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Phosphate profitability

Summary

Although market prices softened in 2012, phosphate producers around the world have continued to enjoy healthy profits. These in turn fuel a programme of investments in new greenfield and brownfield capacity. Monica Baker, Research Manager of Integer Research, reviews the outlook for the leading phosphate suppliers.

Abstract

Strong phosphate industry profits during 2010-12 have encouraged a dramatic increase in investment announcements and activity, and there are signs that future industry capacity growth will be more geographically widespread than it has been over the past decade. Around 80% of the growth in phosphate fertilizer demand during the last decade took place in China, and most of the investment and capacity growth occurred in that region too. The growth in phosphoric acid production in China exceeded the rise in world output over the past ten years. However, there are signs that processing capacity expansions in China are slowing and that the self-sufficiency objective has been achieved, or even exceeded. China does not have competitive advantages as a major export hub and is also coming to terms with rather contradictory objectives of self-sufficiency and export tariffs. Meanwhile, US processing is expected to continue to decline, albeit at a slow pace as phosphate resources are gradually depleted. Morocco is set to become an even stronger processing hub. Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP) is looking beyond its own and the government of Morocco’s financial resources and is seeking commercial and development finance for its investment programme, which between 2010 and 2020 is set to total $12.2 billion. The company issued a maiden MDH 2 billion ($239 million) domestic bond in September 2011 and is evaluating tapping into international money markets. OCP’s plans could boost production at the Khourigba mining site from 20 to 38 million t/a by 2020, and three new mines are set to start operating at this location. One started in 2012, and two more are due in 2015 and 2017. The plans also include four DAP/MAP plants. Keywords: Phosphates, DAP, Phosphoric acid, Profits, Margins, Investment, Capacity utilisation, Integrated production, Junior mining companies, India, SSP

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Iran's role in nitrogen and sulphur markets

Summary

Iran's vast oil and gas reserves form the basis of world-scale and export-oriented nitrogen and sulphur industries. However, in response to Iran's nuclear ambitions, the country has been subject to economic sanctions. We assess the impact of these measures on Iran's production capability and on global nitrogen and sulphur trade.

Abstract

Oil and gas production dominate Iran’s economy and have been the primary source of the country’s considerable GDP wealth, accounting for the majority of export revenues. Oil export revenues enabled Iran to amass well over $100 billion in foreign exchange reserves as of 2010. Since the revolution of 1979, the oil and gas sectors have been under state control, but a unique feature of the Iranian economy has been the presence of large religious foundations, whose combined budgets represent more than 30% of central government spending. Iran possesses around 10% of the world’s proven oil reserves and 15% of its gas reserves. The country’s major oil fields lie in the central and south western parts of the western Zagros Mountains. Oil is also found in northern Iran and in the Persian Gulf. The main refineries are located at Abadan, Bandar-e Mashur and Kharg Island. Iran has the second largest gas reserves in the world, estimated at 29.61 trillion m3 (tcm). About half of these are held in the vast offshore South Pars field, the northern extension to Qatar’s north field, which is the largest single gas field in the world. Iran still has potential for new significant gas discoveries, including in the Caspian Sea areas and in the Strait of Hormuz. The US Geological Service estimates that undiscovered gas resources could be between 5.7-23 trillion m3. Keywords: Ammonia, Urea, Sulphur, Natural gas, Refinery, Gas reserves, Kharg, South Pars, Claus, Sanctions, SRU, Sulphur recovery unit

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Phosphoric acid: investing in new plants

Summary

In this assessment of worldwide capacity drawn from IFA's recent forecasts, we examine the implications for global supply/demand balances.

Abstract

According to the 2012 IFA capacity survey, global phosphoric acid capacity is forecast to increase to 61.3 million t/a P2O5 by 2016, representing an increase of 9.8 million t/a over 2011. (Global Fertilizers and Raw Materials Supply and Demand Forecast 2012-16, Michel Prud’homme, IFA Annual Conference, Doha [May 2012].) (Fig. 1) The main changes in phosphoric acid capacity are expected to occur in China, Brazil and Morocco. IFA estimates that an additional 2.3 million t/a P2O5 will come on stream from 17 new facilities in China, contributing about one-quarter to the global capacity increment between 2011 and 2016. A further 7.1 million t/a P2O5 are forecast to be added from new plants in 12 countries: Morocco and Brazil will account for half of this increase, with the commissioning of nine plants with an aggregate capacity of 3.5 million t/a P2O5. New capacity is planned in ten other countries, with a total of 14 new units. The other main capacity additions are expected in Jordan, Tunisia, India, Indonesia and Algeria. Of these projects, the IFA forecast indicates that only two will be stand-alone merchant phosphoric acid units, namely the JIFCO joint venture in Jordan and the Tifert joint venture in Tunisia. These would provide an additional 900,000 t/a of new capacity. Keywords: Phosphoric acid, Capacity, Investment, Capital expenditure, DAP, MAP, Expansion, Supply/demand balance, India, Morocco, China, Brazil, Tunisia

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Mechanical and metallurgical issues in nitrogen plants

Summary

We examine the criteria that determine the design and materials employed in new and revamped ammonia and urea plants.

