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Europe's gas markets

Summary

Expensive gas and cheap coal have made life difficult for Europe's remaining nitrogen and methanol producers in recent years. Nitrogen+Syngas looks at the prospects for a change ahead.

Abstract

While the US is enjoying something of a renaissance in its syngas-based industries due to a glut of cheap gas, things are very different on the other side of the Atlantic. Europe continues to struggle against high gas prices, and as a result its chemical producers face losing their competitive edge. The continent remains a major net exporter, and in spite of increasing competition from Norway, North Africa and LNG imports, pricing is dominated by old, long term, oil-indexed contracts. Demand Natural gas demand in Europe is dominated by the power industry, with residential markets a close second. Gas demand in Europe had been on a long-term increase, especially during the so-called “dash for gas” of the 1990s, when incentives to develop less carbon-intensive power production and relatively cheap natural gas prices led to a surge in power generation from gas. At the same time, falling domestic production within traditional European producers such as the Netherlands and UK led to increasing imports from Russia and North Africa, and Gazprom in particular used its market strength to secure higher gas prices. European gas consumption peaked in 2008 and dropped sharply (by almost 8%) as the continent struggled with recession. Consumption rose again in 2010 but dropped again in 2011, as recovery stalled. In the meantime, gas has found itself up against cheaper coal supplies from around the world. Keywords: markets, sour gas, nickel leaching, refinery, recovery.

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The safety and integrity of ammonia storage tanks

Summary

Venkat Pattabathula of Incitec Pivot, functional safety expert Raghava Nayak and consultant Don H. Timbres discuss design features, applicable codes and standards in ammonia storage tank design, fabrication, commissioning and operation.

Abstract

Ammonia is an important raw material for the fertiliser industry and more than 150 million tonnes of ammonia is produced worldwide per year. About 20 million tonnes of ammonia is traded every year at an international level, and the rest is consumed locally for the manufacture of fertilizers and industrial chemicals. Storage of liquid ammonia had been a practice for almost 100 years, right from the time ammonia was first made on an industrial scale. In earlier eras of ammonia production, ammonia was stored in pressurised systems such as bullets and Horton spheres. Typically, spheres were used to store up to 2,000 tonnes, whereas atmospheric ammonia storage tanks are used to store up to 50,000 tonnes at plant sites and also at separate distribution terminals near to where liquid ammonia is applied directly. Keywords: single, double, wall, hazard, materials, insulation, commissioning, risk, inspection, RBI, repair

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Asia in focus

Summary

Two conferences at the end of last year, CRU's Asia Nitrogen+Syngas meeting in Kuala Lumpur and MMSA/IMPCA's Asian Methanol Conference in Singapore, took the temperature of Asia's rapidly developing nitrogen and methanol industries.

Abstract

Opening the Asia Nitrogen+Syngas meeting, M Shah Ali, head of Petronas’ Fertilizer and Methanol business segment, gave the keynote address, pointing to the resilience of Asia compared to the situation in Europe, where the Eurozone crisis had contributed to a decline in overall world petrochemical demand. Asia, he said, remained critical to leading the global economy out of its present slump, as its growing population led to increasing requirements for energy and commodities, and its growing middle class led to increased demand for finished goods. In spite of looming overcapacity in the nitrogen sector, Asia still represented 60% of global demand for nitrogen and produced 50% of the world’s grains, including 90% of its rice. Petronas has been adding its own new capacity at Samur, and neighbouring Indonesia has the Kaltim V project, although with other additions, especially in the Middle East, by 2015 Asia is expected to have a 4 million t/a surplus in urea, and there will be pressure to reduce costs to remain competitive. Marina Simonova of CRU amplified on this in her own presentation on the global nitrogen outlook. Changes in the gas market are leading to disparities in regional pricing, from the US and its shale boom to higher prices in Europe and top dollar being paid by Japanese LNG imports after its large-scale nuclear shutdown. New capacity investments in the US are rapidly changing the nitrogen market paradigm; North America imported 16 million t/a of nitrogen fertilizers in 2011, but a flurry of new projects means that this may completely dry up over the next 5 years (although the permit process remains slow). In the meantime, erratic global weather and harvest shortfalls mean that tight grain markets continue to support market prices for now, and incremental urea demand growth continues to be mainly in east and south Asia. However, the additional 64 million t/a of supply additions forecast from 2011-2017 (25 million t/a of that in Asia) are likely to swamp any demand additions, especially in the 2012-13 period, and lead to falling prices. Keywords: China, US, Iran, India, Vietnam, Indonesia

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Production of compound fertilizers

Summary

Helen Aksenova, chief engineer for JSC NIIK, discusses the production of compound fertilizers and ammonium nitrate in the company's new high speed drum granulator

Abstract

Both demand and supply of compound fertilizers are seeing tremendous growth at the moment, and both are expected to steadily increase in the future, outstripping the average demand increase for other types of fertilizers. The market success enjoyed by compound NP and NPK fertilizers - production exceeded 65 million t/a in 2011 – can be explained by the following reasons: l compound fertilizers contain a higher overall concentration of nutrients, decreasing production, handling and transportation costs per tonne, and the cost for soil application; l compound fertilizers have better physical, chemical and mechanical properties compared to regular fertilizers; l compound fertilizers offer a wider variety of options and can be adjusted to satisfy demand in accordance with particular soil compositions. Keywords: urea, ammonium, sulphate, drum, high speed, granule, prill, enhanced

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Tailored products and services

Summary

Nowadays, catalyst suppliers to the nitric acid industry are more than just a supplier of catalysts, they offer a range of services and support to help their customers maximise the performance of their nitric acid plants. Johnson Matthey, Heraeus Materials Technology and Umicore detail their products and services.

