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Publication > Issue > Articles

Arab Gulf boom

Summary

The GCC fertilizer producers prosper and set global standards for efficient production, as they invest in new capacity that will positively impact on world food security.

Abstract

The fertilizer industry in the Arab Gulf region is growing twice as fast as the global industry average, led by the increased investments from petrochemicals producers, the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) has said. According to GPCA estimates, fertilizer production among the GCC countries reached 42.7 million tonnes in 2013, a 4% increase from the previous year, while the global fertilizer industry grew by just 1.7% during the same period. Capacity growth was achieved with several multi-million dollar projects in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) coming on stream. Keywords: Arab Gulf, Ammonia, Urea, New capacity, GCC, QAFCO, SABIC, Ma’aden, Feedstock, Natural gas, GPCA, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Middle East, Phosphate rock

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A question mark over the investment surge

Summary

The transformation of the US energy market that followed the large-scale exploitation of shale gas deposits has prompted more than 20 projects to develop greenfield nitrogen fertilizer projects and expansions of existing capacity in the United States and Canada. But is this surge in ammonia and urea investment plans likely to end in disappointment?

Abstract

While there has been a major consolidation in the US phosphates industry, prompted by stagnating market prices, weaker margins and the desire to rationalise capacity and restructure production, massive capacity expansions are seen in the nitrogen sector, driven by sustained shale gas development. This planned new investment in ammonia and urea capacity will enable the United States to reduce its reliance on imports. Between 2013 and 2018, IFA forecasts that the United States will expand its nitrogen capacity by 3.6 million t/a. These are boom times for the US nitrogen industry, especially in the ammonia sector. Between 2010 and 2013, the US ammonia sector operated at rates averaging 95% of nameplate capacity, reaching 11 million tonnes in 2013. Much of this additional output came from the reactivation of plants that had formerly been mothballed. Together, the revived plants accounted for production of around 1.1 million tonnes ammonia last year. Keywords: Ammonium, Urea, Capacity, Investment, Natural gas, Shale gas, Greenfield, Brownfield, Nitrogen, Projects, EPC, DEF, UAN, Midwest, Cornbelt, MoU

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Acron joins forces with Rio Tinto

Summary

Special correspondent Eugene Gerden reports on progress in the joint venture between JSC Acron and Rio Tinto to develop a greenfield potash mine in Saskatchewan.

Abstract

Acron Group, one of Russia’s leading fertilizer producers, has announced the establishment of a joint venture with mining giant Rio Tinto to develop a project for the production of potash near Albany, Saskatchewan, Canada. Acron will take a 68% share in the North Atlantic Potash Inc. JV, while Rio Tinto will hold 32%. With the partnership now formalised, Acron and Rio Tinto held their first board of directors’ meeting on 27 June in London. Keywords: Russia,JV, Potash, Saskatchewan, Canada, Rio Tinto, MoU, Mine, Resource, Albany, Talitsky

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Material selection in fertilizer plants

Summary

We outline the criteria for choosing the most appropriate materials for the components and equipment in the demanding environment of a fertilizer plant and highlight some of the speciality products that are available.

Abstract

In a nitrogen fertilizer plant, a gaseous process stream is condensed in a high-pressure condenser to a pressure of 140 bar and a temperature of approximately 170°C. The condensate solution is highly corrosive, the most aggressive component being the ammoniacal form of carbamic acid. As a result, the materials of construction to be used must meet the highest standards of composition and quality. Awareness of the important factors in material selection, equipment design, manufacture and inspection, technological design and proper plant operations, together with regular corrosion inspections, are key factors in the safe operation and a long operating life for the facility. (Corrosion protection by design and selection of materials of construction, VECOM Technical Bulletin [2007].) Construction materials used at the process side of the HP condenser tend to be austenitic stainless steels (such as AISI 316L). The heat released during condensation of the gaseous process stream is used for the production of 4.5 bar steam (150ºC). Any chlorides entering the shell side of the HP condenser are likely to initiate stress corrosion cracking of the austenitic stainless steel tubes, starting from the outside surface. Keywords: Corrosion, Chlorides, Contamination, Condenser, Chromium, Stainless steels, Oxidation, Huey test, Austenistic, Weldability, Zirconium, Titanium, Erosion, Martensitic, Duplex, FRP, Graphite, Epoxy

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Reducing the fertilizer carbon footprint

Summary

The efforts of the leading producers to reduce emission and environmental impact throughout the fertilizer chain are profiled here.

