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AIChE ammonia group considers security

Summary

Security against possible terrorist attack was a keynote theme at the 2003 Safety in Ammonia Plants and Related Facilities symposium in Orlando.

Abstract

Improving operational safety has always been the principal purpose of the annual symposia on ammonia plants and related facilities run by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. It is due in no small measure to these symposia that the nitrogen industry today generally has a very good safety record, particularly in view of the highly stressful operating conditions under which some of the processes operate and the hazardous nature of some of the products and intermediates.

In recent years, particularly since 11 September 2001 (“9/11”), the nitrogen industry, like many other branches of the chemical industry, has had to make much more serious provision in its safety strategy for a new and unpredictable component: the possibility of a malicious, politically-motivated attack. Chemical plants are a fairly obvious target for terrorists seeking either to destroy the plant itself and release harmful substances into the surrounding neighbourhood or to steal harmful substances which can subsequently be put to nefarious use in attacking or threatening communities or groups.

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Casale Group

Summary

Operating from Switzerland since the 1920s, the Casale Group was a pioneer in ammonia synthesis, but subsequently branched out into methanol, urea, and now related technologies such as hydrogen and DME.

Abstract

The Casale Group comprises four companies: Ammonia Casale, Methanol Casale, Casale Chemicals and Urea Casale. It currently employs a team of about 100 people, most of them specialised technologists, based at its recently finished new office building in Lugano. There are also pilot unit facilities nearby. The Casale Group is able to offer licensing services and contracting activities based on a wide spectrum of proprietary advanced technologies for the production of ammonia, methanol, urea and hydrogen. Methanol derivates such as formaldehyde, dimethylether (DME) and olefins are also fields of activity of the Group.

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Critical loading

Summary

Even, dense catalyst loading is one of the essential prerequisites for efficient operation and long tube life in a steam reforming furnace. A new loading technique was announced recently.

Abstract

Primary steam-hydrocarbon reforming, represented in equation 1 by the steam-methane reforming reaction, is conventionally carried out by passing the steam-feedstock mixture through catalyst-filled tubes suspended in a furnace box. That is because the heat requirement of the endothermic reaction is so high, both in terms of the quantity of heat and its grade (temperature level) that it cannot satisfactorily be fulfilled in any other way.

CH4 + H2O CO + 3H2
D H^0_298 = +206.3 kJ/mol     (1)

For economic reasons, primary reforming is conducted under the highest possible pressure, but because the forward reaction entails a volume increase, the added pressure has a negative effect on the equilibrium conversion, which has to be compensated for by increasing the temperature. Figure 1 shows the dependence of the residual concentration of methane at equilibrium on the pressure and temperature where the initial steam-carbon mole ratio in the feed gas mixture is 3.5.

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The changing gas market in Russia

Summary

Although it has had halting beginnings and some false starts, there are now signs of real reform in the Russian gas sector. Nitrogen & Methanol examines the effect that this is likely to have on the fertilizer industries of both Russia and the former eastern bloc countries.

Abstract

Russia remains the largest reservoir of gas in the world. It had proved reserves in 2001 of between 46,900 and 47,570 bcm, representing around 30% of all gas on the planet. Gas production in 2001, meanwhile, was 581 bcm, giving Russia a reserve: production ratio of over 80 years. Most (about 85%) of this gas production comes from the Timen region, but reserves are actually mostly further east (see Figure 1).

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Methanol: tough times and opportunities ahead

Summary

At the World Methanol Conference in Phoenix last November, the gloom caused by looming oversupply was balanced by optimism about methanol's long-term future.

Abstract

Last November the 21st World Methanol Conference and Exhibition was held at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, Arizona. These have been good times for the methanol industry, with prices high and demand strong, but with several million tonnes of new capacity due to come on-stream over the next 2–3 years, and the US now committed to phasing out MTBE, this may be the last good year for a while. Nevertheless, the longer-term prospects for methanol, with outlets such as MTO, DME and possible fuel use, meant that there was still optimism at the conference, if not among North American producers.

The conference began with a review of global economic conditions by CMAI economist Arvid Teleki. He moved through the US current account deficit, the growth of China the difficulties in South America and the world’s emergence from the manufacturing recession of the past two or three years to describe two scenarios for the next five years. The optimistic forecast, based on current trends with no ‘shocks’ assumes continued strong long-term growth and further globalisation of the world economy, with world GDP growth in the 3.5% region for the next five years. However, shocks such as war, terrorism, trade disagreements and financial mismanagement could bring this down to the 1–2% level.

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PGM recovery: price relationships are all-important

Summary

Whether, to what extent, and by which means it is worth while to recover platinum-group metals lost from the catalyst system of a nitric acid plant is largely governed by the relative market values of the metals used.

Abstract

Platinum has a long history as a heterogeneous catalyst, not just in the laboratory, where “platinised asbestos” used to be a standard catalyst, but in industry and, in recent decades, in exhaust purification systems for automotive and stationary internal combustion engines as well.

Even when impregnated into a robust refractory support, platinum is a very sensitive catalyst chemically, easily becoming poisoned by a range of impurities in the process gas. In the cases of industrial nitric acid and hydrogen cyanide manufacture, however, for technological reasons an inert support cannot be used, and the catalyst is fabricated from the metal in dense form. Minor proportions of other platinum-group metals (PGMs) are alloyed with it to improve its physical strength and stability.

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