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Publication > Issue > Articles

Boron's contribution to Indian agriculture

Summary

Rio Tinto Borax, the world's leading producer of boron (B) fertilizers, has been working with the Indian fertilizer industry for almost five years. Marcos Gutierrez – Rio Tinto Borax's Global Business Manager, Agriculture – describes the fruits of this collaboration.

Abstract

From its base in California, USA, Borax has been at the forefront of global research on boron since 1940, and the company continues to break new ground in boron science. To support its global technical service, the company maintains an extensive database on worldwide agronomic research on B fertilisation.

The company’s leadership in borate supply and science pays off for growers in their efforts to maximise crop yield and quality. For several decades, the company’s product line – which includes Granubor ® for bulk blends, Fertibor ® for suspensions, and Solubor ® and SoluborDF ® for foliar applications – has been synonymous for boron fertilizers. These products are also registered as organic fertilizers in the State of Washington, and have been accepted by the OMRI listing as organic.

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Rex elevators take the strain in Australia

Summary

High-capacity bucket elevators are handling large loads while minimising product damage at a remote phosphate processing facility in Australia. Since they were installed almost three years ago, the Rex Hi-Load elevators have performed well under demanding operating conditions, as described here by Richard Ellis, Manager of Rexnord Australia Pty. Ltd.

Abstract

WMC Fertilizers Pty. Ltd., a wholly-owned based subsidiary of the Australian group, WMC Limited, has developed an integrated phosphate fertilizer manufacturing operation in remote north western Queensland, Australia. The world-class $450 million operation, known as Queens­land Fertilizer Operations (QFO), co-ordinates complex technological and logistical processes in three separate locations, Mount Isa, Phosphate Hill, and Townsville. These facilities include sulphuric acid, phosphoric acid and granulation plants that are among the largest of their kind in the world, producing up to 1.2 million t/a of DAP and MAP fertilizers. Approximately half of this output is distributed to the Australian market, with the balance being exported ­primarily to South East Asia and South America.

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A tale of two Europes

Summary

The imminent enlargement of the European Union (EU) from 15 to 25 members has prompted misgivings in certain quarters. Some Western European fertilizer industry executives are particularly anxious that the admission of the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe will prompt a fresh wave of imports that will overwhelm their own efforts to shore up an industry that has faced severe difficulties in the past decade. Are these fears well founded? This review is based on the paper presented at the AFCOME 8th International Meeting at Strasbourg by Bernard Brentnall of British Sulphur Consultants.

Abstract

The breaching of the Berlin Wall that epitomised the post-World War II division of Europe to the accession of former communist states to the European Union has taken a mere 15 years. This has been a remarkable achievement, and one that can be applauded, given the socio-economic headaches that many of the accession countries had to endure in the 1990s after the collapse of the communist order. It goes without saying that the enlarged European Union that will take effect from 1 May 2004 will provide a massive challenge for the entire European fertilizer industry. How well will the Western and Eastern European components meld?

Of the ten countries scheduled to become new EU members, only Cyprus and Malta have no communist heritage. Of the remaining eight, only Latvia and Slovenia lack a domestic fertilizer industry. The remainder – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia – have significant nitrogen fertilizer capacity.

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Adapting to new global parameters

Summary

In the view of many overseas observers, the Indian fertilizer industry has hither­to enjoyed a protected environment, which is no longer compatible with India's membership of the WTO. However, as outlined here by M P Sukumaran Nair, of the Indian fertilizer producer FACT, the Indian ­fertilizer industry is making every effort to compete on fair terms in a very difficult and complicated business environment. Their difficulties may be exacerbated by some of the terms set by the WTO, which may be inherently unfair to the less developed countries.

Abstract

India’s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has major repercussions for the country’s fertilizer manufacturing industry, which had evolved in a protected environment. Following economic liberalisation, the domestic fertilizer manufacturing industry can no longer enjoy such extensive protection. Macro-economic factors make the country’s economy a high-cost one for fuel and feedstock, and the Indian fertilizer industry has to source the bulk of its raw materials from national and international markets without any significant price advantage. The process of integrating the national economy with the global economy as part of WTO entry necessitated opening up the agricultural sector to international competition, and this has also affected the fertilizer industry.

