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Gas is the challenge for Indonesia

Summary

David Hayes reports on how parts of Indonesia's urea industry are facing a growing scarcity of affordable natural gas feedstock as local demand for gas continues to rise and subsidies are withdrawn.

Abstract

Indonesia’s nitrogen fertilizer industry is facing challenging times due to significant changes in the domestic natural gas supply situation over the past few years. The Arun gas field in northern Sumatra, which supplies gas for methanol/urea production at three plants and the manufacture of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export, is fast running out of gas and no nearby reserves exist to replace lost production.

At the same time the fertilizer industry is adjusting to recent regulatory changes in the Indonesian gas market. Although designed to increase the gas share of total domestic energy use, deregulating domestic gas supply will cause problems for urea producers who cannot afford to pay international prices for natural gas feedstock.

Fertilizer production is almost entirely a state industry in Indonesia where state-owned ammonia/urea manufacturer PT Pupuk Sriwidjaja (Pusri) also acts as the government’s holding company for the four other state-owned fertilizer manufacturers. The volume of fertilizer produced by privately owned plants is minimal – few private investors have been attracted to the sector due to the fact that fertilizer production in Indonesia generally is not a profitable activity.

In addition to ammonia-urea production, most NPK blending plants also are state-run enterprises. The few exceptions to the rule include the joint venture PT Asean Aceh Fertilizer ammonia/urea plant in North Sumatra’s Aceh province and a small, privately owned NPK blending plant in Medan, capital of North Sumatra, which supplies nearby oil palm plantations.

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Towards a greener fertilizer industry

Summary

Dr M.P. Sukumaran Nair of Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) Ltd discusses developments in the nitrogenous fertilizer industry towards achieving the twin goals of more efficient production while meeting environmental quality requirements.

Abstract

Over the past fifty years there has been a step-by-step development in the fertilizer producer’s approach to environmental issues. After the early days of ignoring effluents and discharges to the environment, efforts were made to dilute pollutant-bearing streams before discharge, which have eventually given way to state-of-the-art treatment plants. The current trend is towards reduction at source and prevention of pollution. Environmental regulations everywhere are getting more and more stringent and industries are under heavy pressure to improve their environmental performance by avoiding pollution, adopting clean technologies and fostering sustainable development. A shift in environmental policy has taken place, based on the environmental management hierarchy, which calls for preventing pollution whenever feasible. Pollution prevention approaches and techniques are now regarded as an essential part of business operations. In future, industries will be required to advance eco-efficiency and other approaches that shift businesses ‘beyond compliance’ and increase corporate environmental stewardship. It will therefore become necessary to integrate environmental factors into their corporate accounting and decision-making processes and utilise the rapid growth of corporate environmental management systems to promote prevention.

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Adblue hits the streets

Summary

New European diesel quality regulations have led to a new source of demand for urea; as the basis of a selective catalytic reduction system called AdBlue, which is being rolled out across Europe this year.

Abstract

European vehicle emissions standards for heavy duty trucks and buses have been steadily tightening since the introduction of the ‘Euro I’ standard in 1992. In October 2005, the latest tightening of the regulations, ‘Euro IV’, will come into force. Table 1 summarises the regulations. As can be seen, Euro IV mandates a significant reduction in all components of the exhaust, but most especially particulate matter. The reductions are such that it has been decided only an on-board selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system will be able to cope with this new regulation.

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Snamprogetti urea symposium

Summary

From 12th-15th October, Snamprogetti hosted its 4th Urea Users Symposium in the resort of Giardini Naxos on Sicily. Some 100 delegates from 18 countries attended.

Abstract

Every day 132,000 tonnes of nitrogenous fertilizer are produced by urea plants which use Snamprogetti technology. Snamprogetti technology differs from competitors in being based on the use of excess ammonia to avoid corrosion as well as promote the decomposition of unconverted carbamate into urea.

