MAGAZINE | APRIL 2021
03 05 10
Comment World News A Growing Market
Gordon Cope, Contributing Editor, demonstrates the opportunities and challenges the Latin American fertilizer industry is currently facing.
A Strong, Healthy Barrel
Zico Zeeman, EMT, the Netherlands, explores how the fertilizer industry can follow the lessons of Liebig’s Barrel and achieve added value and reduction in handling through the use of blending and bagging lines.
It’s In The Bag Stefanie Reifbäck, STATEC BINDER, Austria, explains how to ensure the longevity of a fully automatic bagging machine.
Material Progress In Sulfuric Acid Plant Design Nelson Clark, Joanes Barros, Matheus Sanchez, Bruno Ferraro, Gabriel Murakami, Lucas Camargo and Paulo Portilho, Clark Solutions, Brazil, investigate how special alloys have been changing the way industrial sulfuric acid plants are built and operated.
A GROWING MARKET
atin America, covering the disparate, Spanish-speaking countries of South and Central America, is a region with a well-developed agricultural sector. Food production makes up almost 5% of its gross domestic product (GDP), and crops cover almost 200 million ha. of the continent’s land (with pasture covering another 570 million ha.). The region is a major producer of cereals, coffee, fruit, vegetables and meat. Not only does it create enough food to feed its own population, but it exports impressive amounts of commodities: Mexico is the winter bread basket for the US; Brazil produces millions of tonnes of corn, sugar cane and
soybeans, and Argentinan beef is eaten all over the world. In 2017, Latin America’s agricultural trade surplus stood at US$104 billion. Most importantly, Latin America represents tremendous opportunities for the fertilizer sector. Most of the farms within Latin America currently operate well below optimum application levels. However, as the region’s current population of 650 million people is expected to grow to an estimated 1 billion by 2050, fertilizer will play an increasingly important role in not only feeding its citizens, but also meeting the nutritional needs of export countries in Asia, Africa and North America.
Alexey Vostrukhov and Michael Hastings, Brüel & Kjær Vibro GmbH, Germany, explain how, faced with challenging maintenance issues, the Angarsk nitrogen fertilizer plant in Russia decided to adopt a technologically advanced machine condition monitoring strategy.
Gordon Cope, Contributing Editor, demonstrates the opportunities and challenges the Latin American fertilizer industry is currently facing. 11
Marco Mazzamuto Carlucci, Casale, Switzerland, describes the testing methodology that was used to ensure a new ammonia synthesis catalyst was ready to be successfully introduced to the market.
Protecting The Salt Of The Earth William Vangool, Triodetic, Canada, explains how fertilizer storage facilities can be designed in order to counter the corrosive properties of potash.
Securing The Path To Decarbonisation Rochman Goswami and Dr. Michael Goff, Black & Veatch, USA, consider the range of flexible options available to companies seeking to contribute to the decarbonisation of the ammonia industry.
A More Exact Science Pj Kwong and Teddy Katz, on behalf of SGS North America, describe the development of a device designed to obtain more accurate draft measurements of fertilizer cargo in vessels and prevent costly disputes.
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World Review The World Review covers fertilizer projects either in progress or recently completed and is broken down by region: Africa and the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Europe and CIS and the Americas. Contributions are provided by Bagtech, BERTSCHenergy, Clariant, Haldor Topsoe, OCP Group and Stamicarbon.
WORLD FERTILIZER APRIL 2021
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SUBSCRIPTIONS World Fertilizer (ISSN No: 2398-4384) is published 8 times a year by Palladian Publications Ltd, UK. World Fertilizer Subscription rates: Annual subscription: £50 UK including postage £60 overseas (postage airmail) Two year discounted rate: £80 UK including postage £96 (postage airmail). Subscription claims: Claims for non receipt of issues must be made within 3 months of publication of the issue or they will not be honoured without charge.
NICHOLAS WOODROOF, DEPUTY EDITOR
eaders will recall from the previous issue of World Fertilizer that my predecessor, Laura Dean, wrote a comment that noted the importance of fertilizer to the maintenance of sporting facilities, such as football pitches and golf greens: “Thus the fertilizer industry is a major component of the sporting world, even if it isn’t always recognised as such.” Almost simultaneously to our March issue going to press, Uralkali announced a sponsorship deal that will see the Haas Formula 1 (F1) racing team compete as ‘Uralkali Haas F1 Team’ during the 2021 season and beyond. PhosAgro and EuroChem, fellow Russia-based fertilizer companies, have sponsored chess and ice hockey tournaments respectively in the past, while The Mosaic Company lend their name to a stadium in Regina, Canada. Uralkali’s foray into F1 surely amounts to the highest-profile sports sponsorship deal by a fertilizer company however. The company’s press release noted that it supplies potash to 16 of the 22 countries due to host races this season. The aim of the deal is “to increase its visibility and enhance sales in key export markets…”. 1 I cannot say I am a keen F1 fan, but it will nonetheless be interesting to see whether the deal serves Uralkali’s ambitions and gives the industry some broader recognition. The average number of people watching each Grand Prix in 2020 was 87.4 million, so there is certainly potential for ticking the visibility box. Another recent development that may have captured attention beyond the fertilizer industry was a ruling by the US International Trade Commission on 11 March that the country’s phosphate industry had been “materially damaged” by allegedly anti-competitive subsidising of phosphate fertilizer imports from Russia and Morocco. The ruling was an endorsement of the US Department of Commerce’s imposing of import duties last year, following lobbying from US-based Mosaic. PhosAgro, OCP and EuroChem will therefore have to pay expected duties of 9%, 20% and 47% respectively for at least five years. Neither PhosAgro nor EuroChem have responded publicly, but OCP said that “there is no basis for such duties”; it is still, however, intent on supplying US farmers “and will explore the most appropriate options to do so.”2 The ruling seems certain to have a substantial impact on a market already roiled by fluctuating prices over the past few years. Speaking at CRU’s recent Phosphates 2021 online conference, CRU’s Glen Kurokawa explained that the length of the duties means the “phosphate trade will consequently remain disrupted” as a result of the US importing more from non-traditional markets (such as Saudi Arabia and Australia) and reducing its exports.3 While this story will be more of a slow burner than Uralkali’s F1 adventure, it is certainly worth keeping an eye on. As always, you can stay up to date with the latest fertilizer industry news by visiting www.worldfertilizer.com – expect to see some exciting new digital content posted there soon as well.
References 1. 2.
‘Uralkali Announces Partnership with Haas F1 Team’, https://www.uralkali.com/press_center/press_ releases/item43939/ (4 March 2021). ‘OCP Group responds to US imposition of duties on phosphate fertilizer imports from Morocco’, https:// corpo.ocpgroup.ma/en/ocp-group-responds-us-imposition-duties-phosphate-fertilizer-imports-morocco (11 March 2021). ‘CRU phosphate market overview’, presentation given by Glen Kurokawa at Phosphates 2021.
APRIL 2021 | WORLD FERTILIZER | 3
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AMMONIA NITRATES & PHOSPHATES UREA MELAMINE METHANOL SYNGAS
WORLDNEWS WORLD REPUBLIC OF CONGO Kore Potash signs MoU for full financing of Kola project
ore Potash and Summit Africa Ltd, on behalf of a consortium of investors and engineering firms, have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to arrange the total financing required for the construction of the Kola Potash Project in the Republic of Congo (RoC). Summit and their technical partners SEPCO Electric Power Construction Corp. (SEPCO) and China ENFI Engineering Corp. (ENFI), which has been subcontracted by SEPCO, will work with Kore Potash to undertake an optimisation study to reduce Kola’s capital cost, with a CAPEX target of less than US$1.65 billion. Summit will work with potential financing partner BRP Global Ltd over a nine-month period to – subject to completion of their due diligence and achieving the target CAPEX through the optimisation study – present a financing proposal on behalf of the Summit consortium, based on debt and royalty funding, for 100% of the capital costs of constructing Kola.
Under the proposed financing structure, Kore Potash would not be required to contribute to the capital needed to build the project and would retain a 90% equity interest in Kola. The MoU was signed in the offices of the RoC’s Minister of Mines in Brazzaville. Under the proposed financing arrangements, the RoC government would retain their 10% shareholding in the Kola project. Kore Potash will contribute approximately US$900 000 to the costs of the optimisation study, while SEPCO will cover the remaining 50% of the estimated costs. Kola is a shallow sylvinite potash deposit situated on an existing mining licence, located approximately 35 km from the coast and 65 km north of the harbour city of Pointe Noire. The permitting and agreements required for construction of the project are in place, including the environmental permit, transshipment permit and the Mining Convention with the RoC government.
MOROCCO Trade and Development Bank and OCP Group using blockchain to execute
fertilizer trade finance transactions
he Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB) and OCP Group are using blockchain technology to execute US$400 million worth of fertilizer trade finance transactions, US$270 million of which have already been completed, with the remainder to be executed in the upcoming months. The transactions make OCP the first African company to execute an intra-African trade transaction using blockchain. Through dltledgers’ blockchain platform, OCP delivered phosphate fertilizers from Morocco to Ethiopia. The intra-African transaction initiative aims to reduce the trade finance gap in Africa and boost trade between African countries, particularly in the fertilizer sector, through digital inclusion. dltledgers’ blockchain technology makes it possible for all parties involved in a transaction to carry out import-export trades digitally in under two hours. Traditional transactions typically take over three weeks to complete due to the need to move physical documents from suppliers, through the banking system, to the buyer. This lengthy process was disrupted further by the COVID-19 pandemic, taking up to six weeks to complete. Through the blockchain platform, stakeholders are able to upload, view, edit and validate the documentation in
one private blockchain, simultaneously and in real-time. Moreover, blockchain transactions have a lower carbon footprint, and are more secure due to encryption and verification technologies. They also allow for greater transparency and traceability, and reduce risks by eliminating potential errors and ambiguities in the exchange and amendment of documents. These transactions come as total global trade for 2020 contracted by between 5 to 10% as compared to the previous year, alongside reduced demand for trade finance. TDB facilitated over US$0.5 billion worth of trade finance in Ethiopia in 2020 and has supported close to US$1 billion of fertilizer imports from OCP to Ethiopia in the past three years. TDB became the first African development finance institution to complete a live end-to-end trade finance transaction using blockchain in October 2019, when it financed the import of 50 000 t of white sugar from India into the region it serves. Agriculture plays a critical role in the economy of Ethiopia, representing 31% of the country’s GDP and 66% of its total employment. Fertilizers are fundamental to the sector, with about half being imported from OCP in Morocco.
APRIL 2021 | WORLD FERTILIZER | 5
WORLD NEWS NEWS IN BRIEF HIGHLIGHTS
OCI and ADNOC considering IPO of Fertiglobe FLSmidth to supply process equipment for Middle East phosphate project Togliattiazot’s third urea unit 40% complete by end of 2020 Acron increasing ammonia output at Novgorod facility Stamicarbon participating in green hydrogen project Trigg Mining drilling confirms high-grade brine system at Lake Throssell
Visit our website for more news:
CANADA Nutrien aiming to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions by 30% by 2030
utrien has launched six commitments designed to address the challenge of sustainably feeding a growing global population while protecting the planet. The Feeding the Future Plan has action pathways that include enabling growers to adopt sustainable and productive agricultural products and practices on 75 million acres globally; launching and scaling a Carbon Program that empowers growers and the agriculture industry to accelerate climate-smart agriculture and soil carbon sequestration
RUSSIA Mining to continue at Oleniy Ruchey
phosphate desposit until 2025
pen-pit mining can continue at the Oleniy Ruchey phosphate deposit for two years longer than originally expected, following a detailed exploration of the pit’s southwestern side by geologists at North-Western Phosphorous Co. (NWPC). The initial plan had NWPC, part of Acron Group, closing open-pit mining in 2023, but new design
documentation will extend the mine’s life until 2025. According to experts, the change means that an additional 2 million t of apatite-nepheline ore will be mined from the southwestern side. In March 2021, the pit set a new production record of 770 000 t. Over 1 million t of ore is currently stockpiled in the storage area for further processing.
BELARUS Belarus Potash Co. and Indian Potash Ltd
renegotiate supply contract
elarus Potash Co. (BPC) and Indian Potash Ltd (IPL) have renegotiated a potash supply contract signed in January 2021, whereby the new contract price is set at US$280/t on CFR terms. BPC said that the new agreement was possible “thanks to a balanced approach to doing business and
6 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
while rewarding growers for their efforts; achieving at least a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Scope 1 + 2) per tonne of products produced, from 2018 levels; investing in new technologies and pursuing the transition to low-carbon fertilizers, including blue and green ammonia; leveraging farm-focused technology partnerships and investments to grow innovation and inclusion; and creating new financial solutions for growers to strengthen social, economic and environmental outcomes in agriculture.
a common desire for a balanced and reasonable development of the potash market, which is demonstrated by the parties to the agreement.” The original one-year contract was for the supply of 800 000 t of potash fertilizers at a price of US$247/t on CFR terms.
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WORLD NEWS DIARY DATES GPCA Supply Chain Conference 26 – 27 May 2021 Online gpcasupplychain.com
65th Annual Safety in Ammonia Plants and Related Facilities Symposium 29 August – 02 September 2021 San Diego, California, US aiche.org/conferences/annualsafety-ammonia-plants-andrelated-facilities-symposium/2021
15th Annual GPCA Forum 07 – 09 December 2021 United Arab Emirates gpca.org.ae/events/15th-annualgpca-forum-2/
Turbomachinery & Pump Symposia 2021 14 – 16 December 2021 Houston, Texas, US tps.tamu.edu/future-dates/
To stay informed about the status of industry events and any potential postponements or cancellations of events due to COVID-19, visit World Fertilizer’s events page: www.worldfertilizer.com/events
8 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
CANADA Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals Inc. to start
construction of SOP production upgrade by late 2021
onstruction is being planned for a CAN$220 million sulfate of potash (SOP) fertilizer production upgrade at Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals Inc.’s (SMMI) Chaplin, Saskatchewan, Canada sodium sulfate plant. Construction is scheduled to begin by late 2021. The upgraded facility is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and will produce 150 000 tpy of SOP. The decision of SMMI’s senior management to proceed with the facility upgrade was primarily based on the completion of a favourable Preliminary Feasibility Study (PFS) by the Saskatoon office of Wood Group. In addition, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment’s determination that the expansion is not a development and therefore will not require further environmental approvals, and the Saskatchewan government’s
conditional approval for funding of the upgrade through the Saskatchewan Chemical Fertilizer Incentive also played significant roles in the decision to proceed. Construction on the upgrade is expected to take up to two years and will generate up to 700 000 labour hours. Once complete, the addition of SOP production will result in an estimated 50% increase in jobs at the Chaplin facility on an ongoing basis. The agreement by Veolia Water Technologies to develop the process design was also cited by the company as integral to the decision to advance the project. The facility upgrade is planning to implement a design and technology – the first of its kind in Canada – that aims to be up to 25% more energy efficient than the technology currently being used to produce SOP.
