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Publication > Issue > Articles

A disruptive influence

Summary

The global ammonia market faces many a number of changes, but new US ammonia capacity looks set to be the main disruptive influence.

Abstract

The global ammonia industry totals around 225 million t/a of capacity, and from that in 2014 it produced around 170 million tonnes of ammonia. However, the merchant market for ammonia is much smaller than this, since most ammonia is produced for captive use, in downstream urea, ammonium nitrate, nitric acid or ammonium phosphate plants. Ammonia transport and storage is complicated by its corrosive and poisonous nature and the fact that it must be cooled to sub-zero temperatures to liquefy, meaning that in 2014 only 18.5 million tonnes of the compound was traded internationally. Keywords: MOROCCO, OCP, MAADEN, INDIA, CHINA, DAP, UREA, SHALE, LNG

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Has the Middle East lost its appeal?

Summary

Once the hottest area for new ammonia/urea project development, shortages of gas and political issues have taken the shine off the Middle East in recent years, but is there scope for new development in Iran and potentially elsewhere?

Abstract

During the 1990s and 2000s, a reliable destination for new investment in ammonia and urea c apacity was the Middle East. With Europe and India on its doorstep, abundant and cheap natural gas and a favourable investment climate, national oil companies, partnered on occasion by western producers and investors, developed a large and efficient export-oriented nitrogen industry, based on what was often then regarded as “stranded” natural gas, with limited alternative values and in the case of associated gas potentially negative costs associated with flaring. Low, fixed gas prices were the norm, with good margins for ammonia and urea producers. But things have become more complicated as a growing, more integrated gas market globally, especially for liquefied natural gas (LNG), has driven gas prices up and made investment in LNG more attractive than nitrogen or methanol, while rising local demand for gas has crimped availability, at least at the kind of prices that used to be available. Keywords: SAUDI ARABIA, BAHRAIN, QATAR, IRAN, EGYPT, UAE, ABU DHABI, YEMEN, IRAQ

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Is the party over for GTL?

Summary

Gas to liquids technology promised producers a way of arbitraging the price differential between cheap gas and expensive oil-based products. But with oil prices halved in the past year, has the rationale for GTL production disappeared?

Abstract

Over the past two decades gas to liquids production has waxed and waned in popularity with changing global economic conditions. Sasol adapted their coal to liquids slurry phase distillate process for gas to liquids production in 1992, and Shell, partnered by Mitsubishi, Petronas and Sarawak State, produced a demonstrator plant for their own Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis (SMDS) process at Bintulu in Malaysia in 1993, but there was no further activity for some years, as the process was regarded as expensive and low oil prices and high gas prices did not seem to justify the investment required. However, in the early 2000s, as oil prices climbed towards what were then regarded as expensive levels of $40/bbl, Sasol began to look towards cheap sources of gas as a way of licensing their GTL technology. In partnership with oil major Chevron, two project sites were decided upon; at Ras Laffan in Qatar, next to the giant North Field, and at Escravos in Nigeria, where the Nigerian government was engaged in a project to recover and monetise associated gas from its oil production which was being wastefully flared. Although work was slow on the Escravos project, its twin Oryx project in Qatar came in on-budget and almost on schedule. As a result, there was talk that Sasol had ‘solved’ the problems with GTL, and with oil prices now starting to climb higher and higher there was a slew of new GTL project announcements, most of them in Qatar. Keywords: SASOL, CTL, TURKMENISTAN, KAZAKHSTAN, VELOCYS, OBERON, SHELL, LNG

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Product diversification

Summary

Advances in process technology and improvements in the energy efficiency of plants widens the options for ammonia, urea and methanol producers to diversify into new downstream products such as melamine and to benefit from greater process integration.

Abstract

Melamine offers urea producers a very interesting business opportunity to diversify by extending the nitrogen value chain, starting from hydrocarbons, with a new product having a strong market growth potential. Melamine is a chemical made directly from urea with applications in high end plastic products such as moulding compounds, decorative laminates, adhesives for the woodwork industry, coating resins, concrete plasticizers and resins for paper finishing. Keywords: urea, ammonia, methanol, melamine, hydrogen, integrated process, Eurotecnica, Casale, Topsoe

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Boosting ammonia capacity

Summary

Increased ammonia capacity in Russia and the CIS is being used to monetise natural gas into valuable fertilizer products. This article describes some of the revamping technologies and catalysts being used to modernise aging ammonia plants in the region for increased efficiency and higher production capacities and reports on the first large scale fertilizer complex to start up since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Abstract

The large-capacity ammonia production plants in Russia and the CIS were mainly constructed in the 1970/80s. These production processes were largely based on the technology of Toyo Engineering Co. (TEC) or that of the Russian Institute of Nitrogen Industry (GIAP). The GIAP plants and the TEC plants typically had an original design capacity of 1,360 t/d ammonia. Much of the current capacity is aimed at supplying export markets, which are subject to international competitive pressures. Within Russia over the last 25+ years, due to increasing feedstock prices and an increase in shareholder requirements for profits, plant operators have faced the dual challenge of being more efficient whilst increasing production so that they can remain effective in supplying global fertilizer markets. Keywords: ammonia, Russia, CIS, turbocompressor, revamp, ammonia converter, catalyst, Tatarstan, coproduction, methanol, Casale, Johnson Matthey, MHI, Topsoe

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Plant Manager+

Summary

Problem No. 33 Excessive amount of carbamate solution from recirculation section

Abstract

The recirculation or distillation section in a urea plant where unconverted carbamate is separated from the urea/water mixture is a critical section of a urea plant that influences the overall performance of the plant. Too much carbamate solution recycle back to the synthesis section will increase the amount of water in the synthesis and will negatively influence the reactor conversion figures. Fouling in the recirculation section can sometimes cause these operational problems, but how can fouling be identified as the root cause of a problem? Keywords: carbamate condenser, recirculation section, rectifier, reflux condenser

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