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QAFCO the world's largest ammonia and urea producer

Summary

Qatar Fertilizer Company (QAFCO) has just inaugurated its QAFCO V and VI facilities, making it the world's largest single-site producer of ammonia and urea. The company plays a key role in the diversification of the Qatari economy and is co-sponsoring the highly promising Sahara Forest Project.

Abstract

Qatar Fertilizer Company (QAFCO) was incorporated in 1969 as a joint venture between the government of Qatar, Norsk Hydro of Norway, Davy Power Gas and Hambros Bank to produce ammonia and urea by utilising Qatar’s gas resources. Ownership of the company today is shared between Industries Qatar as 75% shareholder and Yara International (successor to Norsk Hydro in the fertilizer sector) with 25%. QAFCO’s inception was the first significant step in Qatar’s industrial diversification programme.

The first QAFCO plants came on stream in 1973, with capacities of 900 t/d ammonia and 1,000 t/d urea. Subsequent expansions were marked by QAFCO-II in 1979, QAFCO-III (1997) and QAFCO-IV (2004). The plants operate as integrated units, each comprising two trains, one for the production of ammonia and one for urea. Aggregate capacity totals 2 million t/a of ammonia and 3 million t/a of urea, making QAFCO the world’s largest single-site producer of ammonia.

The QAFCO Downstream and QAFCO Melamine divisions were established in 2003 to produce urea formaldehyde concentrate and melamine. Urea formaldehyde concentrate (UFC-85) is a viscous liquid containing 65% formaldehyde, 25% urea and the balance water and is an additive that is added to the urea product to improve its strength. UFC-85 is also used as an anti-caking agent for urea.

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Green light for a green desert

Summary

The joint venture between Yara International, Qatar Fertilizer Company and The Sahara Forest Project promises to advance water, energy and food security in arid regions. We examine the technology involved in the project.

Abstract

The co-operation agreement that was signed on 27 February between Yara International, Qatar Fertilizer Company (QAFCO) and The Sahara Forest Project AS is a milestone event that promises to advance food security in arid regions. The three partners have joined forces to construct a pilot plant adjacent to the QAFCO V and QAFCO VI ammonia/urea plants that will harness seawater greenhouse technology that will in turn facilitate the production of clean water, clean energy and food in a region where all three resources are in scarce supply.

The agreement was signed in Oslo by CEOs Khalifa A. Al-Sowaidi of QAFCO, Jørgen Ole Haslestad of Yara International, and Joakim Hauge of The Sahara Forest AS. The signing ceremony was in addition attended by Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister Sheikh of Qatar, Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani

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SABIC's global reach

Summary

ounded in 1976, Saudi Arabian Basic Industries (SABIC) today ranks among the world's top five petrochemical companies, being a market leader in the production of chemicals, fertilizers, plastics and metals.

Abstract

SABIC operates seven business units: Chemicals, Polymers, Performance Chemicals, Fertilizers, Metals, Innovative Plastics and Manufacturing. The group operates in more than 40 countries across the world with over 31,000 employees worldwide. Manufacturing is undertaken at 45 locations. SABIC is the largest and most consistently profitable company in the Middle East. In the fertilizer sector, the SAFCO (Saudi Arabian Fertilizer Company) subsidiary enjoys the highest profit margins of any fertilizer company in the world, at between 60-80% of sales.

In Saudi Arabia, the SABIC production facilities are based in the industrial cities of Al Jubail, Yanbu and Dammam. Several plants are operated in conjunction with overseas partners. The group’s overall production has risen from 27 million tonnes in 2001 to 66.9 million tonnes in 2010. SABIC’s Fertilizer Special Business Unit (SBU) comprises three affiliates:

l Saudi Arabia Fertilizer Co. (SAFCO)

l Al Jubail Fertilizer Co. (Al Bayroni)

l National Chemical Fertilizer Co. (Ibn Al-Baytar).

