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Methanol to olefins

Summary

Of all of the new derivative uses for methanol, MTO is the one which seems to be taking off in the largest way, particularly in China, where it is seen as a way of producing ethylene and propylene from domestic coal.

Abstract

Global demand for light olefins, particularly ethylene and propylene, continues to grow. According to IHS, ethylene consumption, mainly for polyethylene production, reached 129 million t/a in 2012 and they forecast that it will grow at a further 4%/year for the next five years, reaching 158 million t/a. by 2017, and extra 29 million t/a of new demand by 2017, although capacity growth is expected to be 34 million t/a over the same period. Global propylene demand reached 80 million tonnes in 2011, mainly (65%) destined for polypropylene production, with propylene oxide, acrylic acid, acrylonitile, cumenes and oxo-alcohols also among major derivatives. Most (90%) propylene comes as a by-product from ethylene manufacture in steam crackers, or as a by-product of gasoline production, from refinery fluid catalytic crackers (FCCs). But there is a gradual shift in steam cracker production as naphtha crackers in established industrial economies like Europe and North America are replaced by ethane crackers in the Middle East and elsewhere, which do not produce propylene as a by-product. This is leading to a steady growth in “on-purpose” dedicated propylene production, via propane dehydrogenation, metathesis, or higher olefin cracking. But another production method is to make propylene from methanol, and since methanol can be made from a variety of feedstocks not typically used in olefin manufacture, from natural gas to coal, there has been rising interest in methanol to olefins (MTO) production, especially in China. While 90% of global propylene is currently made from conventional cracking processes, the proportion of ‘on purpose’ propylene production has been increasing rapidly. Keywords: UOP; LURGI; AIR LIQUIDE; DICP; SINOPEC; EXXONMOBIL

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Sasol – pioneering Fischer Tropsch technology

Summary

South Africa's Sasol has become the world's major developer of Fischer-Tropsch technology, via both gas and coal to liquid plants. However, the company has also begun to diversify into gas, energy and coal mining.

Abstract

Over the past 60 years Sasol has grown to become a company with a $20 billion turnover and 34,000 employees in 38 countries, and in the company’s last financial year (to June 2013) it made an operating profit of $4.6 billion. Much of this growth has been in the past decade – the company’s earnings have quadrupled since 2003. While it remains focused on southern Africa, where it is diversified into fuel and energy as well as chemicals, and it is South Africa’s largest corporate tax payer, it is also one of the world’s leading gas-to-liquids technology companies, and continues to lead developments in GTL and CTL around the world. History Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch were two chemists working at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim in Germany in the 1920s, aiming to produce hydrocarbon molecules from which fuels and chemicals could be made using coal-derived gas. They built on earlier work conducted by Friedrich Bergius, a teacher at the Technische Hochschule in Hanover, who in 1914 managed to produce synthetic gasoline and diesel from coal that had been dissolved in recycled oil, using hydrogen and an iron oxide catalyst at 400°C and 700 atmospheres of pressure. Bergius received a share of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1931 (along with Carl Bosch, who had worked on developing high-pressure vessels for both the Bergius and of course the Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis processes). Keywords: ORYX; GTL; CTL; SMDS; QATAR; NIGERIA; ESCRAVOS; SHALE GAS

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The next big/small thing in AN solution manufacture

Summary

Prof Brian Haynes of the University of Sydney, Tony Johnston of Optint Pty Ltd, Rodney Williams and John Lear of Orica and Mile Vujicic of Heatric discuss a new small-scale process for production of ammonium nitrate solution.

Abstract

Ammonium nitrate (AN) is a key commodity chemical central to growing demands for food production (as a fertiliser) and to growing demand for metals, energy and construction products, as the main component of commercial explosives). The history of AN manufacture dates back to Germany around one hundred years ago following development of the Ostwald nitric acid manufacturing process1. Today, AN is manufactured in many countries around the world. It is estimated that worldwide AN production capacity in 2012 was in excess of 60 million t/a2. Given the size and geographic spread of the market for AN, it is quite remarkable that its manufacturing process has not changed significantly over the last century. Regulatory requirements and societal expectations around AN manufacture, storage and handling have changed significantly in recent times. AN plant explosions in Port Neal (1994) and Toulouse (2001), the use of AN in the Oklahoma City (1995) and Oslo (2011) bombings, the use of AN in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan and more recently the explosion at the West Fertiliser plant in the USA have all brought into sharp relief the issues associated with AN manufacture, storage and handling. Keywords: JOHANNA; MICRO-AN; NITRIC ACID

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Ultra-low NOx burners in methanol plants

Summary

Recently, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's (KSA) strict environmental regulations have required operators to replace older, previous generations of burners with the latest in ultra-low NOx technology. In this article R.K. Isaacs and R. Roberts of Zeeco, Inc. and N. Palfreeman of Zeeco Europe Ltd review the engineering details of the ultra-low NOx burners used in the retrofit application, provide specific retrofit installation details, lessons learned, and discuss verified successful field results.

