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Publication > Issue > Articles

Sixty years of Ammonia Safety

Summary

Venkat Pattabathula of Incitec Pivot Ltd. and Jim Richardson of Clariant (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. Trace the history of the AIChE Ammonia Safety Symposium from its beginnings in 1956 as part of the Boston AIChE National Meeting. Since then, the Symposium has been held annually; a tribute to its effectiveness in reporting accidents, safety developments and technology improvements.

Abstract

It has been 102 years since the first ammonia plant based on the Haber-Bosch process started production at BASF’s site in Oppau, Germany, and 60 years since the first ammonia plant safety symposium was held as a session of the 1956 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. During this time, tremendous advances have been made in process technology, safety and related facilities. Unlike other chemical and refining industries which are slow to share information, the sharing of safety incidents and lessons learned by ammonia producers and technology suppliers at Ammonia Safety Symposia has made the production of ammonia and urea two of the safest chemical processing industries. Keywords: CATALYST, ENERGY, STRAGE, HANDLING, TRANSPORT, BOILER, TANK, REFORMER, WHB

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Syngas industries in southeast Asia

Summary

Southeast Asia is continuing to see steady growth in both nitrogen capacity and demand. Reform in Myanmar and new energy developments in Vietnam and Malaysia have the potential to continue this.

Abstract

The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) includes 10 member states with a combined population of 625 million people and an economy roughly the size of France or the UK, but growing at an average of 5.8% per year over the past five years. Indeed, the region taken as a whole has been the second fastest economy in Asia, after China, tripling in size from 2001-2013. Perhaps unsurprisingly, growth has been fastest (albeit from a low base) in the relatively less developed economies of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, while it has been slower in the more developed economies of Singapore and Brunei. Keywords: BURMA, MYANMAR, BRUNEI, INDONESIA, MALAYSIA, GUINEA, VIETNAM, ASEAN, METHANOL, AMMONIA

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Vietnam looks to increase urea exports

Summary

David Hayes reports from Vietnam, where local producers are looking to find new export markets, with increasing competition from low-priced imports and slowing domestic demand as a result of drought.

Abstract

Vietnam’s urea producers are looking to increase export sales in the face of strong price competition from low-priced imports and a slow down in domestic fertilizer demand last year caused by a drought affecting most parts of the country and other areas of Southeast Asia.Following large investment by state-owned enterprises in building urea production facilities to support the government’s agricultural sector development programme, Vietnam now faces an oversupply of urea due to the availability of low cost imports from neighbouring China. Keywords: PETROVIETNAM, HANICHEMCO, VINACHEM, COAL

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UAN's changing dynamics

Summary

US consumption of urea ammonium nitrate continues to grow, but new shale gas-based plants may soon shut out imports from large scale producers in Europe and Trinidad.

Abstract

Use of urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) is growing worldwide, but for the moment remains largely a North American phenomenon (about four fifths of demand), where the market has long been used to liquid fertilizers. To some extent UAN has prospered at the expense of two other fertilizers; solid fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate (FGAN), which faces increasing scrutiny over safety and the potential for deliberate criminal misuse, and direct application liquid ammonia, which has likewise been stolen for misuse in the US, in thise case for drugs manufacture, and which also has health and safety questions about its storage and transport. Keywords: CF INDUSTRIES, CVR, RENTECH, OCI, POLAND, BELARUS

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Foil supported catalysts in steam reformers

Summary

W Whittenberger and P W Farnell of Johnson Matthey report on a foil supported steam reforming catalyst system, CATACELJMTM SSRTM, which has been developed and is delivering significant performance benefits in several commercial steam reformers in Europe and the Americas.

Abstract

Johnson Matthey has been at the forefront of the development of steam reforming catalysts for many decades, being the first supplier to bring to the market features such as alkalised catalysts that have now been adopted industry wide. Continued innovation resulting in KATALCOJM™ QUADRALOBE™ steam reforming catalysts has enabled the company to remain as the market leader in steam reforming catalyst supply. Johnson Matthey continues to invest in developing its range of reforming catalysts and technologies in order to remain at the forefront of this challenging technology. Keywords: Johnson Matthey, steam reforming, catalyst, CATACEL SSR, ammonia plant, methanol plant, hydrogen plant, reformer

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High-alloy stainless steels for longer equipment life

Summary

Materials for nitric acid service must evolve to meet rising efficiency targets and corrosion challenges. In response to this, Sandvik Materials Technology develops and manufactures advanced stainless steels and special alloys that are helping its customers to achieve better corrosion protection and higher ammonia conversion efficiencies.

Abstract

Ammonia plants are expensive and high-on-stream factors are crucial to achieve optimal ammonia conversion efficiencies. Longer equipment lifecycles are integral to this in order to recuperate the investment costs, and to reassure investors as to the long-term prospects and risks of the operations. Achieving these longer and uninterrupted processes requires equipment with greater reliability and maintainability, without adding to the initial construction costs. The answer for this lies in selecting more corrosion resistant materials capable of withstanding the harsh/corrosive environments that are typical of nitric acid (HNO3) service. Keywords: Sandvik, nitric acid plant, stress corrosion cracking, SCC, pitting, crevice corrosion, SRE10, SAF 2906, ASTM 304L

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Piperazine activated solvents for CO2 removal

Summary

As part of a review of a solvent change-out from amine promoted hot potassium carbonate to piperazine actived MDEA, R S Alvis, N A Hatcher and R H Weiland of Optimized Gas Treating, Inc. present the results of a quantitative study of the piperazine promotion of MDEA, specifically the effects of piperazine to MDEA ratio, total amine strength, and the treating temperature on the performance of a typical ammonia syngas CO2 removal system. The potential of piperazine-activated Alkazid DIK as a solvent for CO2 removal applications is also discussed.