Abstract

Ammonia plants must function in a very aggressive environment, and the choice of materials when designing the plant is critical for ensuring safe and reliable operations. Ammonia plants incorporate a certain number of critical items which are of the greatest importance from the point of the performance, safety and reliability of the plant. The key sections in the ammonia production process typically comprise: l Pre-reformer l Secondary reformer burner l Ammonia synthesis converter l Synloop steam superheater, waste heat boiler, BFW pre-heater l Axial radial shift converters l Make-up gas wash ejector. Hydrogen-related damage and nitriding problems can be particularly acute in ammonia synthesis loop, especially in the ammonia converter, where the highest temperatures and pressures are combined with a high hydrogen and ammonia content. Other possible metallurgical deterioration factors include hydrogen debonding or hydrogen-induced cracking and temper embrittlement. (Ammonia synthesis converter design and safety, Nitrogen+Syngas [January/February 2011].) Keywords: Ammonia, Synthesis, Converter, Corrosion, Reformer, Pre-reformer, Synloop, Nitriding, Stainless steel Cr-Mo, Cracking , Heat exchanger, Casale, KBR, Haldor Topsøe

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A shot in the arm for Togo

Summary

After several years in the doldrums and a chronic shortage of capital, the Togolese phosphate industry is set to be revived, following the award of a tender to develop a carbonated phosphate reserve.

Abstract

The government of Togo has awarded Elenilto Mining the contract to develop the carbonated phosphate project, prompting the company to begin discussions with leading phosphate fertilizer companies to become strategic partners in the world-class project. The award follows the tender issued by the Togolese government in 2012 for bids to develop the carbonated phosphate resource estimated at 2 billion tonnes and an associated fertilizer plant, which would be adjacent to the existing facilities operated by the state-owned Société Nouvelle des Phosphates du Togo (SNPT). The project, which envisages the initial production of 5 million t/a of phosphate rock at an average grade of 31% P2O5, would go far to revitalise Togo’s phosphate industry, which has flagged in recent years. Phosphates provide the backbone of Togo’s industrial sector. The economy overall remains highly dependent on subsistence agriculture. Cash crops are limited mainly to coffee and cocoa. The country has an estimated 260 million tonnes of phosphate reserves and 2 billion tonnes of carbonated phosphates. Phosphate production peaked at 2.7 million tonnes in 1997 but subsequently fell back to around 1 million t/a, largely as a result of the depletion of the easily accessible deposits and a shortage of funds for new investment. Despite the declining trend in phosphate production, Togo continues to rank fourth largest in the world. Exports of phosphate rock account for around 24% of the country’s GDP. Keywords: Phosphate rock, Phosphate, Rock deposit

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Improved product finishing

Summary

Fertilizer products are sensitive to damage during transport and handling and to degradation during storage. We outline the products and technologies that address these issues.

Abstract

Coating is a key part of the fertilizer production process, and is undertaken after the prilling or granulation processes. Coatings can be liquid, solid, thermoplastic or reactive, fulfilling the following range of functions: l Control dust emissions l Minimise caking l Enhance flowability l Minimise moisture pick-up l Stabilise the surface l Improve compatibility in end-uses l Enhance appearance l Modify nutrient release characteristics. A coating is used to preserve the quality of the manufactured fertilizer through shipping, storage and handling. (Aspects of coating technology for granular fertilizers, Victor Granquist, Nufarm Specialty Products, Inc. Paper presented at Fertilizer Industry Round Table [2004].) Typically, coatings cannot correct inherent problems in granule integrity or stability (as reflected by poor shape and surface, excessive porosity, softening over time, high moisture content, or poor process control), but in some cases process additives can help mitigate these problems. Keywords: Dust control, Emissions, Moisture, Storage, Handling, Product quality, Caking , Flowability, Surfactants, Fatty acids, Powders, Coating, Defoamers, Flocculants, Additives

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SYMPHOS preview

Summary

OCP, Morocco will host the 2nd International Symposium on Innovation and Technology in the Phosphate Industry (SYMPHOS) at Agadir, Morocco between 6-10 May. We preview the programme of this keynote event.

