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AIC provides one voice for UK agribusinesses

Summary

UK agribusinesses While fertilizer industry trade associations have long cultivated good relations with legislators and other policy-makers, many industry executives had been chagrined that the fertilizer industry has not always been invited to sit at the top table, as do the likes of farmers' lobby groups, landowning interests or even the Green Lobby. This perceived problem was addressed last year in the United Kingdom, where the Fertiliser Manufacturers Association (FMA) joined forces with other agri-business interests to form a new supply trade association, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC). One year after AIC was formed, what goals has it sought to achieve, and what have been its successes to date?

Abstract

The Agricultural Industries Confed­eration (AIC) is celebrating its first anniversary of providing a single, cohesive voice to represent the UK agricultural inputs and supply trade. The formation of AIC in late 2003 was a radical step that brought together three previously autonomous groups of interests – the Fertiliser Manufacturers Association (FMA), UKASTA (UK Agricultural Supply Trade Association) and a group of leading crop protection distributors. In all, AIC represents around 300 member companies, with a combined turnover of approximately £ 6.5 billion ($11.4 billion) and a substantial input into the UK and international agricultural industry. The sectors covered by AIC member companies include fertilizers, animal feed, crop protection and agronomy, grain trading, with the membership typically representing more than 90 % of the sector.

“AIC is an influential voice representing the agricultural supply industry,” AIC Chief Executive David Caffall told FI. “We are dedicated to adding value to our members, and membership of the confederation is a valuable asset to any company working within the sector. AIC works exclusively on the issues that impact on UK agribusinesses and lobbies on their behalf, both in the UK and Europe.”

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Asian potash: still ­waiting for Thailand

Summary

Asia consumes more than one third of the world's potash, but produces next to nothing itself. With potash deficiency a growing problem in many parts of the continent, the development of new mines in China and especially Thailand has the potential to radically change the Asian potash market.

Abstract

Potash is the third most important fertilizer nutrient after nitrogen and phosphorus. For some crops it is actually the second or even primary nutrient. Sugar beet, for example, has been shown to be extremely sensitive to levels of potash. However, unlike nitrogen, which can be produced from any fossil fuel source, or phosphorus rock, which is fairly widely distributed worldwide, the number of countries that have potassium deposits is very small; there are only fifteen with any significant production, mostly in Europe, the Americas, or the Middle East. Further­more, several countries, like France, are either reaching the end of their reserves or have technical barriers to significantly increasing production – several Canadian mines have had problems with flooding, for example. International trade is thus dominated by six major producing countries, which operate 90 % of world production capacity: Can­ada, Russia, Belarus, Ger­many, Israel and Jordan. As Figure 1 shows, Canada and the former Soviet countries are the primary suppliers to the Asian market. The only potash producer in Asia is currently China, al­though Thailand has two large mines which will start in the next few years.

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BMH Marine wins Paradeep order

Summary

Fertilizers and raw materials continue to account for a major share of the core business for BMH Marine, the Swedish-based supplier of specialist bulk handling equipment. The latest orders and innovations are described here.

Abstract

Fertilizers and associated raw materials continue to account for a major share of business for BMH Marine, and the company’s Siwertell shipunloaders and conveying systems can be found at fertilizer ports and terminals throughout the world. The orders continue to come in, and BMH Marine was able to secure an order intake in July and August 2004 with a total value of around $ 30 million.

These new orders include one from India for the delivery of a Siwertell screw-type unloader to Paradeep Phosphates Ltd. (PPL). The unloader will be erected at PPL’s captive berth at the port of Paradeep and will be suitable for ships of up to 60,000 dwt and the discharge of sulphur at 1,600 t/h, phosphate rock and potash. Installation is ex­pected to be completed in the first half of 2005, and will represent a major advance on the present unloading arrangements. For the discharge of sulphur, PPL currently employs grabs, fitted on to cranes, for discharging sulphur at the rate of 4,000 t/d. The sulphur is dropped into a hopper and transported by conveyor belts to the plant. The new installation will raise the sulphur discharge rate to 15,000 t/d.

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Fertility at the crossroads

Summary

Agriculture in Latin America has made immense strides within the past decade, helping to generate increasingly important export income in countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. However, a longer-term threat to this progress is posed by negative nutrient balances in the soil and the unbalanced application of nutrients. Several agencies are making concerted attempts to address the issue.

Abstract

Market observers have been im­pressed by the advances made in agriculture throughout Latin America within the past decade. Grain production has increased steadily, with Brazil and Argentina leading the way, and impressive strides have also been made in oilseed production. Brazil is now the world’s largest producer of coffee, sugar cane and citrus and is the world’s second largest producer of soya beans. In the Southern Cone region, higher yields have accounted for approximately 75 % of the increase in oilseed production and for most of the increase in cereal outputs. These increases are partly attributed to higher fertilizer consumption, and in Argentina, fertilizer use increased five-fold between 1991 and 1996.

