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IFS Technical Conference 2017
29 Jun 2017 - 30 Jun 2017
The 2017 IFS Agronomic Conference
7 Dec 2017 - 8 Dec 2017
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IFS Technical Conference 2017

29 Jun 2017 - 30 Jun 2017

The 2017 Technical Conference will be held at the Geological Society, London.

The Conference will feature twelve papers, covering a variety of topics including small scale ammonia production, distributed control technology, operator training using process simulation, CRF developments, regulation updates, and a review of cadmium removal technologies.

The detailed programme, with outline timings, can be downloaded here.

 The Conference will also host a presentation by the 30th winner of the prestigious Francis New medal.

There will also be ample opportunities for valuable networking, including the Conference dinner.  Registration will be opening shortly.

To help you with your travel plans, the Conference will start at 09.30 on the 29th, and finish at approximately 15.30 on the 30th.

A leaflet about the Conference, and the registration form, are now available to download.


The presentations at this year's Conference are summarised below. 

Dan Schuler, PCS Nitrogen, USA

Sieve Tray replacement in a nitric acid absorber column

Many plants in the nitric acid industry have been in service for 30-40 years and associated equipment requires replacement or refurbishment.  Nitric acid absorber columns have a finite life due to corrosion of internal components.  Corrosion of internal components leads to subtle changes in absorber performance which are sometimes difficult to diagnose. As one of the larger components in a nitric acid plant, the replacement of an absorber column is a considerable investment of capital.

This paper describes problems associated with corrosion of sieve trays in an absorber column.  Some methods for determining the cause of excessive weak acid flow are discussed.  Economic considerations for determining whether to repair or replace an absorber column are presented. Many details of a project to replace the bottom 4 trays of an absorber column are included with practical advice for addressing challenges.


Taylor Pursell, New Fertiliser Technologies, USA

New technology for producing controlled release fertilisers on demand

This paper will focus on changes currently happening in plant nutrition with the emergence of micronutrient deficiencies, the need to do better in terms of use efficiency, and other issues facing the fertiliser industry globally.  It will look at ways to incrementally improve commodity fertilisers, enabling them to behave more like specialty fertilisers (e.g., coated, controlled release, enhanced with micronutrients, etc.).


Robert Richardson, Know-NOx LLC, USA

Converting NOx to Fertiliser

Green chemistry that creates a commercially viable product from a process effluent is in everyone's best interest. It reduces direct operating costs as well as indirect operating costs associated with reduced requirement for waste processing.

A new NOx abatement methodology meets the requirement described above by converting waste products into ammonium nitrate fertilizer. The cost effective process treats NOx in a gas phase reaction with non-ionic chlorine dioxide. The gas phase reaction is so fast and efficient that it is done in a duct.  The process provides greater than 99% removal efficiency without a need for a large countercurrent wet scrubber. The second stage conversion of NOx byproducts into fertilizer is typically done in a counter current scrubber.


Hans Vrijenhoef, Proton Ventures, Netherlands

Opportunities for small scale ammonia production

The presentation will examine the technical and economical parameters for which mini-ammonia production will become feasible.

The production of ammonia in decentralised small scale ammonia plants can be realised by using various sources of stranded energy, such as wind or solar power, flared gasses and biogas. As such, it is one of the most sustainable methods for production of ammonia. New technologies for the production of hydrogen under fluctuating conditions make it possible to produce ammonia continuously in this way.


Scott Angle, IFDC, USA

Purpose and priorities for IFDC and the outlook for crop and human nutrition

The fertiliser industry is changing and becoming more complicated. A number of external factors are impacting the industry that just a decade ago would have seemed unthinkable. These vary by continent and region. In Africa fertiliser usage is only 10% of the level needed to achieve average yields, while in Asia environmental concerns are emerging as a key issue. In contrast in the United States, Europe, and parts of South America the focus is on science and technology developments to improve efficiency. At the regional levels needs are driven by soil and crop attributes. Micronutrient deficiencies impact upon both crop growth and human/animal nutrition. Environmental issues are also becoming increasingly important, with several countries now legislating or regulating the use of fertilisers, potentially to the illogical conclusion that the use of manufactured fertilisers should be prohibited. Fertilisers can be either a source of climate change or a solution, depending upon how they are managed. 

The International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) is a non-governmental organization focused on improving soil fertility, particularly in lesser developed countries. With 23 offices around the world, mostly in Africa, we are helping the industry adapt to the changes noted above. We are identifying essential balanced fertilisers throughout the world to improve human health and crop productivity.  We are showing how fertilisers can sequester carbon in soil to reduce greenhouse gases. And we are helping to develop value chains to ensure that farmers who need fertilisers have access to them.


Hans Reuvers, Independent Consultant, Germany

The 30th Francis New Memorial Lecture: Changes, challenges, and opportunities in fertiliser-manufacturing processes: a personal review and outlook

Today, fertiliser-manufacturing processes are generally considered to be mature with no significant room for improvement. Break-through innovations are not expected. Over the last 30 years, however, most such mature fertiliser production processes have still seen small but steady developments with respect to energy and labour requirements, adaptation to state-of-the-art technology, and improvements in emission values.

This paper intends to discuss some of the technological changes that have happened over the course of just one generation and gives an outlook on upcoming challenges and opportunities regarding the manufacturing processes of mineral fertilisers.