AUSTRALIA Salt Lake Potash begins Lake Way process plant
alt Lake Potash has started process plant commissioning at its Lake Way Project near Wiluna. For the first time potassium rich harvest salts, precipitated from lake aquifer brine, have been fed into an sulfate of potash (SOP) plant in Australia. First harvest salts have been successfully fed into the feed hopper, conveyed to the surge bin, run through the lump breaker and then into the attritioning feed tank at the front end of the process plant. Over the coming weeks the utilities, conversion circuit, flotation circuits, crystallisers and dryer will be commissioned ahead of full load
commissioning and SOP production in the June quarter. Consultants from the plant designer, Wood Group, as well as vendors from Veolia and Broadbent, will be assisting with commissioning. Front end plant commissioning was powered by 2 MW diesel generators. These will continue to be used to progress the commissioning activities over the coming weeks. Gas supply lines and delivery station for the 10 MW power station have been fully commissioned, with power-on scheduled for late April to support final commissioning activities and production commencement. First production and SOP sales are on track to begin from the June quarter.
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A GROWING MARKET
atin America, covering the disparate, Spanish-speaking countries of South and Central America, is a region with a well-developed agricultural sector. Food production makes up almost 5% of its gross domestic product (GDP), and crops cover almost 200 million ha. of the continent’s land (with pasture covering another 570 million ha.). The region is a major producer of cereals, coffee, fruit, vegetables and meat. Not only does it create enough food to feed its own population, but it exports impressive amounts of commodities: Mexico is the winter bread basket for the US; Brazil produces millions of tonnes of corn, sugar cane and
soybeans, and Argentinian beef is eaten all over the world. In 2017, Latin America’s agricultural trade surplus stood at US$104 billion. Most importantly, Latin America represents tremendous opportunities for the fertilizer sector. Most of the farms within Latin America currently operate well below optimum application levels. However, as the region’s current population of 650 million people is expected to grow to an estimated 1 billion by 2050, fertilizer will play an increasingly important role in not only feeding its citizens, but also meeting the nutritional needs of export countries in Asia, Africa and North America.
Gordon Cope, Contributing Editor, demonstrates the opportunities and challenges the Latin American fertilizer industry is currently facing. 11
Ammonia The three largest agricultural sectors in Latin America are to be found in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Yet when it comes to nitrogen fertilizer, Brazil consumes less than 5 million tpy, Mexico approximately 1.5 million tpy, and Argentina trails at 1 million tpy. The modest consumption is due to a number of factors. In Argentina, the common practice of renting land on a one-year basis inhibits investments in soil improvements. While large farms growing export products such as coffee and sugarcane are well fertilized, the majority of Latin America’s farms are small-holdings in which their owners have a lack of access to capital, technical support and markets. The region is also significantly underserved by domestic fertilizer production, which raises costs significantly. Boosting domestic production faces several hurdles. Brazil’s state-owned Petrobras has been the country’s largest nitrogen producer over the last decade. It operated the Fafen-SE (657 000 tpy of urea and 456 000 tpy of ammonia), Fafen-BA (474 000 tpy of urea and 474 000 tpy of ammonia), and Tres Lagoas plants (1.2 million tpy of urea). The oil company has almost US$90 billion in liabilities, however, and in 2016 made the decision to exit the fertilizer sector. In late 2019, it leased the Fafen-BA and Fafen-SE plants to Proquigel Quimica for 10 years, and has sought buyers for the idled Tres Lagoas plant. Construction of a partially finished UFN-III unit at Tres Lagoas, capable of producing 800 000 tpy of ammonia and 1.3 million tpy of urea, has also been idled until a new owner can be found. Mexico has abundant supplies of inexpensive natural gas from its own reserves as well as the immense shale basins of Texas, US, to serve as both feedstock and energy source for nitrogen production. For the last several decades, Pemex, Mexico’s former petroleum monopoly, has been the dominant fertilizer manufacturer, but lack of maintenance and technical difficulties have kept its 1 million tpy urea capacity limping along at 25% output. Proman Group, based in Switzerland, began building a world-class greenfield ammonia plant on the west coast of Mexico in 2018. The US$5 billion Topolobampo facility is designed to produce 800 000 tpy of ammonia and 700 000 tpy of urea for the domestic market. Environmental opposition to the plant (which is located adjacent to coastal lagoons that have been classified as a World Heritage Site), managed to suspend the project in 2019 when a federal judge ordered construction to cease. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has proposed a referendum so that local citizens can determine its fate. “The people should be the ones who decide, we can’t impose anything,” he said. Proponents of the plant are not heartened by the advice; several referendums that have been held since Obrador’s inauguration in 2018 have resulted in major projects (such as Mexico City’s new international airport) being cancelled. However, not all is doom and gloom; partners Repsol YPF and Canada-based Nutrien expanded Argentina’s Profertil fertilizer plant, located in the port of Bahia Blanca (600 km southwest of Buenos Aires), so that it now produces 770 000 tpy of ammonia and 1.27 million tpy of urea. In late 2020, YPF announced that it would supply 12 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
185 GWh of wind power annually to the plant, covering 60% of consumption. The move will offset around 100 000 tpy of carbon dioxide emissions. In Chile, energy giant Engie and explosives producer Enaex have announced a joint venture to produce green hydrogen for use in both explosives and fertilizer. The HyEx project, located in the Antofagasta region, will use a 2000 MW solar farm to power a 124 000 tpy hydrogen plant. The hydrogen, in turn, will then be used to produce 700 000 tpy of green ammonia, half of which will be used for fertilizer production.
Potash Potash fertilizer usage varies widely between countries in Latin America. Brazil annually consumes 5.8 million t, Mexico uses 262 000 t, and Argentina a mere 49 000 t. Reasons for limited usage vary, but a major factor is a lack of regional production; most is imported from Europe and North America by major manufacturers that have set up blending and distribution networks throughout the continent. Mosaic operates Brazil’s sole potash mine, the Taquari-Vassouras mine in the northeast, which produces 500 000 tpy. Brazil Potash owns the Autazes prospect in Brazil’s Amazon basin. It holds an estimated 87 million t of reserves, enough to run a proposed 2.4 million tpy mine for several decades. Since late 2020, the Canada-based company has been laying groundwork to raise enough capital to proceed, as well as consulting with indigenous groups in the mine region. Brazil Potash estimates that the mine could enter production by mid-2025, with initial output sufficient to meet almost a quarter of Brazil’s needs. In Argentina, Vale had been pursuing the development of the Potasio Rio Colorado deposit, located in the province of Mendoza, for over a decade. The deposit, located at a depth of 1000 m, is estimated to hold almost 2 billion t of potassium chloride. Vale had designed a 2.4 million tpy solution extraction method, but opponents objected to the large water usage and sodium chloride waste tailings. Vale subsequently put the asset up for sale, and the government of Mendoza has been seeking other mining companies to take over the project.
Phosphate Brazil consumes approximately 6.5 million tpy of phosphate fertilizer, with Argentina using 750 000 tpy, and Mexico 380 000 tpy. Mexico has approximately 2 billion t of phosphate bearing rock, primarily in sediments in Baja California, and produces almost 2 million tpy. Odyssey Marine Exploration is seeking a permit to mine a massive phosphate deposit off the shores of Baja California. According to the Florida-based company, a sea floor region located 40 km west of the coast contains up to 588 million t of phosphate nodules, which could be mined using conventional undersea dredging. Mexico’s environment ministry has rejected the permit application twice, citing risks to whales, dolphins and sea turtles. The company has filed a US$3.5 billion damages case under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but continues to seek a diplomatic solution with the
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Mexican government. In addition to phosphates, the nodules also contain cobalt, nickel, copper and rare earth elements. Mosaic operates five open-pit phosphate mines in Brazil with a capacity of 4.8 million tpy. In early 2019, the company had to suspend operations for one month at its Tapira and Catalao mines after a catastrophic failure at Vale’s Brumadinho mine tailings dam that killed hundreds. By late 2019, Mosaic was able to resume operations at both mines after meeting new regulations governing tailing pond dam stability. Mosaic’s Brazil production for that year totalled 2.9 million t. Peru contains over 400 million t of phosphate reserves. Several mines are active in the Sechura basin in northern Peru, including Mosaic’s Miski Mayo mine. The open-pit mine uses excavators to extract 4 million tpy. The concentrated ore is then shipped to North America for blending.
Problems Deforestation is a major issue. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), South America lost 26 million ha. of forest in the decade between 2010 and 2020, (which is a significant improvement over the prior decade, when the continent lost over 50 million ha.). Over half of this loss during the last two decades has occurred in Brazil, however; the problem is especially acute in the Amazon basin, where trees provide a major global carbon sink. In 2020, 11 000 km2 of Brazil’s Amazon was deforested, the highest level in a decade. In addition, over 100 000 forest fires raged throughout the Amazon in 2020, an all-time record. Most of the fires were attributed to farmers clearing land for livestock and crops. The administration of President Jair Bolsonaro has been blamed for lax oversight of the issue. In early 2021, President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was better for Europe to grow its own soy rather than importing Brazilian crops: “To continue to depend on Brazilian soy would be to condone deforestation of the Amazon.” While only 3% of Brazil’s soy production is grown in the Amazon, other regions are also suffering massive deforestation in order to grow the crop. In late 2020, international companies (including Tesco, McDonald’s, Unilever and Lidl), called on soya bean traders to divest from the commodity linked to deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado region, which is home to the majority of that country’s soy bean production. Unlike the Amazon, where farmers must leave 80% of the forest intact, Brazilian law allows as little as 20% of the land to remain forested. As a result, huge tracts of carbon-absorbing forests have been cut down. Soy from the region enters large parts of the food chain when fed to livestock and fish. In addition to a call to boycott Brazilian soya, several companies are also setting aside funds to pay Brazilian farmers not to cut down their trees. Many Latin American countries are plagued by high inflation rates; Venezuela’s hovers around 10 000% annually. While Argentina has a much lower annual rate of 50%, it still significantly reduces the value of wages. In December 2020, workers at inland ports on the Parana River, which runs through Argentina’s grain heartland, went on strike. 14 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
The federal government eventually stepped in to arbitrate a 35% wage increase and bonuses in 2021, but not before an estimated 2.5 million t of corn, wheat and soybeans were held up. While the backlog will eventually be cleared, the strike caused an estimated delayed shipping (demurrage) cost of almost US$2 billion. The quality and quantity of ports, rail and road networks varies widely throughout Latin America, as does the impetus to improve them. Peru exports an estimated US$8 billion in agriculture products annually, including potatoes, coffee, asparagus and Alpaca wool. In an effort to improve export infrastructure, the federal government has encouraged port authorities to seek long-term operating concessions with the private sector. In 2018, a subsidiary of Grupo Romero signed a 30-year agreement for the port of Salaverry that includes a US$229 million infrastructure expansion and dredging. The port currently handles approximately 2 million tpy, but the volume is expected to rise to 5 million tpy over the course of the agreement.
Future The future of agriculture in Latin America remains bright. Brazil’s success is a combination of sound fiscal and regulatory policy as well as decades of R&D into finding the best available use for its land. Brazil’s EMBRAPA is the largest agricultural research institution in Latin America, with over US$2.5 billion in expenditures. Over the last several decades, it has helped introduce new livestock breeds and plants, and promoted modern fertilizer application. The intensity of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium (NPK) usage has risen from 126 kg/ha. in 2006 to over 186 kg/ha. in 2017 (well above the world average of 140 kg/ha.). Other countries are taking note, and expanding state R&D in their respective agricultural sectors. INTA, Argentina’s federal agricultural research institution, has partnered with the private sector to conduct soybean seed breeding, weed control and fertilization to increase output in the vast Pampa grass region. Over the last two decades, production has increased by 300%, and now stands at 45 million tpy. While new domestic supplies of nitrogen, potash and phosphate fertilizers are being proposed and developed, the vast majority of future needs will still be met by imports from North America, the EU and the former Soviet Union (FSU). Nutrien, for instance, is taking ambitious steps to increase its footprint in South America. While it supplies an estimated 25% of muriate of potash (MOP) imports to Brazil, it held less than 1% of the distribution market. In early 2020, it purchased Brazilian agricultural retailer Agrosema, with the eventual target of controlling 30% of the distribution market. To that end, it has set aside CAN$1 billion over the next five years to coordinate the import and sale of nitrogen, potash and phosphate fertilizers into the country. In conclusion, GDP in Latin America is expected to grow at 2% for the next decade, and demand from India and China is also expected to increase exports of rice, beef and other foodstuffs. Overall growth in Latin America’s agricultural sector is therefore projected to maintain its current healthy level of 2.7% per year, making it a promising market for international fertilizer producers for the foreseeable future.
READY TO PERFORM Marco Mazzamuto Carlucci, Casale, Switzerland, describes the testing methodology that was used to ensure a new ammonia synthesis catalyst was ready to be successfully introduced to the market.
atalytic ammonia synthesis from hydrogen (H2) and nitrogen (N2) represents one of the most important industrial reactions today. The catalyst used in this reaction is made from iron oxide, with small amounts of other oxides added as promoters to enhance activity and stability. Despite the Haber-Bosch process being more than 100 years old, only incremental improvements have been achieved until recently. However, combined work by Clariant and Casale has led to the development of a new ammonia synthesis catalyst: AmoMax-Casale. The new catalyst is based on Clariant’s wustite-based catalyst AmoMax® 10, with more than 100 references worldwide, and is customised for Casale reactors (patent pending) with notably improved activity compared to iron-based catalysts. While retaining the same mechanical strength and resistance to ageing and poisoning, the new catalyst is significantly more active. This feature allows it to reduce the loop recycle rate and loop pressure and/or to increase the production of ammonia.
The higher activity of the catalyst contributes to an improvement in overall operating efficiency, either by saving energy or by increasing plant capacity. When introducing a new catalyst to the market, performance evaluation is of utmost importance; simple catalytic tests in powder form are not representative enough for industrial applications and are only suitable for screening purposes. A precise and rigorous methodology must therefore be applied.
Figure 1. Comparison between magnetite-based catalyst, wustite-based reference catalyst and AmoMax-Casale.
Materials and methods To reliably validate a new catalyst, laboratory-scale tests should be representative of the industrial catalyst. Catalytic and mechanical tests are therefore performed with the final form and shape of the catalyst. During catalytic tests, the temperature profile in the catalyst bed is measured and correlated with the heat exchange between the oven and the reactor. Subsequently, a systematic modelling of the obtained data is applied to understand the performance of the catalyst under industrial conditions. The information acquired is used to compare the new catalyst with the best available catalyst technology. In the event of enhanced activity from the new catalyst, as a next step in-depth mechanical stability characterisations are performed to confirm the robustness of the catalyst. This includes simulations and experiments of friction between the catalyst pellets/granules and the walls of the reactor, crush strength and simulations of start-up/shutdown of industrial reactors. If the catalyst passes all the mechanical tests, proof of concept is achieved and it is considered ready for scale-up. Transferring the catalyst recipe from the laboratory to production scale is a highly complex process, with numerous important parameters that must be considered by the catalyst manufacturer. After a successful scale-up, the catalyst is prepared for shipment. To ensure it maintains its mechanical integrity and activity after transport from the production site to the plant, samples are taken during transportation, sent to different analytical laboratories and precisely analysed. The catalyst is then validated with the same catalytic and mechanical tests applied during the proof of concept phase. If all the parameters are confirmed, the catalyst is finally ready for the market.
