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Keeping faith with AN

Summary

Ammonium nitrate continues to make the headlines, for the most unwelcome reasons. The fertilizer industry around the world is taking measures to ensure that the production and storage of AN is undertaken in accordance with the most scrupulous standards of safety and that the product does not fall into the hands of people with a murderous agenda. However, public concern about AN continues to mount, and the lawmakers are taking a close interest in the product. Are the industry's efforts sufficient to allay popular fears and forestall legislation to restrict further the use of AN or ban it outright?

Abstract

The year 2001 was the annus horribilis for ammonium nitrate. On 22 September of that year, when the world was still in shock immediately after the events of 9/11, a catastrophic explosion at the AZF plant in Toulouse, France cost over 30 lives. The explosion occurred in Shed 221, a storage facility in which granular AN was stored flat, separated by partitions. The amount was said to be between 200-300 tonnes of substandard material, which awaited recycling.

The Toulouse explosion was the equivalent to an earthquake measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale. Of the death toll of 31, 22 people were killed on the site, 6 died nearby, and one subsequently in hospital. Over 500 homes were made uninhabitable, while the material damage was provisionally estimated at between m1.5-2.3 billion. This was not only an industry catastrophe but also a human tragedy.

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Middle Eastern kudos for ThyssenKrupp

Summary

ThyssenKrupp Fördertechnik specialises in the provision of handling equipment for dry bulk cargoes, and the company has won many contracts to supply the international fertilizer industry. Several notable sales successes have been recorded in the Middle East, where some very large granular urea plants are now coming on stream.

Abstract

ThyssenKrupp India, along with ThyssenKrupp Fördertechnik GmbH Germany, has recently fulfilled an export order for bulk handling equipment on behalf of Oman-India Fertilizer Co. (OMIFCO) at Sur, Sultanate of Oman. This order carries much prestige, as the OMIFCO project is currently the world’s largest grassroots fertilizer project. The OMIFCO plant is located in the Wilayat of Sur on the east coast of Oman, and will consist of two 1,750 t/d ammonia trains and two 2,350 t/d granular urea trains. Annual output at the complex will comprise 1.65 million t/a of urea and 250,000 t/a of marketable ammonia.

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Spotlight on MKP

Summary

Since it was established in 1966, Haifa Chemicals Ltd. has evolved as one of the world's leading producers of speciality fertilizers. These are particularly targeted for fertigation and the foliar feeding of crops, at precise timing and carefully checked application rates. Two major developments in the Haifa portfolio are spotlighted here.

Abstract

In early April 2004, Haifa Chemicals Ltd. of Israel began commercial production of soluble-grade monopotassium phosphate (MKP) using a new innovative production process developed by the company. The new process is based on KCl as the raw material, rather than the traditional process based on reacting technical grade phosphoric acid with potassium hydroxide (KOH). Haifa Chemicals has been producing significant quantities of MKP since 1975. However, following the loss of its potassium hydroxide supplier, Electrochemical Industries at Akko, Israel, which went out of business several months earlier, Haifa developed the new process. This is based on in-house patented technology and offers substantial cost savings. The new MKP plant has an initial capacity of around 30,000 t/a.

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Filter replacement pays dividends

Summary

The main filter in a phosphoric acid plant is such a major equipment item that wholesale replacement seems almost inconceivable. But, as E. Papaconstantinou of PFI and Serge Kurowski of Profile show here, a new filter doesn't just make life easier; it can also make sound economic sense.

Abstract

Phosphoric Fertilizers Industry SA (PFI) has been operating a 70,000-t/a P2O5 phosphoric acid plant based on Siape-Chemiebau technology at Nea Karvali, Kavala, Greece, since 1965. The plant comprises a 50,000-tonne phosphate rock storehouse, a 30-t/h phosphate grinding unit, a reaction unit with five cylindrical tanks and a total volume of 280 m3, a Prayon tilting-pan filter, a 900-m3 acid clarifier, and three acid storage tanks with a total volume of 3,300 m3.

In 2002 PFI initiated a project for expanding the phosphoric acid capacity of the plant to 110,000 t/a, utilizing know-how and engineering provided by Profile/Prayon/SLE.

The objectives of the project were to upgrade the filter and expand both the reaction section (including a new digestion system with 245 m3 additional volume, a slurry cooling system and a closed-circuit scrubbing and cooling water system) and the grinding capacity. The filtration upgrade has been already implemented successfully and the rest of the project is in progress.

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A new chapter opens

Summary

As the Russian government engages in negotiations over WTO entry, concern has been expressed that subsidised energy prices have given several key industries an unfair advantage. Russian fertilizer exports have attracted much controversy since they gathered pace after the demise of the Soviet Union, and the United States and the European Union have taken countermeasures in the form of anti-dumping duties, quotas and minimum import prices. These measures have failed to inhibit the emergence of an increasingly strong and financially successful fertilizer industry, but coinciding with the impending entry into the WTO, Russian fertilizer producers appear set to follow new strategies, as reviewed here.

