are ideal candidates for revamping with the GV low energy process at minimum cost and with little or no disruption.

Abstract

Revamping the CO2 removal unit in older ammonia plants to make energy savings and/or increase capacity is a well established and proven practice. Giammarco Vetrocoke (GV), located in Venice, Italy, has over 50 years experience in the design, commissioning and revamping of CO2 removal systems and has licensed over 325 units worldwide. Key milestones for GV developments are:

  • 1950: the discovery of activators, which enhance the performance of hot potassium carbonate (HPC) solutions, drastically reducing plant size and energy requirements.
  • 1970: the replacement of the arsenic-based inorganic activator by glycine, a non-toxic, organic activator, in order to meet the increased demand for non-toxic solvents.
  • 1980: the wide industrial application of the GV low energy regeneration process at two pressure levels, which allows the regeneration heat requirement to be cut by 35-45%.
  • 1990: the introduction into the market of the GV dual activated solution, in which a second added activator (a secondary amine) works in synergy with the glycine, achieving lower CO2 slip (typically 200-300 ppm) and lower capital, thanks to the smaller column size.
  • 1996: the acquisition of the activities of the Carsol process with the exclusive rights to apply Carsol knowhow for the construction of new units and/or the revamp of existing ones1.

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High precision catalyst loading

Summary

Proper loading of catalytic reformers is critical for optimum utilisation and thus the performance of the catalyst. In addition, the loading may be limited with respect to time and manpower resources. State-of-the-art, highly automated loading methods provide faster and more uniform loading of reformer tubes and reduce the possibility of human error.

Abstract

Improving the performance of modern steam reformers in commercial plants has never been so crucial in improving overall plant operations. In the present economic slowdown, competition has become stronger and only increased performance along the whole production chain can sustain the downstream business. The performance of reformers is critically influenced by the reformer catalyst itself and the loading process used to correctly place the catalyst in the tubes. In turn, the loading process is dictated by the catalyst‘s activity, shape and size. Thus, the requirements for increasing the reformer‘s performance represent challenges both for the catalyst and the loading process, which are interlated1. Good loading provides uniform catalyst packing in every tube, allowing a uniform gas flow in each tube and a consistent tube wall temperature (TWT) profile for all tubes.

Figure 1 shows the big void volumes in the tubes resulting from a poor loading against a good packed bed in Fig. 2. Such voids would negatively affect the process causing “hot spots” and “hot bands” in the tubes. Their distribution along the tube can differ, resulting in “giraffe necking”and/or “tiger tails” (Fig. 3). Their occurrences are influenced by the loading quality and the size, shape and mechanical stability of the catalyst bodies.

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Iron catalyst stands the test of time

Summary

Dedicated to the 140th birthday of Alwin Mittasch (1869-1955), Kisnaduth Kesore, Norbert Ringer, Stefan Gebert, and David Rice of Süd-Chemie AG describe two innovations in ammonia synthesis, both based on promoted iron, but separated by 100 years. Ammonia synthesis catalyst has been based on the magnetite form of iron (also called Mittasch's type) since its industrial birth at BASF in 1913. No other catalyst in chemical history has remained unchallenged for so long. Now, after nearly a century, an innovative breakthrough in catalysis has led to the discovery of a new iron catalyst based on wustite. AmoMax®-10 is more active than magnetite at low temperature and pressure, making the ammonia process more efficient and safer with big cost savings.

Abstract

100 years of ammonia production through a single patent! Ammonia is a very special molecule for which we should proudly celebrate the last century of success. Gaseous ammonia was first isolated by Joseph Priestley in 1774 and its composition was ascertained by Claude Louis Berthollet in 1785. In 1909 an industrial process was successfully developed for the manufacture of ammonia directly from nitrogen in the air by Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch. The Haber-Bosch process is still used for ammonia production today, and has paved the way for the development of chemical technologies, in particular for those technologies using high pressures and temperatures.

It is surprising how this patent changed the world. As a result, billions of people have been fed (ammonia used for fertilizers). Ammonia-based explosives have been an important factor in armed conflicts and for the mining industry and some environmental changes (eutrophication through fertilizers) have been set in motion. After one whole century of a moving history, ammonia is without doubt one of the most familiar compounds as well as one of the world’s most valuable industrial and agricultural chemicals.

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