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Safety still to the fore at AN/NA

Summary

This year's nitric acid and ammonium nitrate meetings were held in the NH Conference Centre Leeuwenhorst, near Nordwijkerhout, the Netherlands, from September 26th to October 1st, 2010, its first visit to Europe.

Abstract

Moving across the Atlantic certainly seemed to have been a popular move with attendees, as this year’s nitric acid and ammonium nitrate conferences gathered a record attendance from around the world, with over 350 registered participants. Host company Yara were ably assisted by Uhde, JMC and RS Bruce, the latter companies organising the exhibition and spouse programme, as well as some of the evening events, which on one occasion took delegates for an epicurean evening of beer and Belgian specialities in Antwerp. Yara also ferried delegates to their site at Sluiskil in Zeeland, by the Belgian border to view their nitric acid and ammonium nitrate facilities at first hand.
The NH Conference Centre is a former seminary situated in the heart of the tulip-growing region (sadly out of season in September) and only two kilometres from the North Sea coastline and the seaside resort of Nordwijk, where delegates spent a pleasant evening’s entertainment on Monday night. If the setting was a little remote and the weather typical for a cold, grey and drizzly northern European autumn, it at least helped delegates focus on the business at hand!

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Making methanol from CO2

Summary

With increasing global concern about atmospheric CO2 levels, a way of transforming carbon dioxide into useful chemicals would seem to be an attractive alternative to long-term storage. Researchers in various countries have been looking at transforming CO2 into methanol.

Abstract

There is now a global scientific consensus that the current rise in global temperatures – by a global average of 0.7 degrees C during the 20th century, and a projected 1-6 degrees C during the 21st – is as a result of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Due to the burning of fossil fuels the atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased by 20% in the last 50 years.
While strategies to mitigate CO2 emissions via switching to lower carbon energy
sources and using energy more efficiently have their place in a global strategy to tackle CO2 emissions, a great deal of research has also focused on trying to reduce CO2 emissions at their source, via ‘capturing’ the carbon dioxide and using it for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in place of methane or other gases, or trapping the carbon dioxide in underground reservoirs – carbon capture and storage (CCS). However, the long-term viability of CCS schemes has yet to be proven, and the number and capacity of sites suitable for long-term storage of CO2 remains small compared to the volumes of gas that are produced daily by the industries that we all depend on.

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CO2 based methanol ready for industrial scale

Summary

To limit the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, CO2 has to be captured, sequestered or reused as a replacement for fossil fuels. Following extensive tests for methanol synthesis based on CO2 and H2, Air Liquide* has illustrated the technical feasibility of an energy efficient technology for CO2 based methanol production.

Abstract

Large quantities of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) are emitted constantly to the atmosphere from a variety of industrial and non-industrial sources. It is widely accepted that too high a CO2 concentration can result in significant and possibly irreversible changes to the world’s climate. Due to the burning of fossil fuels, the CO2 concentration has increased by 20% in the last 50 years. Ongoing discussions at governmental levels are attempting to develop a worldwide legal framework to maintain and then reduce the CO2 levels in the atmosphere over the next 40 years.
Applying more energy efficient technologies or cars with lower petrol consumption can help to mitigate this problem. However, to limit the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, CO2 has to be captured, sequestered or reused as a replacement for fossil fuels1. An interesting approach favoured by the Air Liquide Group, amongst others, is the chemical monetisation of CO2 by its conversion into methanol according to the reactions shown in Fig. 1.

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The future of DME

Summary

The main market for DME in the future is likely to be as a fuel. The physical properties of DME make it attractive as a clean substitute for both LPG and diesel oil. Existing LPG infrastructures such as tanks and tankers can be used with minor modifications and the total investment cost of a DME plant is smaller than that of either LNG or GTL (FT synthesis) facilities. In China, DME plants for fuel use are already in commercial operation. In East Asia many studies have been done on applications of DME and more are in progress. In China many small- and mid-scale DME projects for local fuel use are planned. Toyo Engineering Corporation has licensed several DME plants based on the methanol dehydration process and has developed a jumbo DME plant concept.

