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Publication > Issue > Articles

Still the poor relation?

Summary

In spite of the sweeping changes occurring in central Europe, the fertilizer industry regionally is still facing many of the problems that have dogged it for the past 1012 years since the fall of communism.

Abstract

The European Union has agreed accession terms with 10 new entrants, including several from central Europe such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. It marks a historic shift following a Europe divided after the Second World War. However, the economies of the region have experienced widely different fates since 1989, and the fertilizer producers of the region have found themselves caught between the rock of high gas prices and cheap competition from Russia and the Ukraine, and the hard place of western European anti-dumping actions.

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Forewarned is forearmed

Summary

Presented jointly with CC Technologies, IESCO's one-day seminar demonstrated state-of-the-art techniques for inspecting and assessing the remaining life of reforming furnace tubes.

Abstract

A substantial majority of synthesis gas generating plants around the world are based on steam reforming of light hydrocarbons, predominantly methane (natural gas). On account of the combination of working temperatures, heat fluxes and pressure differentials, the catalyst tubes of a steam reforming furnace in normal operation are much closer to their metallurgical limit than is any other component of the plant, whether the end product is ammonia, methanol, hydrogen, Fischer-Tropsch liquids or any of the other synthesis gas-derived products. Even tubes made of high-temperature alloys formulated specially to operate under such conditions fail eventually through a process known as “creep”, in which the tube undergoes plastic deformation and cracks gradually propagate outwards from the inside surface until the tube ruptures. So they are designed for a finite service life (usually 100,000 hours) under the design conditions. The trouble is that quite small temperature excursions above the design figure can profoundly affect tube life, while quite small excursions below it result in a marked loss of conversion efficiency in the highly endothermic steam reforming reaction.

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Methanol as a feedstock for power, fuel and olefins

Summary

Last issue Nitrogen & Methanol examined proposals for 'gas refineries' converting natural gas into a variety of other downstream products. Here Wolff Balthasar and Wolfgang Hilsebein of Lurgi Oel Gas Chemie GmbH discuss their company's view of the possibilities of using low cost methanol as a route to DME, propylene and even power.

Abstract

Since Lurgi introduced its MegaMethanol process for plants with a production of 5,000 t/d and up, the prospect has arisen that methanol will become available for new market segments at a constant low price in the foreseeable future. This price development has an enormous impact on downstream technologies for the conversion of methanol to more valuable products.

The first derivative of methanol in this context is dimethyl ether (DME), which has a high potential as alternative to conventional diesel fuel and as a feedstock for gas turbines in power generation. The next step is the use of methanol as feedstock for the production of olefins, which is one of the most promising new applications. Lurgi’s methanol to propylene (MTP) process presents a simple, cost-effective and highly selective technology. Both routes allow for the production of gas-based petrochemicals. Lurgi also proposes a methanol-based technology route for production of synfuels, which compares well with the FT-processes.

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Improved materials provide a safety dividend

Summary

Solving the corrosion problem in urea plants not only improves reliability and cuts maintenance costs. It can make the operation of the plant safer, too.

Abstract

Carbamates are highly corrosive wherever they are encountered in chemical processing. In the carbon dioxide removal section of an ammonia plant, they are formed as the undesirable products of side reactions between the carbon dioxide and the amine component of the washing solution. Because the washing solution is not the main process stream, the carbamate corrosion can be kept under control in that situation by adding inhibitors to the wash solution. In a urea plant such an expedient is not possible because ammonium carbamate is a vital part of the process, and it is present in high concentrations under high pressure and temperature. Chemical additives cannot be used because they would be required in such concentrations as to upset the chemistry of the process and seriously contaminate the product.

Corrosion, particularly in the high-pressure synthesis loop of a urea plant, where the conditions are most severe, is a continuing preoccupation of urea technologists, upon which we report regularly in Nitrogen & Methanol, the last time quite recently1. The most vulnerable parts of the high-pressure section of a typical contemporary urea plant based on a stripping process are those which are most complex internally, such as the stripper and the HP carbamate condenser.

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Mega plants cast a long shadow

Summary

The methanol industry gathered in Rome last December to ponder a future of large new capacity additions at a time when demand is being cut back due to the US MTBE phase-out.

Abstract

The World Methanol Conference returned to Europe in November 2002, when over 300 delegates met at the Hilton hotel at Rome’s Fiumicino airport from the 9th – 11th December, to discuss the current shape of the world methanol industry. That shape seemed not so bad for the time being, with prices at reasonable levels and demand continuing strong, but talk of the future was dominated by the massive capacity additions due to hit the market in the next few years, beginning in 2004.

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