Abstract

Since its early development and patent in 1902, the Ostwald Process has developed from a novelty to a solid foundation of the chemical industry and our aspiration to achieve sustainability of our food supply. To the untrained eye it might appear that the process has ever since remained unchanged but over the last 110 years there have been many changes in the requirements not only from the customers but also from global legislation. Until today the ground rules for industrial nitric acid production remain untouched; the main reaction of the process is the oxidation of ammonia to nitric oxide over a catalyst at elevated temperatures. Keywords: N2O abatement; low grade recovery; catalyst gauzes; catalyst campaigns; financing services

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Urea-melamine plant integration

Summary

Increasing global demand for both urea and melamine has made the integration of these units particularly attractive. Efficient integration using the latest technologies can increase profitability and boost urea production. In this article Urea Casale, Eurotecnica, Saipem and Borealis discuss their approach to urea-melamine integration.

Abstract

Over the last ten years, the vitality of the urea fertilizer market has pushed main producers to boost their production capacities in order to satisfy the steeply ascending demand. A large number of projects, new complexes and revamps, have recently come on stream or are in the completion phase. This booming fertilizer market has been combining with melamine market dynamics and the integration of urea and melamine processes has become an outstanding challenge for technology suppliers to find the most suitable process and economic solutions to manage the interfaces between urea and melamine units. An investment in a melamine production plant and its efficient integration within a urea plant offers the nitrogen-based fertilizer producers an opportunity to increase the profitability of the entire complex.

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Training in the nitrogen fertilizer industry

Summary

The functional knowledge required by the nitrogenous fertilizer industry, such as ammonia and urea plant personnel, is unique in nature due to its chemical processes, raw materials, type of catalysts, and static and rotating equipment. Training creates a knowledge base for any industry and the returns are assured in the form of safety, reliability and productivity. Hence, the profitability of an industry is directly linked to the technical knowledge and skill of its employees. K.R.R. Kumar and R. Raghavan of Nagarjuna Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited (NFCL) highlight priorities and methodologies for successful transfer of knowledge.

Abstract

The training of chemical industry personnel has many dimensions. Any personnel working in the continuous process chemical industry must be knowledgeable in their own functional area such as plant operation, maintenance, safety, environmental aspects, energy aspects, management systems and applicable statutory laws. These are the minimum requirements for a technical person and refresher training is pertinent on a periodic basis. Details of the training required in each area are discussed below. Operation There are many areas of training for operation. Amongst all operational training topics, training in “Standard Operating Procedures” (SOP) should be given top priority. Approved standard operating procedures should be in place and revised periodically as per the guidelines of Process Safety Management System (PSMS). Process Safety Management System is mandatory in USA. Even though it is not compulsory in India, some industries in India have implemented PSMS voluntarily. Whether PSMS is in place or not, SOPs should be developed for normal start-up, normal shutdown, emergency shutdown, and temporary operations, etc. These SOPs should be made available to all the operation personnel. Keywords: SOP; HAZOP; PLC; risk assessment; safety

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Key lessons to optimise ammonia plant performance

Summary

Understanding the basic principles of catalytic reactor operation in an ammonia plant can help to avoid costly performance and operating problems. M. Anderson, and S. Osborne of Clariant Corporation (formerly Süd-Chemie) focus on three particular topics that have a significant impact on production performance: 1) chemistry, consequences and avoidance of carbon formation in the steam reformer; 2) proper flow distribution in catalytic reactors, and 3) the impact of improper plant operation on catalyst and equipment.

Abstract

The ammonia industry has seen significant change in recent decades as high turnover, leaner organisational structures, and new operations have shifted the demographics of the operations and technical personnel staff. These changes have resulted in a loss of long-term operational knowledge and can lead to incidents of equipment and catalyst damage during operation and upset conditions. As catalyst technology continues to improve, the products’ high performance are best enabled when accompanied by a thorough understanding of the chemical and physical principles of catalytic reactions1. Carbon formation in primary reformers An important step in the ammonia manufacturing process is steam reforming; the conversion of hydrocarbons into hydrogen. The primary reformer is the main piece of equipment for this and represents the largest expenditure in terms of capital and on-going energy costs. Optimum performance of the reformer and the installed reforming catalyst is critical to ensuring high plant productivity and efficiency. Poisoning, fouling or incorrect operation can adversely affect the catalyst’s performance and can lead to costly equipment failure. Keywords: carbon formation; LTS; methanator; reforming; tube wall temperatures

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Overpressure protection in urea synthesis section

Summary

Excellent teamwork between SKW, Räcklebe & Totz, and Leser, together with the support of Stamicarbon, has resulted in an innovative safety solution for overpressure protection in the urea synthesis section – supplementary loading system (SLS) safety valves. Pre-conditions are the use of the material Safurex® and special proprietary design and construction details. This innovation can also be applied at the pressure safety valves of the recirculation section of a urea plant to realise more operational flexibility and lower emissions as well as offering significant benefits in the ammonia synthesis section.

Abstract

Typical old overpressure protection systems Any stripping urea plant needs a protection system against overpressure to prevent operating pressures from becoming higher than the design pressure of the high pressure equipment and piping systems. Overpressure can, for example, occur where cooling capacity fails but the high pressure stripper continues to produce strip gases. All world standards require a safeguard by means of pressure safety valves in such situations. Although these pressure safety valves are a must for protecting the high pressure synthesis section against overpressure, they also have some limitations and cause some trouble. In the synthesis sections of a urea plant, full lift safety valves are typically applied because of their large discharge capacities. Keywords: corrosion; pressure transmitter; pneumatic actuator; flush system

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