Catalyst characterisation Performance tests Activity Laboratory results for the catalytic activity are shown in Figure 1. The test conditions were: Tubular reactor, tests performed on granules. Pressure: 150 bar and H2 : N2 = 3. Temperatures: 300˚C, 330˚C, 360˚C, 380˚C, 400˚C and 420˚C.
Figure 2. Comparison of poison resistance in different oxygen concentrations. Table 1. AmoMax-Casale comparison in new converter Reference catalyst
Operating pressure (kg/cm2g)*
Ammonia outlet (% mol)
Energy saving (kcal/t)
16 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
The results show how the AmoMax-Casale catalyst outperformed magnetite and wustite-based ammonia synthesis catalysts over the whole relevant temperature range. In particular, the difference from the standard magnetite catalyst is notable. Based on the test results a kinetic model was created which fits very well the experimental data.
Poison resistance The performance with different oxygen (O2) concentrations in the feed was tested at different temperatures (Figure 2), with the following results: The oxygen poisoning behaviour of the new catalyst is similar to the reference catalyst at all measured O2 concentrations (compare dotted versus full line). The deactivation observed due to oxygen poisoning corresponds to observations in commercial plants.
Despite the higher activity, the catalyst offers greater performance regardless of oxygen concentration.
Table 2. AmoMax-Casale comparison in GIAP revamped converter
Reference AmoMax-Casale catalyst
Production (tpd) 1400
Operating pressure (kg/cm2g)*
Ammonia outlet 14.5 (% mol)
Chiller duties (Gcal/h)**
Stability The catalyst shows a notable stability in poisoning conditions. The performance was tested after each poisoning treatment and the activity was measured over time at fixed testing conditions without oxygen poisoning and after a stabilisation period. The new catalyst has proven to be very stable in comparison to the wustite-based reference catalyst.
Beside the pure activities and performances tests, Casale and Clariant also performed tests to assess the mechanical suitability Loop circulation 35 700 38 100 34 100 of the catalyst; in particular, the main objectives were to identify (kmol/h)** the intrinsic properties of the catalyst and how the catalyst Energy saving 163 000 >210 000 could behave inside the Casale internals. (kcal/t) The tests performed to mechanically qualify the *Outlet converter AmoMax-Casale catalyst have been: **Inlet ammonia converter Crushing strength properties in Casale internals: the catalyst has been tested with an in-house tool (the ‘Casale wall tester’) to assess the amount of powder produced due to Table 3. AmoMax-Casale comparison in Toyo Engineering Corp. revamped converter friction of the catalyst with the Casale collectors. The crushing tendency of the catalyst has been compared with a Reference catalyst AmoMax-Casale standard wustite and magnetite catalyst without identifying Internals Casale Casale significant differences in the final values. Production (tpd) 2100 2100 Pressure drop: a test unit was set up to assess the pressure drop generated by the new catalyst and compared with 226.1 217.4 Operating pressure (kg/cm2g)* standard catalysts used as references, with the aim of evaluating the pressure drop result inside an axial-radial bed. Ammonia outlet (% mol) 20.7 21.7 The result obtained was in line with expectations and with Energy saving (kcal/t) >45 000 the industrial pressure drop achievable in an industrial *Outlet converter converter with a converter based on the standard catalyst. Shear stress test: this test is essentially designed to apply stress to a test sample so Table 4. AmoMax-Casale performances in bottle-shaped revamped converter that it experiences a sliding failure along a plane that is parallel to the forces applied. Reference (full AmoMax-Casale (full Difference This test is therefore important for assessing front-end load, front-end load, after before revamping) revamping) the effect of the catalyst on the Casale internals; after several tests the parallel Internals Other licensor Casale stresses created on the internal surface are Catalyst life MOR SOR (AmoMax-Casale comparable to the ones measured with the in third bed) standard catalyst. Production (tpd)
Operating pressure (psig/barg)*
Synloop inerts content (% mol)
Ammonia at converter inlet (% mol)
Ammonia at converter outlet (% mol)
NH3 conversion (% mol)
Converter pressure drop (psig/barg)
*At converter inlet
18 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
Catalyst operation in converters As discussed previously, the new catalyst provides up to 30% higher activity compared with the standard wustite-based catalyst available on the market (the reference catalyst). The combination and synergy of this catalyst with the ammonia converter technology provided by Casale offers high performance, in terms of lower synloop operating pressure and higher ammonia conversion. These benefits can be converted into energy savings and lower natural gas specific consumption or higher production if the limitation to a plant load increase is provided by the synthesis loop. The benefits of AmoMax-Casale application can be exploited either with the installation of a new converter or by retrofitting an existing one.
In case a new converter is designed, AmoMax-Casale can be conveniently applied in all beds, boosting synloop performances. A different layout could foresee a first bed based on the standard catalyst, since it would work with fresh and unreacted gas. A new converter based on the AmoMax-Casale catalyst and Casale internals to be installed in a new synthesis loop would provide a smaller pressure vessel or, as an alternative, a lower synloop circulation and therefore smaller equipment sizes with reduction of the relevant CAPEX. When retrofitting an existing converter, AmoMax-Casale is normally installed in the third bed and also often offered for the second. The application of the catalyst in the first bed is usually not necessary for an ammonia synthesis converter revamping, considering that this basket is working with very fresh gas (low ammonia concentration) and therefore the differences with a standard catalyst are not so significant. Table 1 compares the performances of a new ammonia synthesis converter pressure vessel designed with Casale internals and operated with the standard wustite-based catalyst available on the market (reference catalyst) or the new catalyst. The comparison is made according to the following boundary conditions: Same catalyst life. Same Casale internals. Same new pressure vessel. AmoMax-Casale loaded in the second and third catalytic beds.
A comparison between reactor performances before and after the revamping is shown in Table 4. Performance figures after revamping are from November 2020 plant operating data provided by the client. As can be seen in Table 4, due to the replacement of the internals and the installation of the catalyst in the converter’s third bed it was possible to increase plant production and reduce plant energy consumption at the same time. In order to maximise ammonia production, the client decided to lower the synloop purge rate; this led to a synloop inert content increase of approximately 45% with respect to plant data prior to revamping. However, the improved converter configuration and the catalyst superior activity meant no conversion was lost. Additionally, the syngas compressor operating pressure was reduced by 11.5 bar, providing further energy savings. It should also be noted that converter pressure drop was reduced by approximately 30% after the installation of the internals.
Conclusion In a joint multidisciplinary effort involving process engineers, scientists, modelling engineers and fluid dynamic engineers, a new ammonia synthesis catalyst was created that was ready for the market in less than three years. The catalyst is now available on the market and has successfully been installed and started up in the first large-scale ammonia plant in the Americas.
With an optimised ammonia converter internals configuration and based on the latest Casale technological improvements, the new catalyst is able to enhance the overall synloop performance. The installation of the catalyst inside a revamped converter can be even more effective considering that an existing converter is frequently working in conditions far removed from the original conditions, and therefore with a design and configuration that is sometimes no longer optimised for the current operation. In this regard two different design configurations for a GIAP bottle shape converter and for a Toyo Engineering Corp. bottle shape converter are presented, with the following boundary conditions: Same catalyst life. Casale or competitor internals. Existing pressure vessel. AmoMax-Casale loaded in the second and third catalytic beds.
N Y LIA ITA OLOG N H C TE
The performance improvements in terms of energy saving and capacity increase are notable (Tables 2 and 3).
Industrial application results In December 2019 the first load of AmoMax-Casale was installed in a plant located in the Americas. The original bottle-shaped converter had been already modified by others to a two beds-interchanger configuration. Casale revamped the existing internals passing to a three beds-quench-interchanger configuration and the new catalyst was loaded in the third bed.
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Rochman Goswami and Dr. Michael Goff, Black & Veatch, USA, consider the range of flexible options available to companies seeking to contribute to the decarbonisation of the ammonia industry. he carbon economy is currently transitioning to one that is carbon-free. Although politicians have shaped the carbon/decarbonising dialogue into one of ‘for’ and ‘against’, the reality is that the discussion should simply be a scientific strategy towards betterment of the environment, for quality of life and perhaps for ‘life’ itself. It is therefore up to those within the industry and scientific community to drive decarbonisation. Looking back at the past decade, there are reasons to be pleased with the progress, and yet there still is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done on all fronts, from social acceptance to commercial viability, from statutory framework to policy initiatives and from scientific concepts to applied technology. One of the most important industries when discussing decarbonisation is ammonia, not only due to its current importance in crop production and as a basic chemical, but also for its potential as a non-carbon energy carrier. Ammonia production currently contributes approximately 11% of global industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. While much of the CO2 is captured to produce urea in the fertilizer complex (which eventually gets released to the atmosphere), there still are opportunities to capture CO2 from the flue gas streams present in the ammonia facility. The easiest and lowest cost for reducing carbon emissions is often by increasing the efficiency of the production process.
Practical flexibility The key to adapting and moving towards decarbonisation is flexibility and a pragmatic approach. Instead of the two extremes, of either going all in or not doing anything at all, Black & Veatch recommend a flexible, strategic approach that proposes a goal based on a sound technical and commercial argument. In order to achieve this, there are some important considerations that must be deliberated. Decisions must be based on sound business metrics. It is important to keep in mind that government programmes and subsidies are mostly time-bound and temporary, and these incentives may not form a strong commercial basis for investment in assets with a life of 30 – 50 years. The increasing cost of carbon and pollution is currently trending due to legislative measures. As a result, the regulatory framework will slowly and definitively continue to turn against the carbon economy. Companies should actively seek out decarbonising, while staying abreast of upcoming technologies and solutions. This is likely to become a defining factor for business success, and it is imperative that businesses stays abreast with technological developments. The cost of not upgrading on time is the risk of a company becoming obsolete or even irrelevant. Decarbonisation should be incorporated into the sustainability goals of an organisation in order to provide a clear vision and direction to stakeholders, both internal and external, and most importantly to clients. The regulatory framework as well as policy guidelines change with geographic constituencies and even within national boundaries. Trying to time and take advantage of a geographical constituency in respect to decarbonising may not be practical or advantageous. For multinational and/or multilocational organisations, it is recommended to establish consistent strategies that are forward-looking and can be easily adapted for decarbonisation based on technological feasibility. This ensures a clear understanding of goals and objectives within the organisation, and positions the organisation consistently across its portfolio of products and geographies. For instance, if an organisation is operating in a constituency where environmental standards are lax, they should still implement their decarbonisation strategies consistently across the portfolio. Besides consistency, discerning customers in constituencies with higher environmental standards will not be happy if they realise different standards are being applied across the board. It is important to stay ahead of the curve on decarbonisation in order to differentiate the brand and to reflect the organisation as a good corporate citizen. Today, sources of finance as well as clients are looking favourably at moving away from carbon. Staying ahead of the competition may become critical, as global supply chains are increasingly having a powerful influence on businesses. Once a company lose its clients to a competitor, it may become increasingly difficult to gain them back.
Changing lexicon The decarbonisation of the ammonia industry is gaining attention not only in the effort to reduce emissions from 22 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
ammonia production but also in the context of decarbonisation of the energy industry as a whole. New terms such as ‘green ammonia’, ‘blue ammonia’ and ‘grey ammonia’ are all being used within the industry to distinguish between how the ammonia is produced, lowering the carbon emissions. Green ammonia is characterised by not involving fossil fuels, with ammonia produced using water electrolysis to create hydrogen, using sustainable electricity in the process. Blue ammonia production involves carbon emissions, such as ammonia produced through the steam methane reformer (SMR) process; however, the carbon emissions are captured and stored and not released into the atmosphere. Grey ammonia equates to conventional ammonia production, using fossil fuels with carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. Flexibility entails the understanding that smaller reductions in emissions are no less important and move the industry in the right direction. The vast majority of the annual global production of ammonia (over 160 million t) is still produced as grey ammonia. A flexible approach towards decarbonisation may be achieved by improving the energy efficiency of existing plants through a wide range of approaches. Often overlooked is the reduction of other greenhouse gas emissions in the fertilizer plant that often can be realised at low investment costs.