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A Kuwaiti pioneer

Summary

Petroleum Industries Corporation (PIC) of Kuwait was one of the first companies in the Gulf region to recognise the potential of harnessing abundant reserves of natural gas to produce ammonia and urea. The fertilizer sector however has not been a primary focus of recent company investment, prompting speculation among some industry analysts about PIC's longer-term intentions.

Abstract

The state-owned Petrochemicals Industries Corporation (PIC) is a subsidiary of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) and is one of the longest-established fertilizer producers in the Gulf region. At its foundation in 1961, PIC had a 40% foreign shareholding, held by BP (20%) and Gulf Oil of the United States (20%). These shares were subsequently bought out by the Kuwaiti government in the 1970s: the buy-back was completed in 1976, when PIC became 100% Kuwaiti-owned.

PIC pioneered the downstream development of ammonia and gas production in the Middle East to capture the natural gas that would otherwise have been flared off. Since the late 1960s, PIC has established a good footing in the production and marketing of urea, both at home and in overseas markets. Since production began at Shuaiba in 1966, PIC has added a further three ammonia plants and two urea plants to its aggregate capacity. This now comprises two ammonia plants with capacities of 410,000 t/a and 330,000 t/a; three units, one of 578,000 t/a and two of 289,000 t/a; and a 120,000 t/a polypropylene facility.

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OMIFCO partnership poised to expand

Summary

Oman India Fertiliser Company (OMIFCO) has enjoyed singular success since starting ammonia and urea production in 2005, consistently achieving production rates above design capacity. OMIFCO's output is destined primarily towards the Indian market, but it is hoped to expand production subject to an agreement being reached on long-term gas supply.

Abstract

Oman India Fertiliser Company (OMIFCO) was set up as a partnership between Oman Oil Co. (OOC), with a 50% stake, and Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operative Ltd. (IFFCO) and Krishak Bharati Co-operative Ltd. (KRIBHCO), each with a 25% shareholding. The partners operate a world-scale ammonia and urea production facility at Sur, Oman. Capacity totals two ammonia units, each with a capacity of 1,750 t/d, using Haldor Topsøe technology, including a CO2 removal system licensed by Giammarco Vetrocoke; and two 2,530 t/d granular urea plants, using Snamprogetti urea synthesis technology and Hydro granulation technology. Ammonia Train 1 was commissioned in March 2005 and Urea Train 1 followed in April 2005. The second ammonia and urea trains were commissioned in May 2005. Annual capacity for urea and ammonia is 1.65 million t/a and 1.15 million t/a respectively. The project was built at a total cost of $960 million. Since coming on stream, both trains of the ammonia and urea plants have achieved consistently higher than capacity operating rates. OMIFCO reported a utilisation rate of 109% in 2009: capacity utilisation was believed to have reached a record 120% in 2010.

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Ultrabulk the potash and phosphate shipping partner

Summary

Ultrabulk Shipping A/S is the new identity of U-Sea Shipping. The Danish-based dry bulk shipping specialist has secured a long-term contract agreement with Canpotex Limited, for whom a dedicated fleet of Supramax vessels is currently entering service, and has followed this with an agreement to ship Agrium's phosphates products from Morocco to the West Coast of Canada. In addition, a long-term agreement has been arranged with PotashCorp for potash cargoes from the East Coast of Canada to mainly Latin American destinations.

Abstract

Canpotex Limited is the world’s largest exporter of potash, marketing and distributing Saskatchewan potash internationally, principally to countries in Asia, Latin America and Oceania. The company’s potash sales average between 8-9 million t/a, worth between C$5-6 billion. Through its long-term relationships and integrated logistics and handling systems, Canpotex consistently fulfils supply arrangements with international customers. The Canpotex Marketing department maintains direct contact with buyers, while the Operations group ensures that the tonnes sold reach customers on time and at the least cost. The Operations team incorporates a logistics division that is responsible for a dedicated fleet of 5,400 railcars, terminal facilities in Vancouver, Canada and Portland, USA and an expanding fleet of ocean-going vessels.