Brazil’s agricultural production has increased more than threefold in the past 30 years and the use of mineral fertilizers has increased correspondingly. One notable achievement has been the transformation of the arid Cerrado region into a major producer of high-value agricultural products, harnessing the results of multidisciplinary agricultural research.

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H2SO4 + H3PO4 -> Clearwater

Summary

The Central Florida Section of AIChE met in June for the 28th year in Clearwater to examine current issues in sulphuric and phosphoric acid operations and technology.

Abstract

Over the years “The Clearwater” has grown from its original concept of an informal Saturday morning get-together of a few Florida phosphoric acid plant engineers who happened to be spending Memorial Day weekend with their families at Clearwater Beach into something much bigger. The scope of the program has expanded to include sulphuric acid as well as phosphoric acid and phosphate topics, and the Saturday sessions have been supplemented by workshop sessions on the afternoon of the preceding day. It regularly attracts 250-300 delegates, including strong participation from the contractors and equipment suppliers, many of whom also help the event to survive on a sound footing by providing welcome sponsorship. And, happily, although it has now moved away from Memorial Day weekend, the venue remains the same, the families are still very much in evidence, and the atmosphere is as relaxed and informal as ever. Not bad for an event that is essentially all done in 24 hours!

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When waste is as important as product

Summary

Phosphoric acid plants generate more waste than phosphoric acid. Separating and getting rid of it efficiently is crucial to the success of the operation.

Abstract

Depending on the grade and quality of the phosphate rock raw material, for every tonne of P2O5 processed in a phosphoric acid plant between 4.5 and 6 tonnes of wet, impure gypsum are generated. Its acidity and noxious impurity content render this material unsuitable for any use, and although there have been a few brave attempts in the past to purify it so that it can be used in place of natural gypsum, under normal conditions it is quite uneconomic to do so. Only plants using two-stage (hemihydrate-dihydrate or dihydrate-hemihydrate) processes, in which the calcium sulphate is recrystallised in a separate stage, produce gypsum that is sufficiently pure to be able to find use in the manufacture of plaster and plaster products; but again, the conditions under which the additional expense of constructing them is warranted are un­common, so there are relatively few of them.

The process usually also generates fluorine-containing vapours which have to be captured in the form of fluosilicic acid, but although it is produced in mercifully much smaller amounts than the gypsum and there are various uses for it, in general the market cannot absorb it on the scale on which it is produced.

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Fertil capitalises on urea boom

Summary

Although in common with its Arab Gulf neighbours, the United Arab Emirates is rich in oil and natural gas resources, the UAE has been slow off the mark in developing an indigenous fertilizer industry. This is set to change, as David Hayes discovered when he visited the offices of the local fertilizer producer, Ruwais Fertilizer Industries (Fertil).

Abstract

Buoyant international urea prices have encouraged several countries in the Middle East to plan or begin construction of new world-scale plants to meet the growing demand for urea worldwide. The latest initiatives follow the start-up of the QAFCO IV complex in Qatar and after GPIC, Bahrain earlier added granular urea capacity to its ammonia production.

Two major ammonia/urea complexes are planned in Oman, including an Omani-Indian joint venture that will be dedicated to supplying India. SABIC, Saudi Arabia, also plans to add new urea capacity, while plans to build six urea plants have been announced in Iran, although only one of these plants seems certain to go ahead at ­present.

The United Arab Emirates is another Arab Gulf country where studies are under way on the feasibility of building a new ammonia/urea complex that would double the UAE’s present production capacity. The project coincides with an ambitious investment programme estimated to cost over $30 billion over the next ten years to modernise the UAE’s oil and gas industry infrastructure, as well as expanding the undeveloped downstream chemicals and petrochemicals sectors, including fertilizer production.

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Education foundation is launched in style

Summary

The Fertilizer Education Foundation was officially launched at the TFI World Fertilizer Conference in San Francisco on 13 September. It is a non-profit public education forum which will seek to keep the public well-informed about the vast contribution that fertilizers make to society. The Foundation ­recognises that one unified voice will be more effective than several separate voices. As the Foundation begins to prepare a full-scale campaign, the factors that prompted its launch are outlined here.

Abstract

Seven top fertilizer industry executives, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) top brass, other advocates for educating the public about growing food, and no less than 400 delegates at the TFI World Fertilizer Conference gathered in San Francisco on 13 September to launch the pan-industry Fertilizer Education Foun­dation. The primary goal of the foundation is to disseminate positive information about fertilizers and modern agriculture to the general public and policymakers. TFI and the executives of the founding companies emphasise that the foundation’s intention is to disseminate its message throughout the world, not just in North America.

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