Abstract

Early reports from the negotiations between the European Commis­sion and Russia have indicated that Russia has agreed to move towards market economy principles for providing gas to the Russian fertilizer industry. Market analysts have viewed this as a concession that will facilitate Russia’s full membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It has certainly been welcomed as such by the European fertilizer industry, and the Euro­pean Fertilizer Manufacturers Association (EFMA) has stated that it sees the Russian pledge on gas prices as a first limited step towards greater market economics. Indeed, EFMA urges an even faster implementation of the agreed principles and prices on gas.

Russia has committed to raise gas prices by 2006 as a minimum to a range of $37-42/1,000 m3 and by 2010 to a range of $49-57/1,000 m3. EFMA Director General Helmuth Aldinger said, “The Commission has obtained an important breakthrough in negotiating a deal which would start gas reform in Russia and thereby commence levelling the playing field for the European fertilizer industry. As we welcome this important first step in ensuring market economy principles and increased transparency, we are concerned that matters are not moving fast enough. Further, the agreement falls far short of what a market economy would normally require.”

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Microwave promise for drying compound fertilizers

Summary

Recent experiments on the use of microwave drying with compound fertilizers show much promise. The results of the experiments reveal that microwave power greatly reduces the average drying rate, while the use of microwaves in the final stage of the drying process helps to save energy consumption and raises the drying rate. This paper was kindly submitted by the authors, Guo Shenglia, Xu Wengua, and Zhang Baolinb, of (a) Science College, Beijing Institute of Technology, and (b) the College of Chemical Engineering, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou, China.

Abstract

Microwave radiation heats materials by means of a high frequency electric field on polar molecules. Microwave heating forms a body heat source and lets the directions of some transfer potentials and transfer potential grades differ from those in traditional heating processes.1 Microwave drying has many merits: it is much faster than conventional drying, and is well suited to dry temperature-sensitive materials and high-quality products, as well as being friendly to the environment.

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Hopes for a revival in fortunes

Summary

Thailand's indigenous fertilizer industry was badly hit by the financial crisis that hit much of Asia in 1997, and recovery has been slow in the subsequent years. However, as described here by David Hayes, an injection of new capital has combined with the targeting of Thailand's ­agricultural and processed food industries as key export sectors to raise hopes that fertilizer ­consumption, market prices and the profitability of the domestic fertilizer industry will finally get back on to a sound footing.

Abstract

Following the government’s decision to promote food exports as one of the country’s five key industries (along with tourism, car manufacturing, fashion garment production and computer software), Thailand’s food industry faces very bright prospects. As part of this decision, food processors, traders and other exporters are being encouraged to increase exports of all types of food products, including fresh, canned, preserved, dried and frozen items. With the area of land under agriculture unlikely to increase any further, raising farm output will depend on raising efficiency, especially through the increased use of balanced fertilizer applications and reducing crop losses through pests and disease.

However, all is not well with Thailand’s indigenous fertilizer industry. Severe price competition since Thailand’s economic crisis of 1997 has caused all three of the country’s principal fertilizer manufacturers to be hit by financial problems, and two of these companies are still struggling to get back on to a sounder footing. Thailand’s three leading fertilizer producers are Thai Central Chemical Co. Ltd. (TCC), National Ferti­lizer Public Co. Ltd. (NFC) and Thai Ferti­lizer Co. Ltd. (TFC). They have a combined capacity to produce 2.85 million t/a of NPK fertilizers. In addition, they face challenges from Cargill and Hydro Agri (now Yara International), which have set up bulk blending operations and import finished fertilizers. Cargill produces around 150,000 t/a of NPKs, while Yara Inter­national produces a similar amount.

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Thai potash project has deep pockets

Summary

Asia is the world's fastest growing market for potash. Nearly all of this demand is currently met by imports from other regions. In 2003, more than 13 million tonnes of potash were imported into Asia from ports located in the Arab Gulf, Baltic Sea and the North American West Coast. The Asia Pacific Resources potash project in Thailand offers the prospect of sourcing a greater share of the demand for potash from Asia. Mining journalist Yolanda Torrisi outlines the latest progress in bringing this project to fruition.

Abstract

The recent raising of C$12 million by Asia Pacific Resources Ltd. (APR) shows that overseas inves­tors remain optimistic about the development of Thailand’s first potash mine. The capital-raising venture follows last year’s biggest ever business deal between Chinese and Thai partners, when the Chinese State Enterprise Investment Company (CSEIC) and Asia Pacific Potash Corporation (APPC) agreed to develop as a joint venture the Udon Thani Potash deposit located in north eastern Thailand, about 50 km from the border with Laos.

APR is the parent company of APPC. The company has already spent $55 million on the development of the Udon Potash Deposit and has now completed raising C$10 million through private placement to continue the final processes in obtaining its mining licence from the Thai government. The private placement of 99,368,500 APR shares at C$0.10 each was finalised on 27 May 2004.

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