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Revamps gather pace

Summary

We report on the major plant revamps that are coming on stream in the ammonia and urea sectors, focusing on the technologies being supplied.

Abstract

Ever tightening emissions legislation and the continuing escalation in feedstock prices are the hammer and anvil that are spurring a wave of ammonia and urea plant revamps throughout the world. The modernisation of a plant also provides an opportunity to remove all other inefficiencies, address reliability issues and enhance plant capacity, harnessing the latest in production technologies.

One recent case study was the upgrading of the Azomures urea plant in Romania in order to increase capacity and energy efficiency. The original plant dated from 1974 and incorporated two urea lines, each with a design capacity of 450 t/d. When built, the Azomures facility employed the best-available technology, in the form of Stamicarbon’s total recycle conventional technicology. (Total recycle urea solution plant revamping for capacity increase and energy efficiency, Pan Orphanides. Paper presented at IFA Technical Conference, Sun City [April 2010].) In comparison with more recently built plants, the Azomures plant displayed various shortcomings, including:

l High energy (steam and electric power) consumption

l High synthesis pressure, leading to increased maintenance requirements on the high-pressure compressors and pumps

l Conversion efficiency at the synthesis limited to 60-62%

l High amounts of non-reacted components, leading to a low urea content in the solution out of synthesis

l High amounts of non-reacted components (CO2, NH3, H2O) to be treated in the downstream sections, requiring larger-sized equipment and piping

l High amounts of water and carbamate recycled back to the synthesis, resulting in high energy consumption and limited conversion rates.

 

A further spur to revamping of the Azomures plant came from impending EU legislation, which stipulated a drastic reduction in urea dust and ammonia emissions from the prilling tower by 2013. Azomures was contemplating converting the plant to granular urea production.

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Curbing sulphuric acid plant emissions

Summary

The leading suppliers of sulphuric acid plant technology report further advances in the curtailment of sulphur dioxide (SO2) gas emissions

Abstract

Ever more stringent regulatory requirements regarding SO2 emissions from sulphuric acid plants have driven a series of innovations and enhancements in acid plant technology.

In the European Union, SO2 conversion rates of 99.8% for double absorption plants are statutory. Sulphur-burning sulphuric acid plants can usually achieve this requirement by applying 4-bed converters in a 3+1 configuration or 5-bed converters in a 3+2 configuration. Depending on process design and catalyst configuration, SO2 conversion rates of 99.9% are attainable. (Achieving lower SO2 emissions from acid plants, Sulphur, No. 327 [March/April 2010].) For a common double absorption plant with 11-12 vol-% inlet SO2 concentration and a conversion rate of 99.8%, the SO2 concentration in the clean gas is about 330 ppm, which results in an emission of 1.3 kg SO2/tonne H2SO4.

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A place in the sun

Summary

The AIChE Central Florida section will host the 36th Annual Phosphate Fertilizer and Sulphuric Acid Technology Conference at its regular venue of the Sheraton Sand Key Resort at Clearwater Beach, Florida. The meeting takes place on Friday, 8 June and Saturday, 9 June, comprising two half-day sessions. Friday's session will be the sulphuric acid workshop while two parallel sessions on Saturday will be devoted to phosphate and sulphuric acid technology.

Abstract

he sulphuric acid workshop on Friday afternoon, 8 June is always a lively event as experts in the design and operation of sulphuric acid plants exchange thoughts and experiences. Rick Davies and Jim Dougherty will as customary be the moderators. A lively session is guaranteed! The focus in this year’s Workshop is Sulphuric acid coolers. The topic will focus mainly on anodically-protected shell and tube heat exchangers that have dominated the industry for more than 20 years. The reliability of these coolers is second to none and they are now accepted as proven technology, but they require maintenance for continuing reliability. The workshop will discuss:

l Acid coolers design parameters

l Cooler maintenance procedures

l Eddy examination of acid coolers (HDT)

l Water treatment

l Tube failures.