Some flexible options The increased focus and demand for decarbonisation has been targeted by countries and organisations aiming to reduce carbon emissions. Australia is targeting a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, while Japan has announced it has been purchasing alternative fuels with a reduced or zero-carbon footprint. There are two main drivers for the renewed focus on reducing carbon emissions from ammonia and fertilizer plants; one is the push for decarbonisation in the chemical industry, and the other is the push for decarbonisation in the energy sector. Decarbonisation in the latter has predominantly been occurring through production of renewable electricity from solar and wind energy. The problem is that not all regions of the globe are rich in renewable energy resources. For complete decarbonisation in the energy industry to be achieved, two issues need to be addressed. The first is that electric energy needs to be consumed at the same rate that it is produced, since it cannot be economically stored in large volumes for extended amounts of time. Renewable energy production is not constant and varies seasonally and throughout the day. The second is that electricity cannot be transported over large distances, particularly not across continents. One solution is to convert renewable electricity into chemicals that can be more easily transported. Green ammonia produced through renewable energy can be used as energy storage, a hydrogen carrier or a zero-carbon fuel. Ammonia can be easily stored as a liquid at -33˚C, as it has a higher energy density compared to other zero-carbon fuels such as hydrogen. There is an existing infrastructure in place to transport liquid around
the globe via trucks, rail, pipelines and barges. Ammonia can be cracked back to H2 and N 2 by the end user, if required. Ammonia can also be used directly as a fuel in a gas turbine or internal combustion engine, creating zero-carbon emissions at the point of combustion. Due to the increased focus, technology improvements in this area – to use ammonia as an energy carrier – are evolving at a rapid rate. Green ammonia can be produced by water electrolysis, using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. With the motivation of decarbonisation in mind, it makes sense to use renewable electricity. In certain regions at various times during the day, there can be an excess of renewable electricity generated without enough demand to utilise all the available supply. During these times, the value of the electricity is much lower than normal, and the production of hydrogen can be used to fully utilise the electricity available by acting as a storage media. Electrolysers can ramp up and down in a matter of seconds, making them well suited to absorbing the fluctuating rates of renewable energy production. Since it is not feasible to start and stop the ammonia synthesis unit as electricity supply changes, either hydrogen needs to be stored on-site or hydrogen from the electrolysis unit must be used to supplement the hydrogen produced at a traditional plant. It takes approximately 450 MW electricity to produce 1000 tpd of ammonia. Blue ammonia is produced by capturing CO2 from flue gas either from the primary reformer, auxiliary boiler or co-generation unit. Besides the benefit of reducing carbon emissions, the CO2 captured can be used to produce more urea, beneficially paying for the cost of capturing CO2 from flue gas in the form of increased production of urea. Another option that is more applicable to new plants is to use an autothermal reformer (ATR) or partial oxidation (POX) process for syngas generation, instead of the more traditional SMR. The benefits of ATR and POX are that all of the CO 2 produced in the reforming process is in the processing of gas at high pressures and it is easily removed. Both ATR and POX require an air separation unit (ASU) to produce oxygen for the ATR or POX and nitrogen to ammonia synthesis. An ASU system does add to the capital cost, but this is offset by the
reduced size of the equipment in the front end of the ammonia plant, due to nitrogen being injected into the process just upstream of the syngas compressor and not acting as an inert in the front end of the plant. Additionally, ammonia plants already have a large process air compressor, similar to what would be used in an ASU, so these power costs offset each other. In addition to CO2 emissions, there are other greenhouse gas emissions that can be reduced in a fertilizer complex. Greenhouse gases are given a value called the ‘greenhouse warming potential’, calculated by the greenhouse gases contribution relative to CO2 . So, to achieve a reduction in carbon emissions and obtain carbon credits, other greenhouse gases should also be evaluated for reduction. Reduction of NOX emissions
from fired equipment and N2O in the nitric acid plant is a control strategy that has been used in fertilizer plants. Reduction in NOX emissions in fired heaters can be achieved with low NOX burners or with a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) unit to achieve very low NOX emissions. Secondary control is achieved by selective catalytic N2O decomposition in the ammonia burner of the oxidation step. Up to 90% reduction of N 2O is possible. Tertiary controls use a non-selective catalytic reduction that reduces NOX and N 2O emissions. In this process, a fuel – typically natural gas – is used to convert NOX and N2O to N2 and water with a catalyst. Typical N 2O reductions of 80 to 95% can be achieved with tertiary controls. There is an economic incentive to producing green ammonia; at approximately US$500/t, that cost includes the expense of capital investment, fixed operating costs (staff, maintenance, overheads) and the cost of electricity (assumed at US$30/MW-hr). Existing ammonia plants produce approximately 2 t of CO2/t ammonia, although this value can be a little less with newer, more efficient plants. With carbon credits of US$50/t, the cost of ammonia production is approximately US$400/t with the credits. While this cost is greater than an average ammonia price of US$250/t, there is a market for the zero-emission liquid fuel. The economics become more interesting when adding an electrolyser to an existing ammonia plant to supply, for example, 10% of the hydrogen. In this case the cost of the green ammonia
production portion falls to US$300/t, assuming the same US$30/MW-hr electric cost, carbon credit and capital cost of electrolyser equipment while excluding the capital cost of the ammonia plant and other overheads. The cost of blue ammonia production is a little more than traditional ammonia production. The capital and operating costs of CO2 capture of the flue gas is approximately US$60/t CO2 . There is approximately 0.8 t CO2/t of ammonia in the flue gas, for an additional cost of production of US$50/t of blue ammonia. If carbon credits of US$50/t are available, this changes the total additional cost of production to US$10/t of blue ammonia.
Conclusion In summary, there are multiple options and approaches to decarbonisation, and it is a journey. While it will become a business imperative in the short to medium-term, that journey must be commenced in ways that are suited technically and commercially to an organisation’s specific situation. There need not, and indeed must not be a ‘all or none’ mentality here. Set a pragmatic vision, strategies and goals towards decarbonisation and, as the proverb goes, ‘eat the elephant’ bit-by-bit. The path to decarbonisation lies in locally available natural resources, localised demand, local regulations and plant-specific technical and commercial solutions.
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Zico Zeeman, EMT, the Netherlands, explores how the fertilizer industry can follow the lessons of Liebig’s Barrel and achieve added value and reduction in handling through the use of blending and bagging lines.
he constantly increasing demand for food and changing environmental requirements from companies and governments worldwide has led to an increase in the demand for specialised fertilizers. Who in the industry has not heard of Liebig’s Barrel depicting the Law of Minimum, which perfectly demonstrates the need for soil and crop-specific fertilization? But how can the industry achieve this goal of tailor-made fertilization while still benefiting from scale economics and the low prices of standard fertilizers or compound fertilizers? 25
The answer is target market specific blending. This entails using globally available raw materials and blending these close to the target market, where knowledge of the soil, crop types and other area-specific requirements are known and can be tackled through the use of the correct raw materials. The key to local blending is adding value for customers by supplying exactly the fertilizers needed to keep their barrel strong and healthy and avoid spillage of their precious yield. Worldwide, the industry has seen a shift from compound or single fertilizers to blended fertilizers. This is shown in the large
Figure 1. Vertical blender with conveyor.
number of new blending facilities opening up around the world. It is important, therefore, to be aware of the different types of blenders available, as well as knowing what are the key choices to make when looking to invest in blending equipment. Thorough understanding of the market’s needs and wants is important, as this may define the rough requirements of a blending plant. What type of blends will need to be made? What are the soil properties and plant requirements of the target market? Will micronutrients such as boron or zinc need to be added to the blends? The required capacities the blending plant needs to run at also need to be considered: knowing the capacities per year is important, as is knowing what are the minimum daily requirements in the peak season. Looking at future expansion can also help determine which specific type of machine to purchase. There are various types of blenders, but they can be separated into two specific groups: batch blenders and continuous blenders. Batch blenders consist of the types of blender that work in batches normally varying from 2 to 16 t per batch. Each batch blender works in cycles, starting with a filling moment, following a blending moment and then discharging. Capacity normally ranges between 20 and 70 tph.
Vertical blender The blending principle of this blender is based upon a conical screw inside the container that blends raw materials in a wave motion, while always ensuring an accurate weighing of the product by never suspending any product. The bottom cone of the blender has a 60˚ angle to eliminate product build-up inside the container. A salem valve on the bottom of the blender, coupled with a sweep on the bottom of the auger, ensures complete clean-out of the blender. The machine can reach a capacity of 60 t/m3 per hour. The complete system is mounted on a digital weighing system.
Horizontal rotating blender Figure 2. Big bag twin filling line.
Various branches of the industry have these blenders in operation. The blending process is simple: the turning drum has internal flighting that blends the different raw materials in a folding action. The blend has good homogeneity, with little or no degradation or segregation. The blending capacity varies from 2 t with a blending capacity of 2 m3 to 10 t with a capacity of 10 m3. The weigh hopper has the same capacity as the blender and is mounted on a digital weighing system. The weighing and blending process are separated in this type of blender.
Figure 3. Twin drum blending system. 26 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
Different types of paddle batch blenders can be installed. Paddle blenders are well suited for blending granules but also for blending powdery material such as water-soluble fertilizers. The twin shaft high-speed paddle mixer is ideal for this type of material. Both shafts run in opposite directions at high speeds and can mix the powdery material with ease. These types of blender usually reach 1 to 4 t per batch.
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Continuous blender Continuous blenders, on the other hand, work continuously and can be filled and discharged at the same time. The material is blended by a blending screw and capacities can go up to 250 tph. The computer commands and controls the entire, continuously operating weighing and blending process by means of a variable electro system. This guarantees an optimum quality. The system works as follows: the operator fills the hoppers with raw materials through a wheel loader or forklift with bucket. Each hopper is mounted on a digital weighing system; the stainless steel dosing conveyors, in combination with the digital weighing systems, ensure the proper dosing of raw materials. This system has a blending capacity of 20 – 250 t/m3 per hour, and the number of hoppers is unlimited. The complete blender is made of stainless steel with a hopper capacity of 4 – 15 t/m3.
Adding micronutrients, inhibitors or additives Both types of blenders can be used to add micronutrients, inhibitors or additives to the blend. It is important to know which types of products will be needed to add to the blend to make the product more valuable for customers. Depending on this, it may be worth considering installing a powder adding unit or a liquid adding unit in the blender.
Intermediate handling After blending the material (or sometimes before) it might prove helpful to condition the fertilizers, depending on the quality of the raw material provided. Screening can be a good option to eliminate dust or large foreign particles from the product to ensure a good final homogeneous blend. Another option is to add fertilizer conditioners, such as lump breakers, into the machinery. This can be done for one specific type (for example urea) or for the complete mix.
Figure 4. Blender with five hoppers.
After the material is blended it is customary to transport it directly to the bagging units. In a set-up such as this, handling of the material is minimised. Different bagging units can be installed behind one blending unit; again, this greatly depends on the required output. Two types of bagging units can be distinguished: big bag filling units and small bag filling units.
Bagging The stainless steel big bag filling unit is designed to fill FIBC bags with a range of 250 to 1500 kg. Possible height and capacity are important factors when choosing the type of bagging unit. Weighing above the bag requires more height but can reach higher capacities of 70 bags of 1000 kg per hour or 120 bags per hour of 500 kg per bag per line. Weighing the product in the bag requires a lower height but also decreases the filling speed: 40 bags of 1000 kg and approximately 70 bags of 500 kg per hour. The small bag filling unit can process a maximum of 1000 – 1100 bags of 25 – 50 kg per bag per hour. These rates are achieved by using a double bagging unit. The single bagging unit has a capacity of 500 – 550 bags per hour. Both machines can be equipped with either an open mouth or ventil bag filling system. A combination of these systems is also available.
Case study: Belgium A completely new blending, bagging and handling unit was recently installed at De Bruycker NV in Blankenberge, Belgium. The first machine in the line is the continuous Weighcont blender. With four large hopper and two medium hoppers the Weighcont can mix six different granular materials in one blend. In this set-up it is possible to run the material through the double layered screening unit, which takes out both the large particles as well as the dust, ensuring the high quality of the product. Depending on the quality of the raw materials, De Bruycker has the ability to decide to bypass the screening unit. From the screening unit or from the bypass conveyor the material enters the blending screw, where the raw materials can be coated. A weighing liquid adding unit ensures that the liquid that is used on the granular material gives exactly the correct amount per produced tonne; the blending screw distributes it evenly over the granules. The blended material is transported upwards on a conveyor belt. At the end of the conveyor belt a 2-way valve directs the material to either the bagging unit or to a bulk truck. The entire system was installed in 2020 and can reach a capacity of 120 tph in bulk and 70 tph in bags. The system is run entirely from a PC in the control office, which is directly connected to the machine PLC. All blends produced are stored in the machine’s history, giving De Bruycker the possibility to retrace and store all its production reports. This completely automated system continuously adjusts the speed of the dosing to the required recipe, giving it the desired blend for each recipe.
Figure 5. Blender line at De Bruycker, Belgium. 28 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
The benefits of locally blending the exact recipes tailored to customer requirements are not only proven in theory but also in reality. Choosing the correct equipment is vital to the success of an operation.
IT'S T IN THE BAG
Stefanie Reifbäck, STATEC BINDER, Austria, explains how to ensure the longevity of a fully automatic bagging machine.
he purchase of a fully automatic bagging machine involves quite a large investment. First of all, it is important to choose a strong and reliable partner with the right machine for the desired application. In addition, it is even more important to know what needs to be done to ensure that the machine is reliable and works as it should. These are basic tasks that can make a big difference. This article will explain the fundamentals of ensuring the longevity of a fully automatic bagging machine. It is especially important in the fertilizer industry that bagging machines are designed to ensure that they remain working for a long time. Due to the corrosive nature of fertilizer, the use of stainless steel for the housing and main parts of the machine, as well as increased corrosion protection, is essential. Over the years, machines have been continuously optimised to ensure a long service life even when packaging corrosive products. Aside from ensuring the high quality of the machines, there are several other important factors that work towards guaranteeing longevity of service for bagging machines. Several steps are taken to ensure that machines are well-designed for the handling of corrosive products. For example, for components of the packaging system that come into contact with the product being packaged, special plastics are used instead of metals because they do not corrode.
Furthermore, special measures are taken to reduce dust emissions in the product flow and to adapt the machines to the operating environment, such as high humidity, so that hygroscopic products do not become sticky and are always free flowing. When planning the plant layout, the customer should keep in mind the future location of the machine, as humidity can be drastically concentrated if the machine is located in an air-permeable building. Depending on the specific circumstances, heating or dehumidification should take place to adjust the machine’s environment to the optimal temperature and humidity, as these measures also affect the longevity of the machine. Although machines can operate in less than optimal environments, they will run better and more reliably if this advice is followed. Moreover, the longevity of the machine will be increased.
Figure 1. Regular cleaning and inspection of suction cups.
Figure 2. Easy cleaning with the already installed compressed air pistol.
Besides ensuring a high quality of the packaging machine and the correct location of the machine within the plant, the customer must also ensure the proper maintenance and servicing of the machines. The regular cleaning of a machine and its single components is of enormous importance. Problems most frequently occur because product residues accumulate or pile up in the plant due to inadequate cleaning measures. Sticky and dusty products adhere particularly easily to machine components such as bearings, joints or pneumatic cylinders. As a result, the packaging machine ceases to run as desired, which in turn can lead to problems with the specified sequence, cylinder speeds and other movements. Another negative consequence would be an additional loss of performance. STATEC BINDER recommends that customers undertake a short cleaning of the packaging machines once per shift with dry compressed air. Regular cleaning only takes a few minutes and ultimately avoids major problems that could arise from equipment contamination. The main focus should be on the filling area of the machine – in other words, practically everywhere where the product is exposed and the material comes into contact with the equipment. While cleaning is a basic measure, stocking certain spare parts on-site is another important prerequisite for successful machine maintenance. The company provides its customers with a checklist of ‘mandatory spare parts’ when the machine is delivered. Certain components should always be at hand. Similar to the tyres of a car, some machine parts wear out much faster than others, and must therefore be replaced at regular intervals to maintain performance. In addition, the customer is provided with maintenance schedules tailored to the specific machine and the product to be bagged that need to be observed and adhered to. Training is also offered for the operating and maintenance personnel of the system. Existing knowledge about optimal maintenance measures on the respective machine can then be passed on to new colleagues or team members by trained employees. If there is a planned stop of the bagging machine due to a holiday, end of season or for servicing the machine, cleaning is even more important, as hygroscopic products tend to become sticky and lumpy over time, which can lead to product build-up. This could affect the performance of the machine when starting it up again after a long period of time, or even cause an unplanned stop. For this reason, thorough cleaning is absolutely necessary after stopping the machine. Before restarting the machine, it is also highly advisable to check for any product build-up, and to inspect the moving parts. This enables a smooth start-up process and reliable operation of the bagging machine.
Figure 3. Inspection of the bag separation parts. 30 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
In summary, regular cleaning must be considered essential to the smooth operation of bagging machines, with measures adapted to both the specific product environment and the bagging or palletising system in question. In addition, basic maintenance is also of great importance. If machine operators listen to the machines in order to notice any strange noises, the problem can be quickly rectified and damages can be avoided. Annual maintenance – which is always tailored to the particular machine, the product to be filled and the customer – ensures that the machine’s reliability and performance are maintained. The goal is to achieve a consistently smooth-running machine.
