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Nitrogen 2004 conference report

Summary

The Nitrogen 2004 International Conference and Exhibition, organised by British Sulphur Publishing, was held at the Arabella Sheraton Grand Hotel, Munich, Germany, from Sunday 21st March to Wednesday 24th March 2004.

Abstract

The run of high product prices helped to put the nitrogen and methanol industries in buoyant mood as they met in Munich earlier this year, and the meeting was one of the best attended for many years. However, the looming threat of capacity overhang and continuing political uncertainties cast a shadow over the future.

As usual, the conference was fortunate to have attracted generous sponsorship, beginning with a cocktail reception on Sunday, March 21st, kindly hosted jointly by Synetix and Krupp Uhde, and including a Sud-Chemie sponsored lunch on Tuesday.

Conference director and Nitrogen & Methanol publisher John French, opening the conference, commented that while the looming war in Iraq was inevitably the focus of peoples’ concerns, other, longer-term trends were shaping the nitrogen industry and he hoped that the conference would provide a forum for discussion of them.

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India's urea demand set to rise

Summary

David Hayes talks to the Fertilizer Association of India about the current situation for the urea industry in the country and the prospects for the future.

Abstract

India is forecasting a 25% increase in urea consumption over the next five years, reversing the recent trend of declining urea use since the late 1990s. The forecast increase in urea demand assumes that there will be an improvement in recently erratic weather conditions and that the supply of natural gas feedstock used in urea production will expand as India begins to develop newly discovered indigenous gas reserves and starts to import LNG.

The government expects urea consumption to grow by about 1.0m t/a for the next five years after erratic rainfall caused total urea use to decline by about 10% to 18.5m t/a since the late 1990s.

India’s projected increase in urea consumption will be met partly by a rise in domestic production as well as by growth in urea imports. Four new urea plants are planned for construction to help meet the rise in urea demand following the closure of seven older, inefficient plants. Recently completed revamping schemes also will help increase domestic urea production while overseas investments by Indian fertilizer producers will provide supplies for the expected urea import growth.

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It can be done

Summary

Though older and smaller than many of its competitors in the region, GPIC's ammonia-urea / methanol complex in Bahrain is profitable and trouble-free, and it has a string of environmental, safety and general excellence awards to its credit. Nitrogen & Methanol recently had the privilege of visiting this remarkable enterprise.

Abstract

Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co. (GPIC) was formed in 1979 as an equal-share joint venture between the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia (represented by SABIC) and Kuwait (represented by PIC) with the objective of utilising Bahrain’s natural gas for the production of petrochemicals for export. Origi­nally the factory comprised 1,000-t/d Topsøe ammonia and ICI (now J-M) methanol plants and a shared utilities plant. All the output from both plants was exported through a nearby terminal which GPIC shares with BAPCO (the Bahrain Petroleum Co.). The site occupies some (by no means all) of a 60-hectare plot of reclaimed land and went into operation in 1985. Both process plants were debottlenecked in 1989, which increased their capacity to 1,200 t/d of each product. In 1998 a 1,700-t/d urea plant and associated marine export facilities were added downstream of the ammonia plant.

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Middle Eastern fertilizer update

Summary

The Middle East is so closely connected to the Asian fertilizer market that it is often considered an adjunct of it, and the region forms a major source of nitrogen supply to east Asia. Nitrogen & Methanol reviews developments there over the past couple of years.

Abstract

The past year or so has not been kind to the Middle East; war and terrorism have served to remind people of the potential political risk there just as the world has been passing through a period of reduced economic growth. US attitudes to the region in general and Saudi Arabia in particular have seen a dramatic change following September 11th, and regional attitudes to the US have equally hardened in the wake of the war in Iraq. Although Middle Eastern companies have tried to assert that it is ‘business as usual’, it seems likely that project costs will rise because of increased risk premiums for shipping heavy equipment into the region, and for export-based plants there is the possibility of higher costs for finished products going in the opposite direction.

However, global growth finally seems to be moving in the right direction. East Asia – the Middle East’s main market for fertilizer exports – seems to be over the SARS epidemic, while growth has surged in the US, and the IMF estimates that global growth increased by 6% in the second half of 2003, and is projected to average 4.6% worldwide for 2004, with China still at 8–9%, India 6.8%, and industrialised Asia rising by 3.5%.

Furthermore, the fundamental advantages of the Middle East remain, in particular the region’s rich endowment of hydrocarbon and production resources. The Arabian Gulf countries have proven gas reserves of 55.15 trillion cubic metres of natural gas, representing 34.7% of the world gas reserves. Gas has become particularly important for countries like Qatar and Oman, where oil production is in decline as wells are exhausted, but where large untapped reserves of gas remain. Most of the countries of the Gulf have both ample gas reserves and small populations, leading them to be ideal places for export. Europe’s and North America’s fertilizer industries have discovered to their cost that power producers can always afford to outbid chemical producers for natural gas, and the same has also been true even in major nitrogen-producing countries like Indonesia and India.

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High pressure loop revamping in CO2 stripping plants

Summary

Federico Zardi of Urea Casale explains a new low-cost modification to CO2 stripping plants that provides debottlenecking options during revamps.

Abstract

Urea Casale SA is a sister company of Ammonia Casale SA, established in 1991 to carry on the urea technology activities started by Ammonia Casale in 1985. Since its inception, efforts were mainly directed to the revamping of existing plants, with almost 70 plants being revamped since 1985. Via its revamping activities and its own technical capability, Urea Casale has developed its own technologies to upgrade all types of urea plants. Capacity increase, energy consumption, corrosion control, pollution abatement and product quality are the key areas for upgrading plant performance.

Urea Casale Technical Services use sophisticated tools for investigating, analyzing and picturing complex phenomena, including computer-aided techniques with applications ranging from chemical process design to fluid dynamics evaluations. The technology that is discussed in this paper is a typical example of how the combination of above mentioned tools and expertise can lead to the development of innovative concepts.

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