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Publication > Issue > Articles

Methanol is growing strong

Summary

Gregory Dolan, executive director Americas/Europe for the Methanol Institute, highlights some of the activities of the organisation and the key issues for methanol in the future.

Abstract

In early December, the leaders of the global methanol industry will gather in San Diego for the World Methanol Conference, at a time when the industry is pivoting towards a new era of growth. This transformation has roots stretching back to the dawn of the automotive age, when Henry Ford sought to run his first cars on alcohol fuels, only to be swayed away by John Rockefeller and his oil discoveries. These roots sprung up again in California in the late 1980s, as the state saw methanol as the solution to oil price shocks and the smog that hung over Los Angeles. But as oil prices tumbled back and state officials sought the promise of zero emission vehicles – still a largely unmet dream – methanol faded back. Now, these roots have taken firm hold in China, where methanol represents more than five percent of the country’s transportation fuel pool. Cars, taxis, buses and trucks are running on methanol blends ranging from M-15 and M-85, to neat methanol, as China seeks affordable and clean sources of domestic fuels. We are also seeing offshoots of these roots, with interest in methanol fuels springing up in Australia and Iceland, Trinidad and Malaysia.

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Plastics from syngas

Summary

Nitrogen+Syngas reviews progress with methanol to olefins (MTO) technologies, which offer a potential heavy feedstock route to plastics production, and a way of offseting some of the growing propylene production gap.

Abstract

Global demand for light olefins, particularly ethylene and propylene, is growing rapidly. Consumption of ethylene, mostly for polyethylene production, was 112 million tonnes in 2009, and is growing by about 4% year on year. Global propylene demand reached 75 million tonnes in 2010. Propylene is mainly (65%) destined for polypropylene production, with propylene oxide, acrylic acid, acrylonitile, cumenes and oxo-alcohols also among major derivatives.

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AIChE Conference highlights corrosion risks

Summary

The 56th Safety in Ammonia Plants and Related Facilities Symposium, organised by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, was held in Montreal, Canada, from September 11th to 15th 2011.

Abstract

Montreal was the setting for the AIChE’s annual ammonia safety symposium, with over 400 attendees gathering to discuss issues arising from ammonia and related plant issues. This year there seemed to be a particular focus on problems with corrosion, especially at welds.

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Regional focus: Southeast Asia

Summary

Development of 'stranded' gas reserves in the 1970s and 80s made the region a major exporter of urea, but more recently growing populations and rapid industrialisation are beginning to alter patterns of energy, fertilizer and chemical consumption.

Abstract

Southeast Asia is a large and diverse region, ranging from the mountains of Burma and the mainland Asian nations to the islands of the Indonesian archipelago. With a rapidly growing population put at 560 million people, and a $330 billion consumer market (equivalent to China’s maritime provinces), it is a major market, although regional GDP growth rates have dropped in the wake of the 1997 Asian economic crisis, and foreign investment has often been more attracted to China.

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Worldwide urea plants overview

Summary

A complete overview of all urea plants in operation worldwide has been compiled by UreaKnowHow.com and Hofung Technology, providing an insight into the number of plants worldwide, their capacities, technology and geographical distribution.

Abstract

UreaKnowHow.com, together with Hofung Technology in China, has compiled a complete overview of all urea plants in operation worldwide, including plants in China. These plants are plotted in a Google maps application on UreaKnowHow.com, where key data of these plants like owner, plant capacity, technology etc are shown.

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A new era of efficient coal utilisation

Summary

Over the past decade there has been renewed interest in the synthesis of gasoline from methanol, more commonly known as methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) technology. Quirin Erbschwendner of ThyssenKrupp Uhde GmbH discusses the development and commercialisation of MTG technology and reports on new projects worldwide.

Abstract

Soaring prices for the primary fuels oil and gas are currently driving demand for alternative energy sources with the fundamental aim of limiting dependency on expensive energy imports. At the same time, thought is being given on a national level as to how far the utilisation of domestically available energy resources, which have in the past lost appeal, can now be re-intensified. Throughout the world domestic coal is now once again gaining in importance both economically and politically. Examples in the USA and China prove this without a doubt. Starting with the fossil fuel, coal – especially coal of a low quality i.e. with a high ash or sulphur content – can be subjected to a number of process steps to obtain a variety of end products, such as fuels, chemicals and electricity.

