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Why ammonia processes and catalysts need to be improved

Sep. 12, 2023

World demand for nitrogen fertilisers (N equivalent) will increase from 106 million tonnes in 2001 to 111.2 million tonnes in 2003, and world nitrogen fertiliser (N equivalent) capacity is now 132.7 million tonnes/year (160 million tonnes/year for ammonia).

About 6.50 Mt/a of ammonia plants will come on line worldwide by 2005. The world's largest single-series ammonia plant, built by the Saudi Arabian Fertiliser Company (SAFCO) (a subsidiary of the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC)), will be commissioned in 2005, with a capacity of 3 kt/d (about 1.0 Mtpa), which is about 50 per cent larger than the largest existing plant. In addition, the preliminary design of a 4 kt/d plant has been completed.

Currently, the world's largest new plant in a single series is the 2.05 kt/d plant of Argentina's Profertil, which utilises Hilde Topsoe technology. Botin in Indonesia has a 2 kt/d plant. BASF has a 2.06 kt/d plant in Belgium, built by Oudt. KBR has three 1.85 kt/d plants in Trinidad, a fourth under construction, and a third operated by the Caribbean Nitrogen Fertiliser Company (CNFCO) with a capacity of 2 kt/d, all of which use KBR's KAAP technology (KBR Advanced Ammonia Process) for ammonia synthesis.

Economies of scale can be realised with larger plants, doubling the size of a single series of plants and reducing investment costs by about 20%, and with today's technology, scaling up to 3.3 kt/d is also feasible. kBR has already designed a 4 kt/d plant, with the exception of the main and ammonia reformers which are set up side by side, and all the other equipment in a single series.

Approximately 10% of the world's energy is used for ammonia production, so improvements in the ammonia process and catalysts will have a significant impact on fossil fuel consumption.


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