The development of the Snamprogetti urea process has taken place in successive ‘onionlike’ layers to accommodate new ideas, new approaches and new scenarios. The culmination of this approach has been the completion of the world’s largest single stream urea plant with a production capacity of 3,250 t/d at Bahia Blanca, in Argentina, currently producing 3,600 t/d on a continuous basis. On this project, Snamprogetti assumed the dual role of technology licensor and of engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the entire ammonia/urea complex and its associated facilities. Snamprogetti has achieved the impressive total of 3,250 t/d of urea capacity in this project, and there is every reason to believe that the company will be successful in reaching its new goal of 5,000 t/d in this project.

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The mammoth approaches

Summary

Practical concerns such as fabrication and logistical limits on equipment sizes and the need to convince the industry and its financiers are shaping the evolution of 5,000-t/d single-stream urea plant designs.

Abstract

At each stage in the evolution of the process for synthesising urea from ammonia and carbon dioxide – the introduction first of partial recycle, then of total recycle and, finally, of stripping in the HP loop – the efficiency and economics of the process have been substantially improved and attainable plant capacities have increased. Today single-stream urea plants of over 3,000 t/d capacity have begun to come into service, and the process licensors are ready to design plants up to and possibly beyond the 5,000-t/d mark in readiness for corresponding cap­acity enlargements taking place in ammonia plant design. But, considering the massive financial risk entailed in building a complete complex on such an unprecedented scale, it is not surprising that the tech­nological developments on which it would rely are being demonstrated progressively in revamp projects. Once each new feature of the process has been shown to work in actual operating hardware, the task of convincing not just the industry, but also the banks and institutions which have to provide the project finance, of the soundness of the concept be­comes just that much easier.

At British Sulphur’s recent Nitrogen 2005 conference in Bucharest we heard of two urea re­vamp projects incorporating novel aspects of plant design which are ultimately intended for use in future mammoth projects. Jan Mennen, of Stamicarbon, reported on the successful application of his company’s medium-pressure add-on debottlenecking technology at the SKW Pies­teritz plant in Germany, while Yasuhiko Kojima, of Toyo Engin­eering Corp., described the recent application of ACES21® process features in a substantial revamp of the Sichuan Chemical Works urea plant in China.

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Largest KRES reformer in service in China

Summary

Faced with natural gas supply curtailments, Liaoning Huajin Tongda Chemicals Co. has cut its gas requirements by 29% by replacing its conventional steam reformer with KBR's KRES heat exchange reforming system and a coal-fired auxiliary boiler

Abstract

Liaoning Huajin Tongda Chemicals Co Ltd. (former Shenzhen Liaohe Tongda Chemicals Co. Ltd.) has been operating a 1,000-t/d ammonia plant based on KBR technology since 1978 at Panjin City in Liaoning Province, China. The plant, which generated its synthesis gas requirement by conventional steam reforming, could actually produce up to 1,070 t/d ammonia, but it had been suffering natural gas supply curtailment, which was most severe during the winter and less so during the summer, when the demand from priority users is normally lower. Curtailment was also more likely at night than in the daytime.

KBR studied various technological options for revamping the Liaoning ammonia plant to improve its overall capacity utilization by significantly reducing its specific natural gas requirement. Heat exchange reforming was the obvious front-runner, because it derives the heat requirement of the steam reforming reaction directly from hot process gas and thus eliminates the separate firing requirement of the conventional primary reforming plant The down side of such an arrangement is that a much larger fired auxiliary boiler is needed than in a conventional plant to generate the steam that would normally be raised in the reformed gas waste heat boiler and in the furnace flue gas heat recovery system of the conventional process. But that was no problem in Panjin, as coal is available in abundance at a comparatively low price and could therefore be used in the auxiliary boiler in place of scarce natural gas.

So a revamp based on KRES – the KBR Reforming Exchanger System – was found to be the best solution to the client’s desire to increase production while reducing dependence on natural gas. And in 2001 Liaoning Huajin Tongda awarded KBR a contract to supply technology and a basic engineering design package for a project to revamp the Panjin plant and reduce its consumption of natural gas by as much as 29%.

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