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Maximising global resources in a volatile market

Summary

In the two years since CRU Events last convened its Phosphates Conference and Exhibition, the market has stabilised, with prices remaining above historic norms. However, the phosphates sector is still subject to volatility. Phosphates 2012 provided the forum to assess the drivers and prospects for the market for fertilizer, feed and industrial phosphates, as well as evaluating other issues that have come to the fore.

Abstract

RU Events’ Phosphates 2012 was the fifth such biennial forum that is uniquely dedicated to the fertilizer, industrial and feed phosphate businesses. For the first time, the meeting was convened outside Europe, the venue being Morocco, at the Mazagan Hotel and Resort, Al-Jadida.

Mhamed Ibnabdeljalil

, Executive Vice President Sales, Marketing & Raw Material Procurement for OCP, made the opening presentation, addressing the conference theme of Maximising Global Phosphate Resources. He emphasised the importance of bringing conservation issues to the forefront, especially against a background of controversy over the exploitation and use of the phosphate resource. Volatility is another key factor in current phosphate markets.

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Tackling evaporation losses

Summary

We examine areas where attention should be paid to ensure best management practices.

Abstract

Different wet phosphoric acid processes used around the world produce green acids with concentrations between 28% and 44% P2O5. The acid coming out from the reactor tanks must be concentrated in one-to-three evaporation stages. Each evaporations stage consists of an axial pump, a heat exchanger, a flash tank, a scrubber and a condenser and vacuum pump. Because industrial green phosphoric acid is extremely corrosive, rubber-lined flash tank and piping, a graphite heat exchanger and an axial pump in nickel alloy are usually used. (How to increase the overall output of phosphoric acid evaporation loops while reducing their total cost of ownership, Loïc Bernard, SGL Group Process Technology. Paper presented at AIChE Clearwater Conference [June 2011].)

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Spotlight on non-fertilizer P

Summary

We summarise some of the presentations at Phosphates 2012 covering the industrial, feed and food phosphates sectors.

Abstract

Ashok Shinh, CRU’s Principal Consultant, Industrial and Chemicals, assessed the Outlook for industrial phosphates. The growth in the demand for industrial and food phosphates matches the growth in world GDP. The industrial and food phosphates industry comprises the production of STPP, purified phosphoric acid (PPA) and an industrial phosphates industry, with a range of products from commodity-specification phosphates to specially-formulated products.

STPP is produced for the detergents sector. Global detergent STPP demand has fallen by over 1 million t/a since 2007, reflecting further restrictions on detergent phosphates. China exported 346,000 tonnes of STPP in 2011, some 40% down on the average export level of 600,000 t/a in the 2006-09 period. STPP demand is projected to decline further, perhaps eventually stabilising at around 1.2 million t/a. Between 2011 and 2020, the share of detergents and cleaners in the total worldwide demand for industrial and food phosphates is forecast to fall from 34% to 27%.

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Acron expands into Canada

Summary

The Russian fertilizer producer, JSC Acron, is one of the world's largest nitrogen fertilizer producers. The company is planning to diversify into the potash sector and to this end is considering a massive expansion into Canada. Eugene Gerden describes the latest progress with the project.

Abstract

JSC Acron is considering a massive expansion into the Canadian potash sector, either through the development of local potash deposits independently, or in conjunction with the Rio Tinto group. This project is expected to be part of Acron’s $4 billion investment programme up to 2020. According to the latest company plans, the development of Acron’s potash property will get under way during the next few years. Ownership is vested with Acron’s Canadian subsidiary, North Atlantic Potash, which was established as a joint venture with Rio Tinto in September 2011.

Currently, the Acron and Rio Tinto joint venture operates nine licence areas in Canada, which are located in an area totalling 240,000 ha, extending from the eastern shore of Last Mountain Lake, south east to Broadview in eastern Saskatchewan. Acron Group has taken a 60% share in the joint venture, while Rio Tinto holds 40%. According to sources close to the project, Rio Tinto will provide the majority of funds for the project, part of which will be invested in exploration works. There are longer term plans to construct a mining and processing complex in the area.

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