Abstract

Zeeco was contacted by a local methanol producer in the Middle East to assist with retrofitting the steam methane reformer’s 234 downfired burners that were unable to meet the Royal Commission’s NOx requirement (55 ng/J) at high plant rates. After a comprehensive evaluation, the operator selected Zeeco’s next generation ultra-low NOx free-jet burner to replace the existing burners. This ultra-low NOx burner technology produces a flame profile with very limited flame-to-flame interaction for burner installations, while also achieving shorter flame lengths within a small mechanical footprint. The free-jet burner design utilises the “free jet” mixing theory to maximise the amount of inert internal products of combustion mixed with the fuel gas to produce lower thermal NOx emissions. The GLSF free-jet burner from Zeeco uses internal flue gas recirculation (IFGR) to reduce the thermal NOx emissions from the combustion zone. The GLSF free-jet burner has several advantages over some other low NOx burners as follows: Keywords: Zeeco, downfired free-jet burner, methanol reformer, ultra-low NOx, NOx emissions

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Shift catalysts for ammonia production

Summary

The water-gas shift conversion is a critical step in the production of ammonia. In this article Haldor Topsøe and Johnson Matthey report on their latest shift catalysts with regards to improved performance, reliability and safety.

Abstract

The ammonia industry has progressed significantly since its beginnings a century ago, and the demand for nitrogen-based fertilizers continues to increase with sustained global economic growth. The current global economic situation is putting increasing pressure on ammonia producers to cost-optimise their operations and perform more efficiently. By utilising high-performance catalysts, it is possible to improve the overall efficiency of ammonia plants and ensure optimal feedstock utilisation without investing in costly revamps. The history of the catalytic conversion of carbon monoxide and steam to hydrogen and carbon dioxide is closely associated with the history of ammonia synthesis. This is not surprising given that the considerable demand for ammonia has provided a major incentive for the development of a process that facilitates the production of the prerequisite building block, hydrogen. The reaction of hydrogen gas with nitrogen gas to form ammonia is the prevailing method of commercial ammonia production, and was industrialised in 1913 as the Haber-Bosch process, in which the water-gas shift conversion is a critical step. An additional benefit of the shift reaction beyond hydrogen yield is the much-needed removal of carbon monoxide from the product stream. This removal is significant due to the difficulties involved in CO removal, whereas CO2 removal from the product stream is relatively simple. Keywords: HTS, LTS, sour shift, ultra low Cr, selectivity, activity, poison resistance, catalyst loading, radial flow converter, Haldor Topsøe, Johnson Matthey

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Low energy urea plants

Summary

Nowadays, global warming is of great concern and industrial sectors around the world are implementing various actions to suppress global warming by reducing GHG emissions. The fertilizer industry is no exception and urea production with a low energy urea process is an effective way to reduce GHG emissions. In this article the major urea process licensors report on modern technologies and process enhancements to reduce the energy consumption of urea plants.

Abstract

Optimisation of the energy consumption of the urea plant within an ammonia-urea complex is under continuous development. Although it represents only 20% of the energy consumption of the ISBL process units in an ammonia-urea complex, optimisation of the energy supply to the urea unit has a significant impact on the ammonia plant configuration. Modern urea technology is characterised by lower consumption in terms of steam, electric power, cooling water, carbon dioxide and ammonia. The introduction of a high pressure section in the urea process in the 1950s and 1960s addressed the need for a low energy approach. Keywords: NH3 stripping, CO2 stripping, energy integration, energy optimisation, steam consumption, energy savings, Split Flow Loop™, high efficiency reactor trays, pool reactor, ACES21®, Snamprogetti™ urea process

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Plant Manager+ No. 21: Vibrations in the discharge line of the HP reciprocating carbamate pump

Summary

In all urea plants, high pressure pumps are used to pump the feedstock ammonia and carbon dioxide to the high pressure synthesis section and in most urea plants carbamate liquid is recycled from the recirculation section to the synthesis. Often reciprocating pumps are used for these services and sometimes vibration problems occur in the discharge pipeline. This Round Table discussion considers the possible causes and solutions of this problem. It soon becomes evident that many possible causes can play a role and an easy and quick solution does not always exist.

Abstract

Mr Mark Brouwer of UreaKnowHow.com in the Netherlands initiates a discussion by asking how vibration problems of the discharge carbamate line from the HP reciprocating pump can be reduced. Mr Easa Norozipour of Khorasan Petrochemical Company in Iran comes up with four possible causes: In my opinion, the vibration can be caused by the following: l the piping supports may be loose; l internal defect in the pump e.g. in the plunger, internal circulation etc.; l internal defect in the check valve in the discharge pipe near the HP scrubber; l partial plugging of the outlet pump strainer. Keywords: piping support, discharge pipe, plugging, triplex pumps, quintuplex pumps, vibration

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