MATERIAL PROGRESS IN Nelson Clark, Joanes Barros, Matheus Sanchez, Bruno Ferraro, Gabriel Murakami, Lucas Camargo and Paulo Portilho, Clark Solutions, Brazil, investigate how special alloys have been changing the way industrial sulfuric acid plants are built and operated.
ince the first industrial sulfuric acid plants were built in the early 1900s, very little change occurred in the materials used to handle the harsh conditions of the acid-producing environment. More recently, the development and increased availability of special alloys has greatly simplified the design and construction of the plants – small, skid-mounted plants can now be built and shipped to customers for installation with minimal field work and assembly.
Oxidation converters Sulfur dioxide (SO2) oxidation converters are the core of any sulfuric acid facility. As a general rule they are large, cylindrical, vertical vessels (though Clark Solutions has used horizontal vessels on small skid-mounted plants), housing three, four or five catalytic beds where the SO2 to sulfur trioxide (SO3) oxidation reaction takes place when the gases contact vanadium-based catalyst at reaction temperatures that range between 380˚C – 650˚C (715˚F – 1200˚F).
The high temperatures associated with the presence of a small amount of water and a SO3 rich atmosphere make the converter environment extremely aggressive. Historically, the approach to handling the gases in these converters has been the application of a refractory brick-lined carbon steel vessel shell coupled with high temperature resistant cast iron internals (support grids and posts). Although construction can be excellent and long-lasting, carbon steel and cast iron have
Figure 1. Sulfuric acid plant: the converter is the larger vessel in the middle of the image.
some disadvantages. The mechanical resistance of carbon steel is strongly affected in the temperature range above 500˚C (900˚F). Cast iron may experience deformation in temperatures above 650˚C (1200˚F). The industry and designers always aim to increase production with the smallest plant possible. This drove designers to increase SO2 concentrations in the reactor and thus increase operating temperatures. First pass bottoms operating above 620˚C (1150˚F), unusual in the mid-1900s, became the new standard. Some plants, at the expense of fast catalyst ageing, would operate at 650˚C (1200˚F) continuously. These accomplishments were only possible with the popularisation of different grades of stainless steels. The carbon steel and cast iron construction has slowly but steadily been replaced by special 304 stainless steel grades, more resistant to thermal stress and corrosion than carbon steel. The new material has also led the industry to change converter design. While in the past the first catalytic pass had to be placed on top of the reactor due to thermal stress and increases in pressure drop, stainless steel construction (not as affected by thermal stress as carbon steel) allowed the first pass to be positioned wherever it made more sense to the designer. For simplicity, many designers chose to install the first catalytic bed at the bottom of the reactor. In addition, superheaters could be located on the ground level, which saved on ducting and supports. The heavy duty high temperature resistant cast iron castings used for catalyst support and internals of the converter have also been replaced by special grades of 304 or 321 stainless steel, the last on the hotter areas. With proper design, the new materials of construction allowed the refractory brick to be partially or completely eliminated, depending on process conditions, making the vessels cheaper and lighter than prior versions.
Gas-gas heat exchangers
Figure 2. Corrosion on different alloys. Source: Handbook of Sulfuric Acid Manufacturing.1
Figure 3. CSXTM Isocorrosion curve. 32 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
Another traditional piece of equipment in double absorption plants that has benefitted from improved and more accessible materials is the gas-gas heat exchanger. Heat exchangers cool the gases prior to entering the interpass absorption tower while at the same time re-heating the cold gases exiting the absorption tower. In the hot side of the exchanger high temperatures and SO2/SO3 laden gas are the challenges; on the cold side, acid mist and SO3 slippage are potential problems. In a way, the same problems afflicting the converter affect hot gas-gas heat exchangers. Temperatures that could surpass 500˚C (900˚F) and the SO3 laden gas require that hot heat exchangers use resistant materials of construction. An early solution was metallised carbon steel, a strategy to make the base material bear the hot and harsh conditions.
The metallisation process is extremely difficult, though, and if done improperly can actually shorten tube life. What happened with hot gas-gas heat exchangers has its parallel in cold gas-gas exchangers. For nearly a century gas-gas heat exchangers have been built in plain carbon steel. The material Figure 4. Cast iron line (left) replaced by a CSX line (right). In a small length, many flanges were selection is perfect and eliminated. should last a very long sulfate formation and pressure drop build-up, gas leaks, an time with regular design operating conditions of the increase in emissions, reduced capacity and earlier than exchanger. The only problem is that actual operation does expected shutdown of the plant. This is why cold gas-gas not always go by the book. heat exchangers are among the items in most frequent When engineers design a plant, they choose materials need of maintenance and the most frequent cause of that operate at the design conditions. The problem with shutdown in a double-absorption plant. these designs is the non-expected operating conditions: What is the answer to this problem? Gas-gas heat low-capacity operation, poor air/gas drying performance, exchangers constructed out of stainless steel increase the unexpected mist carryover from the interpass absorption, life of the equipment, reduce corrosion and sulfate improper SO3 absorption, and water or steam leakage. When one of these conditions exist, the cold formation in upset conditions and save money on both exchangers are pushed beyond their design limits. Hot, cleaning and maintenance. When properly designed and strong and corrosive acid will completely change the operated, stainless steel exchangers last longer and will dynamics of corrosion. When this happens, the pay for the extra cost incurred on a ‘total cost of consequences are the same: accelerated corrosion, ownership’ basis.
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CSX piping uses wall thicknesses of 4 mm (0.2 in.) or 6 mm (0.3 in.) while still providing 20 or more years of service. The thinner walls make special alloy piping lighter, but this is not the only advantage. Cast iron piping is generally operated with acid at velocities of 1 – 2 m/s. Corrosion rates on cast iron increase with transport velocity. CSX and special alloy piping are normally designed for approximately 3 m/s for long runs and 5 m/s for short runs. The special alloys’ corrosion rates are not sensitive to transport velocity, so the design is limited only by acceptable pressure drop. Another advantage is welding capability. Welded lines substantially reduce the number of flanges used, which significantly reduces the risk of leaks at flanged connections. An even greater advantage is that in the event of a leak or failure special alloy lines can be locally welded: no cranes, no replacement of large parts, no new gasketing or tightening. This saves a substantial amount of time and energy when compared to cast iron lines, which may cost one or two days of production loss. In Brazil, where Clark Solutions designed and replaced cast iron pipelines with CSX, the customer reported gains in plant operation and up to 60 – 80% less downtime compared to prior operation.
Drying and absorption towers and pump tanks
Figure 5. Complete 310MTM tower: not using brick increased the gas/liquid free flow cross-sectional area by 15%.
Strong acid piping For more than a century hot strong sulfuric acid piping was designed and built using cast iron piping and connections. Cast iron grades changed from place to place, from country to country. Some places use 250# class piping and fittings to provide extra wall thickness for corrosion. Cast iron fittings and gravity cast parts have chaplets to separate the moulds, another weak point that in many situations is the starting point of a leak. In the end, the corrosion resistance of cast iron allied to the thick walls has for a long time been the only option for strong acid piping, despite the natural shortfalls. Thus, the development of special alloys and steels, such as Clark Solutions’ CSXTM family of high silicon stainless steels, was very welcome. Special alloys are designed to operate with corrosion rates below 0.02 – 0.04 mm/yr (1 – 2 mils/yr), while even the best cast irons will show corrosion rates in the range of 0.15 – 0.3 mm/yr (5 – 10 mils/yr) at average transport velocities. The thick walls guarantee a long lifetime, at the expense of substantial iron being captured by the acid. As an example, while some of the most frequently used cast irons have wall thicknesses as high as 22 mm (0.9 in.), 34 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
Drying and absorbing towers and tanks face the harshest conditions in an acid plant. As a result, it is this equipment that industry experts have the most disagreement about. The traditional approach to preventing corrosion is to build a brick-lined carbon steel vessel to avoid direct contact between the acid and the metal. Every technology vendor has its special recipe. The basic concept underpinning the surface protection of this equipment is the installation of a resin or polymeric material, a rubber, an asphaltic mastic or a special resin in contact with the carbon steel shell, sometimes followed by an adhesive PTFE film over which potassium or sodium mortar is applied with acid-resistant brick. Lining a carbon steel vessel so that it can operate with hot strong acid requires extremely skilled installers and considerable attention to detail. Properly built, a good lining system may last as long as 35 – 40 years. Skilled masons are becoming scarcer and more expensive though, and quality work takes time. In addition, resins and polymers are not all the same – their resistance to acid varies. Shelf life sometimes affects performance. Improper mixing or installation may leave weak spots, where acid attack will initiate. Bricks and mortars are permeable – it is a question of time as to when acid will contact the liners. If the installation was not properly built or if the materials were not properly chosen, the lining may last for just a few years. Brick-lined towers and tanks are extremely heavy, requiring very strong foundations and in most cases requiring the lining service to be constructed in place. New materials eliminate the need for lining, PTFE and brick. Towers and tanks, just like piping, can be in direct contact with the hot and strong acid.
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Special alloys, such as the company’s CSX or Outotec’s SX, are the premium option for metal tower construction. Special grades of 310 stainless steel, such as the company’s 310M, can be used with good performance and long life in 98 – 98.5% strong acid and in heat recovery towers, where acid can be as hot as 240˚C and at concentrations as high as 99.5% in heat recovery systems, such as Clark Solutions’ Safehr®. Lighter metal towers can quickly replace brick-lined towers, without requiring new foundations. In some replacement situations, eliminating the brick lining while keeping the outside diameter the same can increase the cross-sectional area, which can mean a substantial capacity gain. Of course, nothing is perfect. Alloy towers do require proper concentration and temperature controls. While a short-term concentration or temperature excursion may be tolerated and will not lead to substantial corrosion, long-term excursions may accelerate corrosion and lead towers to an early failure.
Acid distributors As in piping, improved alloys also took over acid distributor manufacturing. Cast iron distributors corrode, which means sulfate in the tower and iron in
Figure 6. High-efficiency Clark Solutions trough and downcomer sulfuric acid distributor installed in a 6 m inner diameter tower in Brazil.
Figure 7. CSX shell and tube strong acid cooler. 36 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
circulating acid. Sulfate on top of the packing may increase pressure drop and, in extreme cases, compromise drying or absorption efficiency. Alloy distributors are currently built in different forms and designs, and are lighter in weight, simpler to install and less prone to corrosion. They also allow more design flexibility. Old standard irrigation densities used in cast iron distributor equipped towers are usually approximately 10 to 15 distribution points per square metre. This calls for increased packing heights to guarantee proper liquid distribution across the total height of the ceramic packing. Special alloy distributors can be made of smaller parts that allow a much richer liquid distribution. Clark Solutions has built distributors for some special applications. For acid, given the nature of the service and the packing used, distribution densities with special alloy will usually vary from 25 to 50 points per square metre. The 2 – 5 times denser irrigation creates a substantial reduction in packing heights, not only shortening tower heights but also reducing pressure drop across packing or allowing the design of smaller towers running at the same pressure drop.
Acid coolers The first acid coolers used in the sulfuric acid industry were constructed from cast iron. Huge installations used very large areas where water would wet the external surface of the hot cast iron tube banks while hot acid was flowing inside. The water cooled the tubes by evaporation and convection, and the tubes cooled the acid flowing inside. The long lengths added a substantial quantity of iron to the product acid. This additional iron can be a problem, depending on the industry. Cast iron coolers, such as piping, also used dozens and dozens of flanges and connection points, each a potential leak source. The first attempt to replace the cast iron coolers started in the early 1980s with the introduction of anodically protected (AP) acid coolers. These shell and tube heat exchangers, with acid flowing on the shell and water in the tubes, operate with an impressed current. One of the few disadvantages of the AP acid coolers is that the corrosion protection film formed by the passivation current film is temperature sensitive. An increase in the temperature may cause the metal to move from a passive state to an active state, accelerating corrosion. Luckily this is a rather unusual occurrence, especially when trained operators are in charge. The development of new alloys brought myriad options to the sulfuric acid producer. Shell and tube heat exchangers no longer need anodic protection; they can be built out of CSX, 310M, Alloy 3033 and others. Any of these are adequate for some process conditions.
Figure 8. A shop manufactured modular acid plant
acid with little or no dissolved silica or other materials and ions that may foul, clog or precipitate corrosion on the plates. Alloy plate coolers also work well at temperatures as high as 150 – 160˚C in 98 – 98.5% acid and without issues maintaining cooling water temperature or flow. Both are much more forgiving than AP coolers in this regard. More recently, Clark Solutions and Alfa Laval developed a fully welded 310M block exchanger designed to handle high temperatures and concentrations of the Safehr heat recovery system. The newly designed 310M Compabloc® systems have now been in service at 99+% acid and 220 – 240˚C with no sign of corrosion and no loss of performance.
requires minimal field work.
Conclusion Alloyed shell and tube heat exchangers give the operator the same benefits of AP acid coolers with the advantage of not requiring the instrumentation and controls needed by AP acid coolers. Kept and operated properly, alloy shell and tube coolers will have a long service life with little maintenance. The shell and tube were not the only heat exchangers to benefit from new alloys. Gasketed, semi-welded and fully welded plate and block exchangers can also be made of special alloys, such as Hastelloy D-205 or Alloy 33. Plate exchangers are smaller and cheaper than shell and tube exchangers. However, a 0.3 mm distance between 0.5 mm thick plates requires good quality water treatment as well as an
All the improvements provided by the development and application of new materials in the sulfuric acid industry combined to simplify, reduce the weight and increase the capacity of the new plants. These features allowed plants to be built faster, at lower costs and with less field labour. As materials science progresses, even more improvements that will add to the simplification and reliability of new and future sulfuric acid plants are anticipated. Plants are getting lighter, more energy efficient and more reliable, and will continue to do so.
LOUIE, D.K., Handbook of Sulphuric Acid Manufacturing (2005).
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MANAGING MACHINES Alexey Vostrukhov and Michael Hastings, Brüel & Kjær Vibro GmbH, Germany, explain how, faced with challenging maintenance issues, the Angarsk nitrogen fertilizer plant in Russia decided to adopt a technologically advanced machine condition monitoring strategy.
ach year, 21.6 million t of ammonium nitrate (AN) are consumed to help increase food production for billions, and the Angarsk nitrogen fertilizer plant (Angarsk Azotno Tukovy Zavod, or AATZ for short) plays an important role in this production. AATZ is currently producing the following nitrogen fertilizers and feedstock products: 270 000 tpy of AN, including porous AN (used for explosives in the mining industry). 225 000 tpy of non-concentrated nitric acid (minimum 46%). 10 000 tpy of aqueous ammonia. 39
AATZ, modernised and commissioned in 2004, has its origins in fertilizer production in 1962. Since then, it has been upgraded, expanded and changed ownership several times until 2011, when AATZ was merged into SDS Azot. The company has other plants that produce a combined total of over 1 million tpy of AN, 300 000 tpy of ammonium sulfate, 120 000 tpy of caprolactam and 1 million tpy of urea.