Abstract

DME (dimethyl ether) is the simplest ether produced from methanol, which is the simplest alcohol produced from synthesis gas. DME is non-toxic and is currently used as a chemical for aerosol propellants as well as other former applications of chlorofluorocarbons. DME for chemical use is currently produced by the dehydration of methanol in small-scale plants of the order of 10,000 t/a in Japan and 200,000 t/a in the world in total1.
However, the main market for DME in the future is likely to be as a fuel. The physical properties of DME make it very attractive as a substitute for LPG and diesel oil as a clean fuel producing neither SOx nor particulate matter (PM). See Table 1.

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Can syngas ease China's fuel crisis?

Summary

China faces a potential doubling of gasoline consumption over the next decade as the number of cars increases. The government has looked to syngas-based fuels, often made from coal, as a potential way of easing dependence on oil imports, but policy has been inconsistent.

Abstract

China’s hunger for energy as it develops has become one of the ‘givens’ of our era. From 2000 to 2009, Chinese energy use has more than doubled, from 983 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) to 2200 mtoe, according to BP, and at the moment the trend is showing no signs of stopping, although the rapid growth has created strains and stresses which could cause a slowdown some time in the years to come. Rates of GDP growth are still running at a consistent 9-10% per annum, and energy use is growing with it. Figure 1 shows the breakdown of Chinese energy consumption in 2009 by fuel.
Coal clearly predominates consumption, accounting for 70% of primary energy use, with oil representing another 20%. Although natural gas use has quadrupled over the past decade, from about 27.5 bcm in 2000 to 90 bcm in 2009, it still has only a relatively small 4% share of energy consumption. Perhaps most worrying for the Chinese government is that oil consumption has risen from 234 million t/a in 2000 to 419 million t/a in 2009. The increase has far outstripped Chinese production, which amounts to 189 million t/a, and oil imports have soared as a result. With more than 50% of its oil now having to be imported from overseas, China’s government has become concerned both for balance of payments and energy security reasons.

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High activity catalyst assessment for methanol reactors

Summary

Toyo Engineering Corporation has assessed the impact of the latest high activity methanol synthesis catalysts on reactor size. Three different reactor types were compared: Toyo's MRF-Z reactor, the isothermal reactor and adiabatic reactors with external cooling. For large scale production of 5,000 t/d methanol it was found that only the MRF-Z reactor can achieve this capacity in a single reaction vessel.

Abstract

Several methanol plants around the world, operating in Trinidad, Iran, Saudi Arabia and China, have already broken through the production capacity of 5,000 t/d per plant. However, all of these plants still employ two or more reactors to achieve these high production capacities. At the 2009 World Methanol Conference, the three major manufacturers of methanol synthesis catalyst, Johnson Matthey, Süd-Chemie and Haldor Topsøe, announced the development of highly active catalyst, developed primarily to reduce the size of the methanol synthesis reactor in order to reduce initial capital expenditure. Toyo Engineering Corporation (Toyo) has assessed the performance of highly active catalyst. As a process technology provider, Toyo is able to select on a project-by-project basis the most suitable catalyst for the Toyo proprietary methanol synthesis reactor, MRF-Z®. The assessment was made for three types of reactor to be designed for a 5,000 t/d plant and concluded that the improvement of catalyst activity to 200% of the benchmarked catalyst does not affect size reduction of any reactors other than MRF-Z® when designing a single reaction vessel for 5,000 t/d production.

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World scale urea plants

Summary

Economy of scale is driving urea plant capacities higher and higher. Fifty years ago urea plants typically produced about 70 t/d, but since then plant capacities have shown a continuous increase to approximately 3,000 t/d ten years ago to nearly 4,000 t/d today. Mark Brouwer of UreaKnowHow.com investigates the trend for ever increasing plant sizes.

Abstract

Debottlenecking technologies are an important tool to establish technologies for larger plant technologies with limited risks. Both Saipem and Stamicarbon have performed preliminary designs to confirm the feasibility of  5000+ t/d urea plants. The first 5,000+ t/d urea plant is expected to be licensed in the next decade.
The size of a world scale urea plant has increased over time and is driven by the economy of scale. Figure 1 shows the typical trend in operational costs versus plant capacity.

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