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Publication > Issue > Articles

Constraints on ­agriculture: ­implications for ­biofuels production

Summary

While the expansion of biofuel production has been widely encouraged to provide an alternative to non-renewable fossil fuels, the pros and cons have tended to be overlooked. Indeed, there are some highly significant constraints, as Ken Gilbert describes.

Abstract

Previous articles on biofuels in Ferti­lizer International have covered the implications of biofuels production on world energy, agriculture and fertilizers (FI No. 404, January/February 2005) bio-ethanol (FI No. 406, May/June 2005), bio-diesel (FI No. 407, July/August 2005) and the economic viability of biofuels (FI No. 409, November/December 2005). Over the period of about 18 months since the first article appeared, the subject of biofuels has become ever more important. This is exemplified by the fact that chemical magazines are carrying much more news about the subject, particularly about new capacity for bio-ethanol and bio-diesel. Since we started noting items on the subject in two popular weekly international chemical magazines, the number of items increased from four in the third quarter of 2004 to 35 in the fourth quarter of 2005, and now seems to be steady at about 35 items each quarter. Over the same period evidence of, and concern about, global warming has also increased. The evidence for global warming appears incontrovertible, and the assertion that it is a man-made effect is accepted by more and more scientists, politicians and other opinion-formers – although there are dissenters from this view.

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Winners and losers as prices skyrocket

Summary

Long-established ammonia and nitrogen fertilizer producers in Europe and the United States have been determined to prevail, despite escalating energy costs. But has the recent upsurge been a price rise too far? These are tough times, which demand radical solutions.

Abstract

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In the Chafer Tradition

Summary

Forty years ago, Chafer's joined the Fertiliser Manufacturer's Association, thus marking a major new phase in the development of an enterprise which had started in Yorkshire at the dawn of the last century. This article, which traces the evolution of this unique organisation and its influence for just over a century, is based on a recent publication1 by the author.

Abstract

The story began with James William Chafer, a member of the Pharma­ceutical Society, who in 1901 sold copper-based fungicides for potato blight control in and around Doncaster. His premises were in the Market Place, where his customers, the local farmers, gathered on a regular basis. From the outset he realised that the effectiveness of the fungicides depended on the way they were spread over the crop. The application stage was crucial, so he provided access to suitable equipment by offering sprayers on short-term lease. In the first instance he bought them in from agricultural machinery manufacturers, but immediately set about designing and constructing more reliable units of his own.

This was a significant step forward because it recognised the importance of controlling the means of application to ensure that the product functioned on the crop as intended. As and when other products – including insecticides and herbicides – were introduced, the equipment was adjusted or modified accordingly.

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A 360º industry snapshot

Summary

The previous issue of Fertilizer International carried a photo spread and brief report on how over 240 participants from the global phosphate industry gathered in Brussels for British Sulphur Events' second Phosphates Conference and Exhibition. The papers presented in two full days of sessions were a key ingredient in the success of the meeting, as evidenced by the full attendance on each day. These papers are summarised here.

Abstract

Speakers from around the world addressed the issues that currently affect global phosphate markets, paying particular attention to the economic, commercial and technical challenges that the phosphate industry will face over the next decade. In addition to these presentations, Phosphates 2006 was a forum for several descriptions of new process technology to enhance the efficiency of production through better resource and energy management.

Smail Ezahr, Technical Adviser of IMPHOS (World Phosphate Institute) was the keynote speaker. His paper was entitled Phosphate Industry: Growth and Challenges. He focused on four issues:

  • The role of phosphate fertilizers in agriculture
  • Phosphate rock reserves, mining and beneficiation
  • Phosphoric acid and technological improvements
  • Future prospects.

 

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The time after – from brown fields to green

Summary

The Global Mining Initiative (GMI) of 2002 ensures that mining projects are no longer completed after the shutdown of production: the environmentally-safe abandonment of mine sites and the reclamation of processing plant sites are now issues that are treated as integral to the entire mining venture, and all mine operators must not only consider the extraction and underground infrastructure but also pay attention to closure procedures. This article reviews developments ­­­in France and Germany that have been undertaken in the full spirit of the GMI.

Abstract

The Global Mining Initiative (GMI) brought together many of the world’s largest mining and minerals companies, which recognised that they had wider responsibilities to ensure a safe and sustainable environment for present and future generations. The Initiative had three main strands:

  • The creation of an industry association that could focus on sustainable development in the mining, metals and minerals industries.
  • An independent analysis of the key issues facing these industries.
  • A global conference on mining, minerals and sustainable development.

The conference in May 2002 was entitled Resourcing the Future and was held in Toronto. It made a significant contribution to the World Summit on Sustainable De­vel­opment in Johannesburg later that year, which marked the 10th anniversary of the Rio Summit. The objective of all three strands was to reach a clearer understanding of the positive role that the mining and minerals industries can play in making the transition to sustainable patterns of economic development.

 

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Putting Congo potash back on the map

Summary

Canada's MagIndustries Corporation is set to put the Republic of Congo back on the map as a potash producer, supplying up to 1.16 million t/a from the development of its solution mining project near Pointe Noire on the country's Atlantic coast. Lynda Davies looks at how this $665 million project is progressing.

Abstract

In the mid-1990s a group of businessmen, including William Burton, the current president of Canada’s Mag­Industries Corporation (formerly operating as Magnesium Alloy Corporation), undertook a review of the mineral resources in the Kouilou region of the African Repub­lic of Congo (ROC). Over a decade and a half earlier, France’s SCPA had successfully operated a silvinite underground mine in the region for the best part of ten years, producing between 400-500,000 t/a of potash. The mining operation was abandoned in 1997 after the mine was flooded.

The interest of the MagIndustries group in the ROC’s mineral resources was prompted by an approach by a party keen to explore the potential of reviving potash production in the Pointe Noire area of the country. There was potentially a lot to gain due to the sheer size of the carnallite re­serves in the Kouilou region, which were first identified in 1960. According to an estimate by the ROC government and ­verified by others, inferred carnallite reserves are in excess of 800 billion tonnes.

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