Machines need attention At AATZ there are a number of critical machines used in the five production lines of the Haber-Bosch process for producing ammonia and converting it into nitric acid
and AN. Some of these machines are relatively old and there have consequently been recurring maintenance issues, especially for those with rolling element bearings (REBs). The blowers used in the ammonia-air mixing process, shown in Figures 1 and 2, are good examples of these. FlexControls, one of the Brüel & Kjær Vibro channel partners in Russia, was asked to give a proposal for addressing the problem, looking first at the five blowers.
Asset optimisation through digital transformation
The Brüel & Kjær Vibro VC-8000 SETPOINT CMS system was selected for the task of condition monitoring the blowers, as well as providing automatic decision support for diagnostics. One of the main reasons for selecting this system was it already had a process information interface with the existing OSIsoft PI historian at AATZ. This means vibration data can be stored and viewed in the PI system together with process data. No proprietary database server is needed, and user management is more accessible without restrictive licensing. Moreover, the process data can be correlated together with the vibration data, so it is easier to see which events are process-related and which are an indication of deteriorating machine health. One of the key aspects of the system’s PI interface is that time waveform data can also be stored in the PI system. This means events can be manually post-processed at any time using the Setpoint diagnostic technique package, or by third-party systems. In addition to manual diagnostics, there is an automatic system as well, which will be Figure 1. One of the five blowers used in the ammonia-air described later in this article. The plant is also using the mixing process at AATZ. Rockwell Automation system FactoryTalk, a manufacturing execution system (MES) that provides enterprise-wide operational intelligence for process optimisation. This is achieved through Figure 2. The blower being monitored is in the catalytic ammonia oxidation converter production performance process, shown in red. analysis of the process, which ultimately results in reducing IT support costs, improving scheduling efficiency and reducing equipment downtime. FactoryTalk Analytics, which is interfaced to the PI system, uses much of the data from Setpoint for asset maintenance management. Most of the process visualisation is achieved with an entirely different system known as SCADA FTView, shown in Figure 3. Altogether, these interfaced systems work closely together within the IoT drive to converge IT/OT functions through a digital business Figure 3. Process view of the five blowers, showing the alarm status of each. transformation. 40 | WORLD FERTILIZER | APRIL 2021
Automatic decision support for diagnostics The condition monitoring functionality of the Setpoint system employs automatic fault detection and diagnostics for REBs. Historically, the bearings on the older blowers have been failing at non-predictable times due to both wear and lubrication problems. This has been a concern for the AATZ maintenance staff for several years, so one of the main requirements for the new condition monitoring system was that it should address this issue. The diagnostic rules implemented at AATZ were based on the experience of two other production facilities in Russia using the Setpoint system: the Omsk Poliom plant and the SIBUR ZapSib-2 OPF plant, both of which produce polyolefins. At present, the following parameters are monitored: REB fault frequency detection – defects on the inner race, outer race, cage and rolling elements generate impacts that can be detected by filtered acceleration measurements, if the carpet noise is low in relation to the bearing fault frequencies. A frequency range is monitored where all the REB defects occur (also known as prime spike frequency range), which is typically between 1 to 7 times the ball passing frequency on the outer race. This technique is used for early detection of REB faults. High-frequency demodulation spectra (HFD) – this technique can isolate and detect inner and outer race faults regardless of the noise carpet level. All bearing fault frequencies can excite component resonances, but the inner and outer race fault frequencies can also modulate this resonance (i.e. carrier frequency) because of the variable load zones. By filtering out the acceleration low-frequency vibration signals, demodulating the carrier frequency and then filtering it out, the original inner and outer race bearing fault frequencies are isolated. Just as importantly, these same fault frequencies can also give an indication of improper lubrication, which is one of the primary uses for this measurement. In addition to these, there are a number of other measurements that are calculated and used for trending, such as the overall vibration level and the 1x and 2x running speed bandpass measurements. The MES takes in the fault detection and diagnostic information from the automatic diagnostic system and relays this to the operators in the form of alarms, as follows: Green: no defects. Yellow: minor defects. Orange: serious defects. Red: extremely serious defects – not allowed for operation. These alarms refer to the specific bearings in question. As a diagnosis is automatically made at the same time the fault is detected, there is no need to wait for a
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diagnostic specialist to manually perform the same analysis during working hours or after holidays, which may be too late if it is a question of lubrication problems. The operator can react immediately when the fault occurs and inform the maintenance technicians about what type of problem occurred and where. This system greatly simplifies the decision-making process for taking maintenance action and speeds it up without requiring the immediate need for a specialist, who may not be available at the time.
Experience up to now As the monitoring system has been completely operational for almost one and a half years now, several cases have come up that confirm the fault detection and automatic diagnostic capabilities of the system. Not long after the monitoring system was commissioned, one of the operators at AATZ received the message “Lack of Grease in Bearings of Motor #1”. The operator thought this was a false positive alarm but ordered his team to stop the machine anyway. They opened the electric motor casing and found only 30% lubrication. When they added grease and started the machine up again the alarm stopped, confirming that the diagnostic rules were working as intended. There were other, more serious, malfunctions such as foundation soft foot (Blowers #3 and #10), as well as loose bearings (Blowers #1 and #3). One recent problem that has occurred several times in the past has been detection of
excessive 1x vibration. This is due to the ammonium salt deposits on the ammonia-vapour blower blades, which causes unbalance. It is important to carefully monitor this condition, since if it is not corrected in due time the bearings can be overloaded and fail prematurely. The blowers are quite old and need considerable attention. The new monitoring system not only helped the maintenance technicians to initiate work orders, but they also gained a better understanding of their assets.
Overview The system has been fully operational for approximately a year now and includes an automatic decision support system for diagnostics, which improves the reliability and speed for making asset maintenance decisions. In addition to this, vibration and process data are saved in the OSIsoft PI data historian for correlation purposes, which is also integrated into the FactoryTalk Analytics and Connected Services MES system for process optimisation and asset maintenance management and utilisation. By starting off and monitoring only the five blowers at AATZ, this has given the maintenance technicians an excellent opportunity to gain experience in working with the monitoring system. There are still a number of other machines that are old and in need of condition monitoring, so there are plans underway to extend the monitoring system to the nitrous compressors for the nitrogen dioxide absorption columns, shown in Figure 2, as the next step.
Pj Kwong and Teddy Katz, on behalf of SGS North America, describe the development of a device designed to obtain more accurate draft measurements of fertilizer cargo in vessels and prevent costly disputes.
t is said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, which aptly describes the process that led to the development of the Draft Survey Tool (DST) and the DST Lite. The emergence of these new devices has changed the way the fertilizer industry is able to obtain draft measurements of cargo in vessels transporting their product around the globe. Imagine, with the millions of tonnes of fertilizer being shipped on an annual basis, what an advantage it would be if inspectors could utilise modern technology to have timely and more precise measurements to remove altogether the costly and lengthy disputes common in the industry. This same technology would help the inspectors determine accurate readings of a ship’s cargo without the risks that have been part of the process for years. 43
As was the case for over 100 years, inspectors needing to perform a draft survey would approach a vessel and take the measurements from a small boat or by scaling down a rope ladder suspended from the deck that had been dropped up to 17 m down the side of a vessel: it paints quite the picture with an inspector at the bottom of a swaying rope ladder, trying to assess visually where the water meets the side of a hull in order to obtain the measurements. That does not even begin to cover that same inspector’s exhausting climb back up the ladder to the safety of the deck, which is equivalent to scaling a five-storey building. Very little had changed over the
Figure 1. An inspector uses the DST Lite in a narrow space.
course of a century in the draft survey process in terms of technology or with respect to crew safety. A draft survey could also be performed in all kinds of weather and sea and wave conditions, including during swells that could be up to 2 m in height and crashing against the hull. The waves would cover and uncover the draft marks, which are painted at six points around the ship. It is not hard to see that in the past obtaining accurate readings was far from an exact science.
Case study The safety of the workers and the consistency in the measurements were problems to be solved. If the purpose of a draft survey is to determine the weight of a shipment loaded or unloaded from or to a vessel, then the surveyor must be able to weigh the ship in empty and loaded conditions to obtain the respective displacement in each case. By treating this as a mathematical problem, calculations are made to determine how deep a vessel is floating, along with sea water density measurement, ballast and freshwater analysis, which together correspond to the displacement. Using the difference between the displacement measurements will give the surveyor the result in the amount of cargo loaded or unloaded from a vessel. There are a number of stakeholders involved for whom accurate readings of fertilizer and any other cargo being transported could go a long way to avoid and/or reconcile discrepancies. For context, a deviation of 1 cm in a draft reading could result in a miscalculation of 100 t, which could lead to disputes involving hundreds of thousands of dollars, with either the shipper or the cargo buyer having to pay the difference. So, if the draft survey is a method of cargo weight determination where the vessel’s displacement figures in empty and loaded conditions are recorded, was there a better way of getting those readings that did not involve old-fashioned pencil and paper recording and the ‘tape and eyeball’ method of visual measurements?
Figure 2. An inspector reads the midship barge draft using the DST Lite.
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The initial inspiration for the new tools came in 2012 from a team member at SGS who had spent their early career as an inspector and led the group to consider what other options might be possible to improve the draft survey process. The team settled on approaching a solution in stages, with the first being the development of a digital prototype. After many months, a very rudimentary handheld device, now known as the DST, was designed. The next stage would be to see if it could generate measurements with any degree of accuracy. Approaching the validation of the device’s ability to record digital measurements with accuracy required a degree of ingenuity; for example, a member of the team used a balcony to aim the device at a child’s splash pool several floors below their residence. There was another occasion when persuading the ‘powers that be’ in the Spanish military meant that the DST was able to be tested in a military training pool, which could generate man-made waves similar to a wave pool. This exercise
was particularly helpful because measurements could be taken in conditions that simulated calm, windy and wavy circumstances. The results were gratifying and confirmed that the project team could expand their efforts. Ultimately, the patented, calibrated and certified DST that was invented can be utilised by an inspector from the vessel deck while using the latest technology. Among the many reasons that the invention was valuable for the draft survey process was the tool’s ability to be adapted to all vessel shapes, sizes and measuring points. As a lightweight electronic draft measuring tool, the DST contains software algorithms that eliminate wind-driven chop and wave action from the data, essentially yielding ‘slack water’ draft readings. The technology utilises cloud computing to allow all of the dot points needed to calculate the final draft to be stored in the device, replacing the old-fashioned, 100-year-old and less reliable pencil and paper method. The preliminary stages showed sufficient promise that what was needed next was for the team to start circling the globe with prototypes. The DST was able to change the way that inspectors were working by removing the danger and increasing the precision in the results. This could have been the end of the process; however, with work taking place on the rivers with barges carrying fertilizer, the tool would require further refinements. Travelling to multiple countries to train employees in the use of the DST, the company was asked if they might be able to come up with a similar solution or device for taking measurements on push barges that transport fertilizer up and down waterways such as the Mississippi river in the US. The space between barges when they are lined up beside each other in the holding area can be as little as 1 – 2 in. It was back to the drawing board with more homemade prototypes and another trip to the US for testing and validation before declaring the DST Lite a reality. The DST Lite is the small, compact and portable ‘little brother’ of the DST – about the size of a tiny cellphone – which allows inspectors to take measurements in spaces as small as 1 in. This is helpful for fertilizer and coal barges, which are often tightly secured in a fleet and only inches apart. The device is connected to an inspector’s cellphone and allows for the recording and the management of the reading’s data through an app.
efficiency when collecting and analysing data in real-time. The algorithms used to calculate the average in the measurements allow the surveyors to determine more precise readings, even in water with 2 m wave swells. Adding to these benefits is the reliability and accuracy of the data, which can mitigate the risk of costly disputes. These new tools are the modern answer to the 100-year-old call to improve the draft survey process, demonstrating how old-fashioned ingenuity and modern technology and innovation can meet for the benefit of the fertilizer industry.
Figure 3. The DST has modernised the draft survey process.
Results Before becoming fully available in most countries, the DST Lite was used in a pilot project for 18 months in the US, starting in 2018. The DST and DST Lite have made a substantial difference, reducing the time required and providing a more reliable method for surveyors. Although it utilises cloud storage an Internet connection is not required in the port, as data is stored and then transferred to a database once connected to WiFi.
Conclusion In summary, the DST and DST Lite are digital solutions that take advantage of the latest technologies, allowing inspectors to work in safer conditions and providing
Figure 4. Taking a draft measurement from the vessel deck using the DST.
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William Vangool, Triodetic, Canada, explains how fertilizer storage facilities can be designed in order to counter the corrosive properties of potash. t 13.3 million tpy, Canada is the largest producer of potash in the world, providing 32% of global consumption. It is interesting to reflect on the history of potash mining in Canada. Potash was first discovered in the province of Saskatchewan in the 1940s while drilling for oil. Active exploration of potash in the 1950s later found high grade potash layers. These deep layers were formed millions of years ago by the evaporation of an inland sea stretching across much of central and southern Saskatchewan. It is the largest commercial potash mining belt, comprising over 50% of all known world reserves. The high quality of grade measures on average 28% potassium oxide (K2O), compared to European averages of 19% K2O.
2019 – 2021 potash outlook The potash market is currently experiencing difficulties, and 2019 saw price-related fluctuations that extended well into 2020. High inventories have caused many potash mining operations to close or reduce production. This slowdown has affected capital investments. The demand for potash has also been affected by the weather; when farmers are not able to plant due to wet spring conditions the demand for fertilizer drops off significantly. Nevertheless, expectations are for a robust future demand for fertilizers in 2021 and beyond, in order to offset the effects of soil degradation and greenhouse gas emissions.
Potash process and corrosion Figure 1. The interior view of a timber dome.
In Saskatchewan, potash is primarily mined using conventional methods. Large rotary mining machines cut tunnels into the ore body and leave salt pillars as supports for the extensive mining galleries. The ore is then crushed and processed through a complex flotation system. The addition of water to the crushed ore creates a highly corrosive mixture that readily corrodes piping, containment vessels, pumping machinery and structures housing the process equipment. It is an ongoing challenge for engineers, designers and maintenance personnel to protect the process facilities from the devastating corrosive effects of the potash product during all phases of production.
Figure 2. A collapsed timber dome.
Corrosion of metals leads to the deterioration and loss of material due to chemical, electrochemical and other reactions of the exposed surfaces. In addition to the systems carrying potash in flotation, the ambient air in a potash facility laden with moisture will also damage unprotected metal surfaces. Speciality metals, such as stainless steel, will extend the life of production equipment. Many coatings have been developed to act as barriers to resist metal deterioration; however, these coatings can be damaged and can lead to progressive spreading of corrosion. Loss of metal on structural supports or structural connections is known to have led to the collapse of entire structures.
Case study 1
Figure 3. A 73 m (239 ft) dia. steel dome during construction.