The paper will start at the beginning of the manufacturing sequence, with the synthesis of ammonia and nitric acid as well as phosphates as raw materials for finished fertilisers. It will then continue to consider issues such as safety in production and storage, the characteristics and behaviour of single nitrogen und multi-nutrient NPK solid fertilisers, the particulation and cooling in the course of the production process, and environmental improvements in production plants. Finally, an attempt will be made to identify possible future developments both in product requirements, production, and maintenance, as well as in specific work-force related challenges.

In conclusion, this paper will argue that while fertiliser-manufacturing processes today are indeed rather mature, new technological as well as legal and social demands will require further technical innovation in the future.


Vincent Dardenne, Aquale sprl, Belgium

Phosphogypsum  stacking: new approach and case study

The process of producing phosphoric acid from the reaction of phosphate rock and sulphuric acid generates significant amounts of calcium sulphate, a by-product that is commonly referred to as « phosphogypsum ». Much of this has to be stored in large stacks or, in some cases, discharged into water bodies or used as backfilling material in open-pit mines.

If not adequately designed, the disposal of phosphogypsum may become a significant source of a variety of environmental impacts. However, most of these potentially harmful issues can be mitigated, or avoided, by use of adequate environmental management tools.

Analysing the specific characteristics of the phosphogypsum and the specific hydrogeological conditions present at a site enables the development of powerful predictive models (contaminant dispersion model, dust dispersion model, stability model, etc), which can then be used for designing more efficient and environmentally effective stacking methods. When applied to existing stacks, these innovative methods may also help to define mitigation solutions.

This paper describes how these methods have been applied successfully to an existing dry stack of phosphogypsum in Belgium, leading to cost-effective solutions and sustainable reductions of environmental issues. 


Prof Dr Geert-Jan Witkamp, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

A review of technologies to produce low-cadmium phosphate fertilisers

Production of fertilisers with a low cadmium content has been pursued for a long time. The main strategy is to remove cadmium from phosphoric acid. In laboratory, bench scale and pilot tests one has employed precipitation (as sulfide), cocrystallisation (in anhydrite), cation exchange or extraction, anion exchange or extraction of cadmium complexes, and patents exist describing electrolysis, nanofiltration. The review describes technical and costs aspects of decadmium processes, if they are to be used for full scale operations.


Alexandre Durand, Prayon, Belgium

Using process simulators to train operators of fertiliser production units

Phosphoric acid production plants using wet processes have to deal with complex equipment and a large number of impurities from the phosphate ore. These impurities impact the operability of the plants, and are the cause of pipe plugging, instruments scaling, sludge generation by post-precipitation and in numerous equipment malfunctions. Consequently, frequent planned and unplanned shutdowns require cleaning and start-up cycles, which require many human actions.

To maximize the plant performances and its profitability, plant operators play a key role to minimize cycle times and to rapidly identify any process deviation or equipment malfunction. This paper explains how operator training can now be reinforced using a high-fidelity dynamic simulator. The simulator is based on chemical and physical first principles to predict how process and its associated control will respond along the time. It also integrates tacit knowledge from experienced operators and technology licensors that are hardly covered by first-principles (e.g. foaming effects, filter performances). The simulator has DCS graphics and field operator devices schematics to allow trainees performing exact same tasks as per a real plant. Exercises simulating any procedures, as the start-up or any deviation, can be programmed. By performing these exercises, trainee operational skills are highly enhanced, hence leading to better plant performances.


Tony Southerton, CF Fertilisers UK Limited, United Kingdom

Long term experience in installing distributed process control technology at a major granulation plant

In 2002, the first distributed process control (DCS) control system was installed on the Ince site. This DCS system has been expanded over the years, and now is present on all the manufacturing units in the company.

This paper describes our framework for a consistent approach to the specification, design, operation and management of CF Fertilisers UK Ltd. DCS systems, whether they are new installations or modifications / upgrades of existing systems.  It also discusses the company's vision for the future developments of our DCS systems.


Kish Shah, Independent consultant, United Kingdom

Classification and Security Legislation Affecting Fertiliser industry

This paper will describe and discuss the recent developments in United Nation's classification schemes and European Union's security related legislation, which may have impact on the fertiliser industry. Various regulations get amended and up-dated from time to time and it is important for operators to be aware of these changes, how they might affect their operations and how to comply. Very recently a proposal to improve and clarify the classification scheme for ammonium nitrate based fertilisers under the UN transport regulations was approved by the UN Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.  It sets out a detailed classification procedure using flow-charts. The paper will discuss the implications of this for the industry and also cover the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling. Safety issues relating to compound fertilisers and additives will be briefly discussed.

The paper will describe and explain the security related controls on fertiliser marketing operations required under the EU regulations. Guidance available for compliance and new proposals will also be covered.


Jan Chys, Yara S.A., Belgium

Conclusions and recommendations of the Method Harmonisation IFA working group

To facilitate international trade in fertilisers, it is of utmost importance that contracts are based on mutually agreed standards for the methods and protocols used to sample and analyse product shipments.  However historically these have been lacking, leading to the potential for costly disputes.  To address this issue the IFA set up an expert panel to develop Best Practice recommendations for problem areas. 

This presentation will reflect on the process developed and initiatives taken, including an overview of the team's recommendations.  The team's work has revealed both the importance and an acute need to develop and promote the use of Best Practice sampling methods and analytical verification.  This guidance will be a key cornerstone to facilitate global trade, minimising the potential risk of serious contractual disputes.

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