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Topsøe Integrated Gasoline Synthesis (TIGAS) technology

Summary

Converting abundant resources such as stranded natural gas, coal/petcoke and biomass into synthetic fuels is attracting renewed interest, spurred by high oil and energy prices. In this article, B. Hinnemann and F. Joensen of Haldor Topsøe A/S describe the Topsøe Integrated Gasoline Synthesis process, which converts synthesis gas to hydrocarbons via methanol and dimethyl ether, and identify the scenarios in which this technology may provide an attractive and economical option to meet this challenge.

Abstract

During the last decade, oil prices have increased, only interrupted by setbacks in the global economy. This general trend is expected to continue. At the same time, large natural gas resources such as shale gas have been identified and gas prices have gradually become decoupled from oil prices and do not increase in the same manner. These developments have created an interest in technologies to produce clean synthetic fuels from feedstock such as natural gas, coal or biomass. Most of the technologies are not new. During the oil crisis in the 1970s, technologies such as ExxonMobil’s methanol-to-gasoline (MTG)1 and Haldor Topsøe’s Topsøe Integrated Gasoline Synthesis (TIGAS)2 processes were developed and demonstrated. With decreasing oil prices in the 1980s the interest in these technologies faded and was dormant for about two decades. However, high energy prices and a volatile energy supply situation have led to a revival of these technologies and to their introduction in improved second-generation forms.

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Commissioning experience of world's largest urea plant

Summary

At the end of 2010, Engro Fertilizers commissioned the world's largest single-train urea complex capable of producing 2,200 t/d ammonia and 3,835 t/d prilled urea. M. Idrees, M. Azhar and M.Y. Rathore of Engro Fertilizers Limited share Engro's successful commissioning experience. The roadmap of the project is explained including training phases, field execution and commissioning activities. The problems encountered and key lessons learned during the project are also discussed.

Abstract

Engro Fertilizers Limited is the second largest manufacturer of urea in Pakistan. Previously, Engro was a 75% owned affiliate of Exxon Corporation. In 1991, Exxon decided to sell its 75% equity holding in Engro as part of a global strategy to divest from the fertilizer business. Nearly 500 employees of Engro, in partnership with a group of leading local and foreign financial institutions, acquired Exxon’s equity holding in Engro. The manufacturing site is located in a small town of Pakistan known as Daharki, which is 600 km north of the famous port city of Karachi.

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Plant Manager+ : Problem No. 9 Unblocking pipelines after a urea plant shutdown

Summary

In several sections of a urea plant, pipelines can become easily blocked when temperatures become too low and crystallisation can take place. In the evaporation section, urea melt is present which crystallises at about 133°C when in the pure form. Furthermore, urea can also polymerise to biuret, triuret and poly-urea with high crystallisation temperatures when urea is kept for a longer period at high temperatures. In addition to pipelines becoming blocked, the internals of several equipment items can also suffer from these problems as shown in the picture (right). In the recirculation section ammonium carbamate is present which crystallises at about 153°C when in pure form. And in the high pressure synthesis section, urea and carbamate mixtures are present. During normal operation the risk of blocked lines is small, however, during a shutdown of the plant, blocking can occur if the right measures are not taken. This Round Table discussion discusses which measures to take and what to do when a line is blocked.

Abstract

Mr Manzoor Ahmad Taraqfdar of Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation in Bangladesh initiates the discussion:
When restarting our urea plant after a shutdown, on several occasions we have experienced a line blockage. We are not sure whether the white material is ammonium carbonate or ammonium carbamate. Normally this blockage can be removed by hot water. In cases where a water wash is not possible without dismantling the pipeline, we have tried flame heating of the pipe from the outside by removing the insulation. However, most of the time it did not work and we have had to dismantle the pipeline.

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