Abstract

Climate change is an increasingly important topic throughout the world. In Europe, the EU has declared the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20% between 2013 and 2020, as well as boosting overall energy efficiency by 20%. It also seeks to attain a 20% share from renewable energy (wind, solar, biofuels), with 10% less emissions for agriculture and other non-regulated sectors. As a result, companies will have to measure their emissions and they will be obliged to reduce them. While no methodology exists to measure the environmental footprint of food products, fertilizers are seen as being the Number 1 emitter for crops and Number 2 after methane emissions by animals. The pressure to reduce these emissions goes down the food supply chain and impacts on agriculture. The European fertilizer industry thus recognises that it has to be proactive.Yara International identifies six fundamental impacts that comprise the carbon footprint made by fertilizers: l Fertilizer production l Fertilizer transportation l Fertilizer usage l Biomass production l Biomass consumption l Forest and wetlands. Keywords: Footprint, Carbon, BMPs, GHG, Environment, CO2, N2O, Energy, Biomass, Yara, Emissions

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Design advances boost performance

Summary

We outline the evolution of sulphuric acid catalysts. The leading suppliers meanwhile continue to announce improved catalyst performance.

Abstract

Catalysts can be defined as “a substance or material that will change the rate of reaction without it being consumed by the reaction.” Catalyst may be consumed during an intermediate step in a reaction and be regenerated in a subsequent step. (Sulphuric Acid on the Web™) Sulphuric acid production technology uses catalysts to promote the oxidation of SO2 to give SO3. The cleaned and dried SO2 is passed with air over catalyst pellet beds in converters (cylindrical vessels). Figs. 1 and 2 show typical catalyst installations. Originally, the active ingredient in the catalyst was platinum. While platinum catalysts exhibited high activity, they were costly and were easily deactivated by poisons such as arsenic trioxide (As2O3). To address this problem, vanadium catalysts were first introduced a century ago, consisting of vanadium pentoxide and alkali metal oxides on a porous silica carrier. Keywords: Sulphuric acid, Catalysts, SO2, Converter, Vanadium, Caesium, Heat exchanger, Pellets, Daisy, Impurities, Chlorides, Arsenic, Carbon dioxide, CO2, Carbon monoxide

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Sulphur in Agriculture: Beyond vital

Summary

We highlight the wide range of products that supply this vital nutrient.

Abstract

Sulphur has been identified as one of 17 essential plant nutrients, essential for the growth and development of all crops. Plants require sulphur in inorganic forms, being absorbed from the roots normally as sulphate (SO42-) from the soil, but they can also use SO2 from the atmosphere. Sulphur is transported to the leaves, where it is incorporated into essential amino acids, proteins, oils and other organic compounds. It is an essential nutrient for processes such as: l Formation of chlorophyll that permits photosynthesis through which plants produce starch, sugars, oils, fats, vitamins and other compounds. l Protein production. S is a constituent of three S-containing amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. About 90% of plant S is present in amino acids. l Synthesis of oils (particular important in oilseed crops). l Activation of enzymes, which aid in plant biochemical reactions. l Biological N fixation by bacteria. l Increasing crop yields and improving product quality. Keywords: Sulphur, Sulphate, Ion, SO2, Chlorophyll, Proteins, Enzymes, Cereals, Oilseed, Deficiency, Symptoms, Bentonite, AS, K2SO4, Gypsum, Elemental sulphur, Foliar, Sprays, SSP, SCU

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Clearwater report: Templates for operating excellence

Summary

The ever-popular Annual Clearwater Convention of the AIChE Central Florida Section was the 38th such meeting, attracting full houses during the workshop and formal sessions. The workshop discussion and parallel sessions of presentations will all provide templates for industry operating excellence.

Abstract

The 17th Annual Sulphuric Acid Workshop was chaired this year by Rick Davis, with Joshua Every standing in for Jim Dougherty, who was absent to attend his daughter’s graduation ceremony. The theme this year was Hydrogen Gas Incidents. A series of hydrogen incidents has occurred in the sulphuric acid industry worldwide. The goal of the workshop was to highlight the underlying causes of these incidents and provide suggestions for mitigation and prevention. Many of these incidents have a common thread: knowing the potential causes will assist sulphuric acid plant operators, maintenance personnel, engineers and designers to minimise the risks of these incidents. The session comprised five presentations that discussed the events leading to the incident, the effect and the action taken. Keywords: AIChE, Workshop, Sulphuric acid, Hydrogen incident, Explosion, CO2, Cooler, Safety, Risk, Phosphates, Phosphogypsum, Stack, Phosphate rock, Chromium, Martensitic, pH, Chlorides, Cooling water, Pond water, Aluminium, Phosphoric acid, Impurities, Emissions Filtration, DAP, Scrubbing, Agitator, Recovery, P2O5, Scale, Simulation, Heat recovery, Magnesium

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Focus on flotation

Summary

A spotlight on the processing of phosphate rock in order to upgrade the P2O5 content and ensure optimum plant performance.