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In 2013, a timber dome collapsed at one of the Saskatchewan potash mines after many years of service due to corrosion of metal connections and steel rod bracing. Triodetic was asked to replace the timber dome. Resistance to corrosion was a primary concern; this mine has an operating capacity of 1.5 million tpy of potash and the loss of the thickener tank greatly impacted production.
Stainless steel 316L was selected for all components making up the dome structure, connection, cladding and fasteners. The dome has a diameter of 73 m (239 ft), a height of 24 m (60 ft) and sits on 96 equidistant perimeter support points. Once the collapsed wood dome was cleared away a new perimeter footing was installed to support the stainless steel dome. The dome structure consists of stainless steel tubular components and stainless steel connectors. The installation process does not require scaffolding, leaving the tank free of temporary construction supports or equipment. This allowed potash production to resume while assembly was taking place overhead. A net was stretched horizontally over the tank in the event that materials or tools accidentally dropped from above onto the mechanism or into the tank. Custom designed stairs are suspended from the interior of the dome to access the apex of the dome. The entire dome was covered with spray-on insulation.
Economic advantage of geodesic style domes The main advantage of a single layer double-curved latticed framework is its lightness. Unlike linear conventional beam and column construction, domes derive their strength from curvature. Loads on the dome due to wind, snow and other factors are transferred into axial forces which follow the curvature
of the dome by means of the triangular lattice work and are directed toward the base support points. It has been demonstrated that for similar structural spans, domes are two thirds lighter than conventional structures. This is particularly advantageous from a cost point of view when dealing with stainless steel structural components. The Triodetic tubular components and connectors are made from stainless steel. The tubes vary in size from 64 mm (2 ½ in.) to 90 mm (3 ½ in.) in diameter with a fairly thin wall thickness of 4 mm (0.15 in.). Remarkably, these relatively small components are capable of spanning such large distances without interior supports. Accuracy in fabrication is essential, as a 73 m (239 ft) dia. dome may have in the order of 6000 tubes with a minimum of 300 distinct lengths. The systematic assembly of these tubes needs to culminate at the apex in a dimensionally accurate triangulated closure.
Case study 2 An extensive expansion at the Agrium mine, now Nutrien near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, required a dome cover for a flotation tank. The diameter is 45 m (146 ft) with a height of 19 m (63 ft). Once again, stainless steel 316L was selected to provide maximum corrosion protection. The dome is not a complete spherical segment; several large dormers radiate around the perimeter of the dome. These openings are primarily to accommodate a bridge truss
frame which traverses the building to hold the centre rotating mechanism and pipe conduits. The dormer openings are 4 m (14 ft) wide and 14 m (45 ft) high. Having such major openings did complicate the installation of the skeleton frame, as the triangular elements are interrupted for an extensive height without fully completing the overall geometric pattern. Special tubular reinforcing around the openings ensured the integrity of the structure during assembly. Pre-curved corrugated stainless steel metal decking covers the structure, followed by a 90 mm (3.5 in.) layer of spray-on insulation topped with a membrane.
Spray-on insulation and top coat Figure 4. Stairs suspended from the dome for apex access.
Figure 5. A 45 m (146 ft) dia. dome.
Winter temperatures in Saskatchewan can reach between -20˚C to -30˚C, meaning that it is imperative to insulate facilities housing potash process equipment. The dome structures are insulated with spray-on insulation, comprising a three layer system described below: The primer coat: Premicote 429 is a spray applied to the stainless steel substrate. It exhibits strong adhesion and is fast drying. The insulation layer: Bayseal 3.0 is a closed-cell polyurethane, applied in two layers with an approximate thickness of 45 mm (1.75 in.) for an overall thickness of 90 mm (3.5 in.). The nominal density of this product is 48 kg/m 3 (3 lbs/ft3). The overall thickness will provide a R20 heat/cold resistance rating. Exterior membrane: Rhino Eco Coat is an ultra-violet (UV) resistant protective sealing membrane. This coating contains UV stabilisers and has a UL 790 Class A rating. The required application thickness is 50 mils DFT (dry film thickness). The above insulation system has had a strong performance record at potash production sites for many years.
Figure 6. The application of spray-on insulation and top coat.
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With the rise in population there will be an increased demand for food. More food needs to be produced on less land, which will lead to an increased call for potash. Potash demand is expected to grow by 3 – 4% per year. This will undoubtedly require capital investments in mining expansion projects as well as new mining operations. In order to minimise the impact of corrosion and control maintenance costs, designers and engineers must ensure that production systems are designed for the long-term. The use of stainless steel, along with other proven durable coatings, will contribute to the longevity of mining operations.
WORLD REVIEW The World Review covers fertilizer projects either in progress or recently completed and is broken down by region: Africa and the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Europe and CIS and the Americas. Contributions are provided by Bagtech, BERTSCHenergy, Clariant, Haldor Topsoe, OCP Group and Stamicarbon.
AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
Haifa Group ammonia plant
KIMA urea plant
Grassroots 300 tpd ammonia plant in Mishor Rotem for Haifa Group being constructed by Saipem and using Haldor Topsoe technology. Project work began in January 2021.
Urea melt and urea granulation plant licensed for Egyptian Chemical & Fertilizer Industries (KIMA) by Stamicarbon in Aswan, using its LAUNCH MELTTM Pool Reactor Design and LAUNCH FINISHTM Standard Granulation Design with a capacity of 1575 tpd. The contractor was Maire Tecnimont. The project started in 2011 and was completed in 2020.
NCIC urea plant Urea melt plant licensed for NCIC El Nasr Co. for Intermediate Chemicals by Stamicarbon in Ain El Sokna, using its LAUNCH MELT Pool Reactor Design with a capacity of 1050 tpd. The contractor is thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions. The project started in 2019 and is due to be completed in 2022.
Morocco Jorf Lasfar seawater reverse osmosis desalination plant extension The preservation of water resources remains at the heart of OCP’s strategy. OCP is taking on a capital programme at the existing seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant at Jorf Lasfar,
Ethiopia Pan-Africa Fertilizer Complex The Pan-Africa Fertilizer Complex is a flagship project between the government of Ethiopia and OCP and it is a symbol of south-south cooperation between Morocco and Ethiopia. It will be located in East Ethiopia in the Dire Dawa City Administration. The project will use the natural resources of both countries to produce urea and NPS-based fertilizers. The initial investment for the construction and operation of the fertilizer complex is US$2.4 billion and in phase two it will reach US$3.7 billion. Pre-feasibility and conceptual studies have already been completed. Once the project is completed, it will satisfy 100% of Ethiopia’s fertilizer demand, creating jobs for more than 1200 people during construction and establishing 500 permanent roles. The project started in 2018 and is due to be completed in 2025.
Figure 1. KIMA urea plant in Aswan, Egypt, started up in 2020 using Stamicarbon’s LAUNCH MELT Pool Reactor Design.
Ghana Ghana Fertilizer Complex A joint venture between OCP Group and the government of Ghana involves the creation of a new fertilizer plant, to be called the Ghana Fertilizer Complex. The fertilizer industrial complex will leverage each country’s natural resources – natural gas from Ghana and phosphate from Morocco – which will be used to produce ammonia and high-quality fertilizers, such as urea and diammonium phosphate, for the local and sub-regional market. The project is expected to involve the commitment of a significant investment of up to US$1.3 billion, which will benefit the local economy and communities as well as enhance and expand the agricultural and industrial ecosystem. The plant will be located in Jomoro in the western region of a future petrochemical hub and will be designed and built using best-in-class technology. The conceptual phase for this project has already been completed. The project started in 2019 and is due to be completed in 2025.
WORLD REVIEW 2021 | WORLD FERTILIZER
Figure 2. Pan-Africa Fertilizer Complex, Ethiopia.
Figure 3. Ghana Fertilizer Complex, Jomoro, Ghana. 53
AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
with aims to increase production capacity of processed and demineralised water from 25 million m3/yr to 40 million m3/yr. This will enable the Jorf Lasfar phosphate hub to respond to the growing demand for processed and demineralised water without consuming water from other natural water resources, such as groundwater and rivers. Considering the constraints of seawater quality variation on the coastal intake, the plant expansion will increase the capacity of the pre-treatment unit based on dissolved air flotation and ultrafiltration technology. Furthermore, the project will use energy recovery device technology to produce the desalinated water with the most efficient energy consumption possible. The plant will produce two water qualities as per the needs of the industrial complex. The processed water and demineralised water will be stored in four separate water tanks to be distributed to different consumers. In addition to the on-site effluent treatment, the brine generated by the plant will be diluted into the cooling water system of the Jorf Lasfar hub, and then reused in processing units. The Jorf Lasfar desalination unit runs on surplus clean energy created from the phosphate manufacturing process (the generation of steam in the sulfuric acid production process), which is then transformed into electrical energy. The project started in 2019 and is due to be completed in 2022.
Phosboucraa fertilizer complex desalination plant As part of the development strategy of the southern provinces of Morocco, OCP has launched an investment programme to transform raw phosphate into final and semi-final products. The industrial development programme includes the construction of a seawater desalination plant with a capacity of 8 million m3 within the Phosboucraa fertilizer complex (PFC) to feed different units with the required water qualities (processed water, demineralised and potable water). An offshore intake, positioned at 1.8 km from the shore, will be connected to a pumping station to feed the plant with the required seawater quantities as well as the needed cooling water for the industrial units. The desalination plant will use reverse osmosis technology to produce different water qualities. An ultrafiltration unit will pre-treat the seawater before it reaches the membrane separation process. The water will pass through the reverse osmosis trains twice to produce processed water as well as the demineralised water. A post-treatment unit will be installed to alter the processed water quality to fit with drinking water quality requirements. The plant will run on clean energy produced at the power generation plant that uses steam generated at the sulfuric acid production process, which is then transformed into electrical energy. The brine issued from the plant will be sent to seawater ponds for dilution before it is used by industrial units as cooling water. The project started in 2021 and is due to be completed in 2024.
Beyond acquiring technology available on the market, OCP has built strong partnerships to develop new technology. A stand-out example of this is the Sulfacid® process at its Jorf Lasfar and Safi industrial platforms, which reduces sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas emissions by 98%. OCP’s Sulfacid process combines the expertise of a partner specialised in gas processing and the company’s operational expertise in sulfuric acid production. As a result, the company intends to reduce SO2 gas emissions at five of its sulfuric production lines. This is a world-first achievement in the sulfuric acid industry. It is an incorporation of an additional gas scrubbing system into the existing contact unit to recover the exhaust gases and convert them to sulfuric acid, which is then reused in the production chain, forming a circular economy. The Sulfacid process converts SO2 in the flue into sulfuric acid of up to 15% by mass of H2SO4, by wet catalysis using activated carbon, oxygen and water. The environmental performance obtained exceeds the most stringent standards in the world. The project started in 2018 and was completed in 2020.
Safi wastewater treatment plant In order to ensure a supply of processed water at the Safi industrial complex when there are increased demands on water sources in the region, OCP signed an agreement with the local water authority in December 2019 to construct an urban wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) for the city of Safi. This plant will allow the company to produce 8 million m3/yr of highly treated wastewater that will feed the industrial units, and therefore preserve freshwater resources in the region as well as the environment by avoiding the discharge of urban wastewater into the sea. The WWTP will use an activated sludge treatment process to create high-quality treated water, followed by a tertiary treatment that consists of a combination of three stages of treatment (microfiltration, sand filtration and disinfection). After the tertiary treatment, water from the plant is sent to the main water tank at Safi’s industrial units, where it is used as raw water. The WWTP will also address the sludge issue by providing class A sludge quality at the outlet. This is made possible by the installation of a thermal hydrolysis process (THP) unit. This process solution pressurises the biosolids at a high temperature to improve the digestibility of the biosolids and will eliminate all pathogens before anaerobic digestion, making the sludge suitable for reuse at landscaping. Furthermore, the plant will recover biogas emitted at the digestor during the wastewater treatment process. This biogas will cover more than 30% of the electrical energy needed to operate the WWTP. The project started in 2020 and is due to be completed in 2023.
Safi & Jorf Lasfar Complex OCP has initiated a significant investment plan to design, in an eco-friendly manner, new production lines and improve the technological performance of existing production lines at the Safi & Jorf Lasfar Complex to meet global standards, including those of the World Bank.
Nigeria Agricultural centres of excellence Three blending units are currently under construction by OCP Africa Nigeria Ltd. in Kaduna, Ogun and Sokoto and are due
WORLD FERTILIZER | WORLD REVIEW 2021
to start production this year. They will have a total production capacity of 500 000 tpy of blended fertilizers. The facilities will serve as centres of excellence, encompassing storage and blending facilities, quality control laboratories and training centres for both farmers and fertilizer industry players. By training farmers and market players in agronomical and industry best practices, these centres will promote the production of customised fertilizers that are adapted to the soils and the environment. The project started in 2019 and is due to be completed in 2021.
Dangote ammonia plant Grassroots 2200 tpd ammonia plant for Dangote Fertilizers Ltd., with engineering and procurement by Saipem and technology from Haldor Topsoe. Construction began in January 2013 and is due to be completed in 2021.
Nigeria multipurpose industrial platform A multipurpose industrial platform will be built by a joint venture between OCP Africa and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority that will encompass, in its first phase, an ammonia plant and a phosphate-based fertilizer plant. The ammonia plant is expected to have a capacity of 750 000 tpy. The fertilizer plant will be operating at a capacity of 1 million tpy by 2025. The project falls within the framework of the import-substitution programme being pursued by the Nigerian government since 2016 with the launch of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative. This initiative aims to domesticate production and promote the supply of high-quality fertilizer. Using both Nigerian gas and Moroccan phosphate, the US$1.4 billion project seeks to provide Nigerian famers with phosphate-based fertilizers adapted to their soil and crops needs and supply OCP with ammonia. The project started in 2019 and is due to be completed in 2025.
Dry granulation of fertilizers
Notore Chemical Industries Ltd. plant Deployment of ClearView concept – a living digital twin to enhance performance and reliability – by Haldor Topsoe for Notore Chemical Industries Ltd. The project is scheduled to finish in June 2021.
Our technology has been recognized around the world for dry granulation of MOP / SOP and NPKs. Our services cover pilot plant tests, basic engineering, equipment
supply, start-up supervision, and commissioning. Typical
flake capacities are in the range of 10 –130 t / h or more.
Grassroots 4GW green ammonia synthesis loop from Haldor Topsoe using single S-300 ammonia converter at the Helios project in the NEOM business region. Contracted by Air Products, the project began in 2020.
We have received orders for more than 0 fertilizer compactors of latest Köppern technology since the year 2000. The total installed flake capacity of these plants
Turkey Gemlik urea plant Urea melt and granulation plant licensed for Gemlik Gubre Sanayl A.S. by Stamicarbon, using its LAUNCH MELT Ultra-Low Energy Design and LAUNCH FINISH Optimised Granulation Design with a capacity of 1640 tpd. The contractor is Maire Tecnimont. Work on the project started in 2020 and is due to be completed in 2023.
is exceeding ,000,000 tpa. Köppern – Quality made in Germany. • State of the art technology • Process technology know-how • High plant availability • Quick roller replacement
Hindustan Urvarak & Rasayan Ltd. (HURL) Barauni plant
Destiny ammonia plant Grassroots 3507 tpd ammonia plant for Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers in Western Australia. Engineering and procurement by Saipem, using Haldor Topsoe technology. The project began in 2019.