Abstract

The pioneering SYMPHOS meeting in Marrakech in 2011 hosted more than 800 participants, drawn from nearly 40 countries. OCP has responded to the positive feedback from those participants, 98% of whom rated the original programme as excellent, and all of whom expressed the wish for a follow-up SYMPHOS event. Once again, the SYMPHOS agenda will offer: l Insights from industry leaders l Comparisons of best practices l Debates on the latest topics of concern to the phosphate industry worldwide l Reviews of the latest technologies l The opportunity to visit the OCP mine at Khourigba and downstream facilities at Jorf Lasfar. Keywords: SYMPHOS, OCP, Morocco, Conference, Agenda

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Removing and treating the impurities

Summary

The production of phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizers is influenced by the soluble and insoluble impurities contained in the phosphate rock. These impurities influence the process, quality of the acid and the by-products produced, as well as the downstream units using this phosphoric acid. We assess the impact of impurities on corrosion, filtration, scaling and fertilizer product quality.

Abstract

As the higher-quality phosphate rock steadily becomes mined out, greater attention is being paid to the impurities and other qualities associated with the rock, as they have a more significant impact on the ability to make the phosphate products for the market. Individual impurities can have a significant effect on production processes. The higher the rock’s P2O5 content, the less the room for other impurities in the rock. It also means less insoluble material that must be removed in the rock digestion/filtration process. This in turn means less filter cake and a reduced potential for filter cake P2O5 losses. (Impact of Phosphate Rock Impurities on the Manufacture of Phosphoric Acid and Granular Phosphates, Vaughn Astley and Regis Stana. Paper presented at IFA Technical Conference, Thessaloniki [2001].) Keywords: Impurities, Phosphoric acid, Phosphate rock, Sludge, Scaling, Corrosion, Fluosilicate, Fluoride, Silicates, Cadmium, Uranium, Filtration, Insolubles, Magnesium, Ion exchange, FSA

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Polyhalite: a game-changer in SOP markets?

Summary

Most of the world's production of potassium sulphate comes from brines or via the Mannheim process. However, several projects have been mooted, harnessing reserves of polyhalite – an evaporite material, a hydrated sulphate of potassium, calcium and magnesium. These projects claim low production costs. We assess the potential impact of these projects on the world market for potassium sulphate.

Abstract

Polyhalite is an evaporite material, a hydrated sulphate of potassium, calcium and magnesium with the formula: K2Ca2Mg(SO4)4.2(H2O). Polyhalite crystallises in the triclinic system, although crystals are very rare. It is typically colourless, white-to-grey, although it may be brick red due to the presence of iron oxide. Polyhalite occurs in sedimentary marine evaporites and is a major potassium ore mineral in the Carlsbad deposits of New Mexico, USA. Large polyhalite resources have also been identified in the North Yorkshire coastal region of the United Kingdom. Polyhalite (meaning “many salts” in Latin) was harnessed for the production of potassium sulphate (K2SO4) in the United States during the first half of the 20th century, but the focus there later moved almost completely to the production of potassium chloride (KCl). The potassium ore required relatively little processing before sale as a marketable Cl-containing product, so that K2SO4 subsequently became a more marginal product. Today, global sales of KCl amount to around 55 million t/a, while K2SO4 sales average around 6 million t/a. In demand primarily for application on high added-value crops and in horticulture, potassium sulphate is generally sold at a premium of between 20-60% on potassium chloride prices. Keywords: Polyhalite, SOP, Potassium sulphate, Junior mining company, Evaporit, Potash, Project, New Mexico, Yorkshire, Boulby, NPKs, Feasibility study

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Flotation reagents: maximising mineral recovery yields

Summary

Froth flotation is widely employed in the phosphate and potash industries to separate hydrophobic materials from hydrophilic. We describe the speciality surfactants and other speciality products that have been developed to ensure optimum mineral recovery.

Abstract

Froth flotation processes enable hydrophobic materials to be selectively separated from hydrophilic materials and is widely employed throughout the phosphate and potash mining industries. Hydrophobic (water-repellent) particles float with air bubbles to form a froth, while the wetted hydrophilic particles sink. Hydrophobicity increases with the contact angle between particles and bubbles. Most minerals in nature are hydrophilic and do not readily float in froth flotation without the use of chemical reagents known as collectors. These adsorb on the precious mineral surfaces, rendering the particle hydrophobic and floatable. The problem in froth flotation is that certain gangue (worthless waste) minerals have hydrophobic surfaces and undesirably float, contaminating the precious mineral concentrate. To negate the hydrophobic minerals’ tendency to float, depressants are used. These physically adsorb on the surface of gangue minerals, rendering the particles hydrophilic and “non-floatable”. Keywords: Flotation, Reagents, Hydrophobic, Hydrophilic, Surfactants, Mineral recovery, Fatty acids, Gangue, Potash, Phosphate rock, Ore, Slurry, Collectors, Comminution, Beneficiation, Froth, Xanthates, Depressants, Pumpin, Foam, Defoamers

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