Although India’s agricultural sector is expanding, benefiting from ample cheap labour and locational advantages due to proximity to consumption centres, these advantages are countered by the absence of a sustainable long-term policy environment, heavy dependence on imported raw materials, complex business laws, infrastructural bottlenecks, prevailing high costs of capital, and many other factors.

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Mega-capacity plants extend the frontiers

Summary

The Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa continue to invest in new urea capacity. The capacities of the plants currently under construction or planned to come on stream during the next few years break new records, giving the producers unrivalled economies of scale. In this review, Jan Mennen, Senior Process Engineer of Stamicarbon BV, describes what lies at the heart of the new mega-capacity urea plants.

Abstract

Single-train capacities of urea units have been progressively extended throughout the history of the urea industry, with the desire to exploit economies of scale being the most forceful driver. While the largest capacities in the 1950s and early 1960s were less than 100 t/d, the maximum throughput for single-line urea plants that are being built today is 3,250 t/d.

Ammonia licensors are presently offering single-line ammonia plants with capacities far beyond the current maximum of 2,000 t/d. In conjunction with these dynamics in the ammonia industry, Stamicarbon has developed a single-line urea plant of 4,500 t/d. An important feature of this design is that the individual process steps are all commercially proven on the scale at which they are applied.

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When the heat's on

Summary

To avoid trouble, phosphoric acid evaporators must be well specified, well made and well run. The heat exchanger is right in the front line.

Abstract

The conditions in a phosphoric acid plant are dictated to a large extent by the crystallisation properties of calcium sulphate, which is formed as a waste product in sulphate-acidulated wet-process phosphoric acid manufacture.

Ca3(PO4)2 + 3H2SO4 -> 2H3PO4 + 3CaSO4

Because this material has to be separated from the product acid by filtration, it is very important to ensure that the crystals are as well-formed as possible, otherwise the filter does not perform properly and the output of the plant is severely reduced. Even under the best conditions, a massive filter area is needed on account of the prodigious amount of calcium sulphate that is produced (5-6 tonnes per tonne of P2O5, depending on the grade and quality of the phosphate rock).

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FADINAP ponders its future

Summary

Having marked 25 years of providing vital service to agriculture in the Asia-Pacific region, FADINAP has reached a critical phase. It has relied throughout its existence on donor finance, but funding is now becoming scarce, obliging FADINAP to scale back its activities. David Hayes describes the options open to FADINAP.

Abstract

The Fertilizer Advisory, Deve­lop­ment and Information Net­work for Asia and the Pacific (FADINAP) is the United Nation’s regional fertilizer agency. However, it is currently seeking a new home, as a decline in bilateral donations has left the agency without sufficient funds to continue to provide its full information and advisory programme. While the agency’s staff have been asked to provide a reduced level of service as the search for a long-term solution continues, FADINAP’s plight has yet to gain the wider attention that is needed if the necessary support and finance are to be found to enable it continue its important work.

FADINAP was established in 1978 as a United Nations inter-agency network, under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations International Development Organisation (UNIDO). FADINAP’s purpose was to provide assistance to the developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region in their efforts to increase food production by supporting the development of an efficient and effective fertilizer information and advisory service.

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Adfert's commitment to quality pays ­dividends

Summary

Abu Dhabi Fertilizer Industries (Adfert) has made very rapid progress since it commenced production of high-value fertilizers in 1997. The company has a most impressive pedigree, being a joint venture between International Technical Trading Co. (ITTC) of Abu Dhabi and SQM, Chile. With its emphasis in the key areas of technology and skilled manpower, and a rapidly increasing regional market for fertilizers, Adfert is well-placed to enjoy continuing growth in the years to come.

Abstract

Abu Dhabi Fertilizer Industries Co. W. L. L. (Adfert) has enjoyed rapid growth since it commenced production of granular NPKs and water-soluble fertilizers in 1997. The company is a joint venture between the Abu Dhabi company, International Technical Trading Co. (ITTC) and the Chilean producer of high-added value speciality fertilizers, SQM. ITTC holds 63 % of the Adfert equity, SQM the remainder. ITTC is one of the largest agricultural companies engaged in marketing fertilizers in the Gulf region, and its expertise in this field helped propel Adfert to become one of the Top 20 enterprises in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in terms of net worth. The company has a workforce of around 350 people and an annual turnover of over AED 50 million ($14 million).

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