Abstract

The Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute (FIPR) defines beneficiation as the second step in the mining process, after removal of ore from the ground. Beneficiation is the technical term describing the industrial process of mechanically separating minerals from each other. No chemical changes to the minerals are made at this point in the mining process. There are generally three steps in the phosphate rock beneficiation process. They are mineral crushing, grinding and flotation. In the crushing stage, a jaw crusher is often used as a primary crusher, while cone and impact crushers are often used as secondary crushers. After crushing, the next step is grinding the ore to the required fineness and micron size. Ball mills are usually used for this part of the process. The phosphate rock mixture is then classified by classifier. The final step is flotation, where in a series of stages impurities are removed from the phosphate concentrate. Keywords: Beneficiation, Ore, Processing, Flotation, Phosphate rock, FIPR, Mining, Minerals, Crushing, Grinding, Ball mills, Matrix, Clay, Separation, Pumps, Centrifugal, Slurry, Hydrosizer, Particles, Hydrocyclones, Agitators, Fatty acid, Column, Quartz, Froth, Igneous, Calcination, Cargo process, Amine, STPP, PEO, Suspension, Defoamer

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Spreading the nutrient message

Summary

Growers' education and technology transfer have been key factors to ensure the balanced application of N, P and K nutrients to ensure high agricultural yields and efficient nutrient use. We highlight the efforts of the potash producers to spread the message.

Abstract

International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) is a not-for-profit, science-based organisation dedicated to the responsible management of plant nutrition for the benefit of humanity. It is a global organisation with initiatives addressing the world’s growing need for food, fuel, fibre and feed. IPNI began operating in 2007, having evolved from the former Potash & Phosphate Institute, and now has active programmes that promote best management practices (BMPs) for nutrient stewardship. IPNI in particular promotes the 4R concept of applying the right product, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. IPNI programmes are funded by 23 member companies that are dedicated to the efficient and responsible use of fertilizers in plant nutrition. These companies are major producers in all the primary nutrient sectors. The majority of IPNI research projects are developed and managed by IPNI’s regional scientists around the world and are focused on knowledge gaps in each region. At any time, IPNI is involved with 140 to 190 research projects. Active programmes are currently under way in Africa, Australasia, Brazil, China, Eastern Europe/Central Asia, North and South America, South and South East Asia. Through co-operation and partnerships with respected institutions around the world, IPNI adds strengths to agronomic research, education, demonstrations, training and other endeavours. Keywords: Potash, Recommendation, Research, Maize, Wheat, Soybean, Oilseed, Potassium, Fertilisation, NUE, BMPs, 4R, IPNI

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Heavy metals removal: A massive technological challenge

Summary

We assess the available technology for the removal of heavy metals during the processing of phosphate rock and the manufacture of downstream fertilizers. Keywords: Impurities, Chromium, Cadmium, Mercury, Lead, Fluorine, Phosphate rock, Radioactive elements, Cd, Calcination, Solvent extraction, Ion exchange, Chelating, Membrane, Rare earth elements, REEs, Phosphogypsum, Phosphoric acid, DEPA-TOPO, OPPA, APAP, Octyl phenyl, SX

Abstract

Manufactured fertilizers, animal manures, bio-solids and recycled industrial waste may all contain heavy metal impurities. These can accumulate in the soil since they are not subject to chemical decomposition. Cadmium is the metal of greatest concern, IFA notes, because of potential adverse effects on the kidneys, bones, etc., although there is no conclusive evidence to date of adverse effects on human health from the use of phosphate fertilizers. In particular, all phosphate rocks contain hazardous elements, including heavy metals, such as cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), mercury (Hg), lead (Pb) and radioactive elements, for example uranium. These are considered to be toxic to human and animal health. The amounts of these hazardous elements vary widely among phosphate rock sources and even in the same deposit. Table 1 shows the results of a chemical analysis of potentially hazardous elements in some sedimentary phosphate rock samples.

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