Abstract

In the early days of ammonia production, monoethanolamine (MEA) was commonly used for CO2 removal from the synthesis gas using the Girbotol process. Somewhat later, hot potassium carbonate (the Benfield, or Hot Pot process) was used, often in a split flow configuration described as a two-stage Benfield LoHeat process for energy conservation. In the last 20 years, a very substantial fraction of these plants have been retrofitted using the aMDEA® process which was first patented by BASF in 1982 and is still used in the majority of the world’s ammonia plants. Keywords: Opimized Gas Treating, MDEA, Alkazid DIK, piperazine, CO2 removal, solvent, amine

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Sourcing the right materials, in the right quantity, on time

Summary

Nitric acid plants face various challenges related to metallurgy and chemistry such as corrosion and therefore require special attention when it comes to which material grades are to be used. Special stainless steels with specific requirements have been developed to resist such environments but are sometimes difficult to locate and/or may result in long delivery times that could significantly impact the project or delay the repair. Material service provider for specialities and special products GEMACO discusses the importance of material selection.

Abstract

Material selection for nitric acid environments depends on the acid concentration and operating temperature. Different grades can be used: l 304 L should contain no traces of Mo – destructive testing is used to check the chemical composition. This grade is difficult to find from stock and can only be produced in large quantities. Keywords: GEMACO, metallurgy, fabrication, fittings, installation, stainless steel grades

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Extending the life of molecular sieve beds

Summary

In this article V K Arora of Kinetics Process Improvements, Inc. presents the key lessons learned to improve the life of molecular sieve beds in two large ammonia plants that were failing after less than half the expected life span of 60+ months, mainly due to excessive pressure drop build up. A holistic approach greatly helped in identifying the root causes. A similar approach can be applied in molecular sieve systems in most other industries to improve plant reliability.

Abstract

Molecular sieve drying systems were added in two large ammonia plants as part of a revamp to provide the final synthesis gas purification by removing water of saturation, carbon dioxide and ammonia. Since the commissioning, the molecular sieve beds in both plants lasted significantly shorter run times compared to the typical expected life in excess of 60 months. The shorter life was due mainly to an excessive pressure drop build up over time. The molecular sieve beds were configured in an up-flow mode with internal refractory lining and typical steps for absorption, regeneration and standby times. Each bed was loaded with type 10 x 20 molecular sieves. Keywords: KPI, molecular sieve beds, pressure drop, incipient fluidisation, bed channelling, flow configuration

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Plant Manager+ Problem No. 32 Temperature drop at bottom outlet of HP stripper in a Saipem urea plant

Summary

The stripper in a urea plant is a key item of high pressure equipment affecting the overall performance of a urea plant. There is a significant difference between the Stamicarbon CO2 HP stripper and the Saipem NH3 HP stripper when judging its performance. The bottom outlet temperature of a Stamicarbon CO2 stripper is normally relatively low (170-175°C) and when the performance of the HP stripper reduces (meaning lower stripping efficiency) this temperature will increase indicating an increase in the ammonia content in the bottom outlet of the stripper. However, in a Saipem NH3 stripper the situation is totally different. The stripper bottom outlet temperature increases with a higher stripper efficiency and an operator in a Saipem urea plant tries to operate the urea plant at the maximum bottom outlet temperature. The maximum value is determined by the acceptable corrosion rates, for example, 204°C for a bimetallic stripper.

Abstract

Mr Ngateno Utomo of PKT, Indonesia starts this round table discussion with a practical problem: We operate a Saipem urea plant with a design capacity of 1,725 t/d. The plant is 13 years old. During start-up the temperature at the HP stripper outlet can reach 202°C at 100% plant load (flow of steam 38 t/h), but after a few days the temperature drops to 194°C (and flow of steam drops to 20 t/h). We have tried trimming all operating conditions but the temperature cannot be increased even when we reduce the plant load to only 50%. We tried to block in and restart the plant, but the condition reoccurred. Can anyone explain what the problem is with the stripper? Keywords: HP stripper, Saipem, urea plant, steam condensate drum level, ferrule hole diameter

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Improving the efficiency of CO2 removal systems

Summary

L Tomasi of Giammarco-Vetrocoke reports on how the regeneration energy requirement of the GV low-energy CO2 removal process, based on the hot potassium carbonate (HPC) solution, can be drastically reduced by integration with a stand-alone physical absorption system. A small sized physical unit added upstream of the existing CO2 removal system allows the pre-absorption of 30 to 50% of the CO2 from the process gas which is then fully recovered by flash without any regeneration energy requirement.

Abstract

The global ammonia/urea industry is struggling in many regions with a shortage of available natural gas (NG), This worldwide scenario has led to huge instability of prices, making the economics of production quite uncertain. In order to be competitive with modern plants, it is important for older existing units to drastically reduce their energy consumption by decreasing the specific NG requirement per tonne of ammonia. Keywords: Keywords: GV low energy process, hybrid CO2 removal, hot potassium carbonate, HPC

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