Grassroots 2200 tpd ammonia plant for Hindustan Urvarak & Rasayan Ltd. (HURL) in Barauni, Bihar, constructed by TechnipFMC and using Haldor Topsoe technology. The project began in May 2018 and is due to be completed in 2021.
HURL Sindri plant
Ghorasal Polash Urea Fertilizer Project Grassroots 1600 tpd ammonia plant, constructed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for Bangladesh Chemicals Industries Corp., using Haldor Topsoe technology. The project began in September 2018 and is due to be completed in 2022.
Brunei Sungai Liang urea melt plant Urea melt plant in Sungai Liang Industrial Park for Brunei Fertilizer Industries Sdn Bhd, licensed by Stamicarbon using its LAUNCH MELT Pool Condenser Design with a capacity of 3900 tpd. The contractor is ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions. Project work began in 2018 and is due to be completed in 2021.
Grassroots 2200 tpd ammonia plant for HURL in Sindri, Jharkhand, constructed by TechnipFMC and using Haldor Topsoe technology. The project began in May 2018 and is due to be completed in 2021.
Ramagundam plant Grassroots 2420 tpd ammonia plant in Ramagundam, Telangana, with Haldor Topsoe HTER, construction by Engineers India Ltd. for Ramagundam Chemicals & Fertilizers Ltd. Construction work began in December 2015 and start-up was achieved in November 2020.
Talcher urea melt plant
Urea melt plant for Talcher Fertilizers Ltd. in Talcher, Odisha, licensed by Stamicarbon using its LAUNCH MELT Pool Condenser Design with a capacity of 3850 tpd. The contractor is Wuhuan Engineering. The project began in 2019 and is due to be completed in 2023.
Henan Xinlianxin Fertilizer XLX-1 urea melt plant
Urea melt plant for Henan Xinlianxin Chemicals Group Co. Ltd. in Jiangxi, Jiujiang, licensed by Stamicarbon using its LAUNCH MELT Ultra-Low Energy Design with a capacity of 2334 tpd. The contractor was Hualu Engineering. Project work began in 2017 and was completed in 2021.
Henan Xinlianxin Fertilizer XLX-2 urea melt plant Urea melt plant for Henan Xinlianxin Chemicals Group Co., Ltd. in Jiangxi, Jiujiang, licensed by Stamicarbon using its LAUNCH MELT Ultra-Low Energy Design with a capacity of 2334 tpd. Project work began in 2020 and is due to be completed in 2024.
PT. Kaltim Parna Industri plant Deployment of ClearView concept – a living digital twin to enhance performance and reliability – by Haldor Topsoe for PT. Kaltim Parna Industri (KPI). The project finished in February 2021.
New Zealand Ballance Agri-Nutrients Kapuni Ltd. plant Deployment of ClearView concept for Ballance Agri-Nutrients Kapuni Ltd. by Haldor Topsoe to enhance performance and reliability. The project finished in March 2021.
Sanning urea melt plant Urea melt plant in Hubei for Hubei Sanning Chemical Industrial Co., licensed by Stamicarbon using its LAUNCH MELT Ultra-Low Energy Design with a capacity of 2334 tpd. The contractor is Wuhuan Engineering, China. The project began in 2018 and is due to be completed in 2021.
WORLD REVIEW 2021 | WORLD FERTILIZER
Pakistan Fatima Fertilizer Co. Ltd. plant Deployment of ClearView concept for Fatima Fertilizer Co. Ltd. (FFC) by Haldor Topsoe to enhance performance and reliability. The project finished in November 2020.
EUROPE AND CIS
Project round-up Belarus Grodno sulfuric acid plant Engineering, production and supply of a complete process gas cooler system was provided by BERTSCHenergy for the JSC Grodno Azot sulfuric acid production plant, operated by BELNEFTEKHIM. The scope of supply included fire tube boilers, a water tube superheater, a steam drum, a feed water preheater, a superheater, an economiser and auxiliaries. The process gas cooler system is part of the sulfuric acid plant, with the following parameters: Maximum process gas flow: 224 000 kg/h. Maximum gas inlet temperature: 1200˚C. Maximum gas inlet pressure: 0.35 barg. Maximum heat duty: 28 MW. Maximum steam pressure: 43 barg. Maximum steam production: 36.3 to/h.
ammonia production. In December 2018, Yara decided to purchase Clariant’s new steam reforming catalyst ReforMax® 330 LDP Plus, which provides high activity but extremely low pressure drop. Because of a malfunction of the flowmeter during the start-up, the new catalyst suffered a severe coking event during start-up. As a result of close collaboration, Yara and Clariant were able to successfully recover ReforMax 330 LDP Plus. This case proves that the increased void fraction of the catalyst allowed for extra forgiveness and safer operation under the prevailing harsh conditions and made it easier to achieve a complete recuperation. Hence, despite this incident, Yara can safely run the plant at full capacity until their next scheduled turnaround. Furthermore, ReforMax 330 LDP Plus operates with a more than 16% lower pressure drop, and is expected to reach the guaranteed lifetime.
The project began in March 2018 and is due to be completed in March 2023.
Grodno urea plant Plant revamp at JSC Grodno Azot’s urea plant, licensed by Stamicarbon using its EVOLVE PRODUCTTM Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) technology, with a capacity expansion of 90 tpd. The project began in 2018 and is finishing in 2021.
Belgium Tertre ammonia plant In November 2018, Yara International ASA selected Clariant ActiSafE to control the speed of their ammonia synthesis catalyst activation at their plants in Tertre. ActiSafE showed reliable results during synthesis catalyst activation at Yara and was able to optimise and speed up the activation process without stressing the catalyst with too high water vapour formation. The necessary information on water vapour formation was also available during process disturbances at any time of the day, without the requirement of additional laboratory staff or a resultant time delay. In addition, instantaneous water and ammonia concentrations and not averaged values are measured, giving a more realistic picture of the situation than other techniques, such as the Karl Fischer titration method. A more realistic picture will increase confidence that the operator has full control over the reduction procedure. This is crucial, as ammonia synthesis catalyst reductions are quite rare events for the production site and the majority of the operators will experience them just once in their work lives.
Figure 1. Tubesheet of one of the fire tube evaporators supplied by BERTSCHenergy for the JSC Grodno Azot sulfuric acid production plant.
Terte ammonia plant Yara Tertre faced a pressure drop limitation in the primary reformer, which prevented the plant from increasing its
WORLD REVIEW 2021 | WORLD FERTILIZER
Figure 2. Steam drum supplied by BERTSCHenergy for the JSC Grodno Azot sulfuric acid production plant. 59
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770 tpd. The project began in 2015 and is due to finish in 2022.
Geelen Plant AFA 2 OCI’s AFA 2 ammonia plant in Geelen is a Bechtel design with a capacity of 1550 tpd and runs a side-fired Foster Wheeler reformer. Before a turnaround in 2018, pressure drop over the front end was an important production limitation for OCI at AFA 2. The installation of Clariant’s ReforMax 330 LDP Plus catalyst, and optimisation of catalyst volumes in other reactors, has removed this limitation, significantly increasing its energy and production efficiency. Since its start-up in June 2018, ReforMax 330 LDP Plus has demonstrated very stable operation and provided a significant reduction in pressure drop across the catalyst bed in the reformer tubes. This improvement will avail the plant of savings of more than €300 000 over the expected catalyst lifetime of eight years, compensating for the catalyst investment.
Poland Grupa Azoty ammonia plant Revamp of existing ammonia plant for Grupa Azoty, including upgrading of autothermal reformer internals, refractory upgrade, new Haldor Topsoe CTS burner and lowering S/C ratio. The project commenced in August 2018 and finished in July 2020.
Russia Acron IV ammonia plant Revamp of existing Topsoe designed ammonia plant for Acron Group, in order to increase capacity to 2500 tpd by introducing Haldor Topsoe HTER. The project at the Acron IV plant commenced in January 2018 and finished in July 2020.
Acron urea granulation plant Urea granulation plant in Novgorod for Acron Group, licensed by Stamicarbon using its LAUNCH FINISHTM Optimised Granulation Design with a capacity of 2000 tpd. The contractor was GAIP Velikiy Novgorod. The project commenced in 2018 and finished in 2020.
Kingisepp-2 urea plant Urea melt and granulation plant at EuroChem Northwest’s Kingisepp-2 site, licensed by Stamicarbon using its LAUNCH MELTTM Pool Condenser Design and LAUNCH FINISH Optimised Granulation Design with a capacity of 4000 tpd. The contractor is Maire Tecnimont. The project began in 2020 and is expected to finish in 2023.
ShchekinoAzot urea plant Urea melt and granulation plant in Pervomayskiy for ShchekinoAzot, licensed by Stamicarbon using its LAUNCH MELT Pool Reactor Design and LAUNCH FINISH Optimised Granulation Design with a capacity of 2000 tpd. The contractor is China National Chemical Engineering. The project began in 2019 and is expected to finish in 2022.
ShchekinoAzot ammonia plant Grassroots 1500 tpd ammonia plant for ShchekinoAzot, constructed by China National Chemical Engineering Co., China, with technology from Haldor Topsoe. The project began in 2020 and is scheduled to finish in 2024.
Volgafert urea plant Urea melt and granulation plant in Togliatti for Volgafert – majority-owned by KuibyshevAzot JSC – licensed by Stamicarbon using its LAUNCH MELT Pool Reactor Design and LAUNCH FINISH Optimised Granulation Design with a capacity of 1500 tpd. The contractor is Maire Tecnimont. The project began in 2017 and is expected to finish in 2022.
United Kingdom Hull ammonia plant In June 2019, Yara International ASA selected Clariant ActiSafE to control the speed of their ammonia synthesis catalyst activation at their plant in Hull. ActiSafE showed reliable results during synthesis catalyst activation at Yara and was able to optimise and speed up the activation process without stressing the catalyst with too high water vapour formation. The necessary information on water vapour formation was also available during process disturbances at any time of the day, without the requirement of additional laboratory staff or a resultant time delay. In addition, instantaneous water and ammonia concentrations and not averaged values are measured, giving a more realistic picture of the situation than other techniques, such as the Karl Fischer titration method. A more realistic picture will increase confidence that the operator has full control over the reduction procedure. This is crucial, as ammonia synthesis catalyst reductions are quite rare events for the production site and the majority of the operators will experience them just once in their work lives.
Uzbekistan Uzkimyosanoat ammonia plant
Perm Mineral Fertilizers OJSC urea plant Urea revamp for Uralchem OJSC’s Perm Mineral Fertilizers OJSC urea plant, licensed by Stamicarbon using its EVOLVE CAPACITYTM Design with a capacity expansion of
WORLD REVIEW 2021 | WORLD FERTILIZER
Grassroots 2000 tpd ammonia plant for Uzkimyosanoat Joint Stock Co., constructed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries using Haldor Topsoe technology. The project began in May 2016 and finished in December 2020.
process, making it possible to operate the equipment anywhere in the world.
Brazil Canada NPK blending plant Bagtech’s first NPK blending plant in Brazil was commissioned by Hinove Agrociência in 2020 in Rio Brilhante, located in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul in the Midwest region. It was a challenging project that aimed to implement a continuous blending plant connected online to the Bagtech Automation System, with a capacity of 60 tph. The project began in February 2020 and finished in April 2020. The main features are: Precision flow control, an advanced control philosophy, low maintenance and elimination of the risk of product damage during operation. Agile processes: process flexibility that allows smaller production batches with greater customisation, improving the product range, mix and scalability. Reduction of operating costs: the high level of control and automation software for Bagtech equipment results in less waste of materials, a more efficient operation and a direct reduction in operating costs. Increased profitability. Communication and decision making: Bagtech’s automation control software allows for quick problem resolution as well as agility in the control of the entire
Urea plant Urea plant revamp licensed by Stamicarbon, using its EVOLVE CAPACITY design with a capacity expansion of 300 tpd. The project started in 2019 and is due to be completed in 2022.
United States El Dorado Chemicals plant Clariant’s ReforMax LDP Plus catalyst was loaded in the primary reformer of the KBR 1320 tpd ammonia unit at LSB Industries’ El Dorado Chemicals fertilizer plant in Arkansas. The customer switched to the novel catalyst to achieve a pressure drop reduction and to improve the energy efficiency of the plant. ReforMax 210/330 LDP Plus was successfully started up in September 2019. The customer achieved a noticeable reduction in pressure drop of 4 psi (equivalent to 0.3 bar) measured across the entire reformer, which is approximately 16% lower than for the previous charge. Looking at the catalyst in the tubes
Based on the energy savings at the natural gas pricing in North America, the customer achieves an estimated energy cost saving of US$45 000/yr, which is more than US$200 000 over the catalyst’s estimated useful life.
Gulf Coast Ammonia project Grassroots 3600 tpd ammonia synthesis loop from Haldor Topsoe using single S-300 ammonia converter for the Gulf Coast Ammonia project in Texas, contracted by Air Products. The project began in September 2018 and is still under construction, with completion expected in 2021.
Figure 1. Finishing training with customers at Bagtech’s first NPK blending plant in Brazil.
alone, the expected 20% pressure drop reduction was achieved. A tube wall temperature survey shows that the catalyst provides excellent heat transfer, as evidenced by a uniform temperature distribution across the tubes with an average tube wall temperature of 1522˚F. The new catalyst has been very stable so far and is still at the same SOR pressure drop and methane leakage after one and a half years of operation.
Urea revamp licensed by Stamicarbon, using its EVOLVE CAPACITY Design with a capacity expansion of 544 tpd. The project started in 2020 and is due to be completed in 2024.
Urea plant Urea revamp licensed by Stamicarbon, using its EVOLVE CAPACITY Design with a capacity expansion of 660 tpd. The project started in 2019 and is due to be completed in 2022.
Urea plant Urea revamp licensed by Stamicarbon, using its EVOLVE CAPACITY Design with a capacity expansion of 725 tpd. The project started in 2016 and was completed in 2020.
AD INDEX 38 | ABC
07 | Koch-Glitsch
13 | Argus Media
55 | Köppern
63 | Bagtech
49 | Ludman Industries
37 | Bedeschi S.p.A.
IFC | Neelam Aqua & Speciality Chem(P) Ltd.
04 | Casale
23 | Nel Hydrogen
24 | EMT/Doyle Equipment Manufacturing
60 | Palladian Publications
02 | Eurotecnica
OBC | Prayon Technologies
17 | Gambarotta
42 | Sackett Waconia
41 | GEA
19 | S.I.G.
IBC | GPCA Supply Chain Conference 35 | J&H Equipment Inc. OFC & 27 | Jotun
09 | Stamicarbon 33 | Statec Binder
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