Casa 400 hotel


26 May 2020 – 27 May 2020

Hotel Casa 400, Amsterdam

Our conference has been cancelled, because of the coronavirus pandemic. We are intending to re-schedule it for May 2021, with a similar content and structure to the 2020 event, as described below. However, in the short term we have ‘re-purposed’ three of the presentations as webinars, free to view for all, during Spring 2020. 

The 2020 conference programme is described below.

Comparative Life-Cycle Assessment of P recovery from wastewater path and phosphate rock based fertiliser production

Fabian Kraus, Berlin Water, Germany

Life-Cycle-Assessment (LCA) is often used for interpretation concerning the “overall” sustainability of a product, a process or an activity. However, although LCA has strengths and weaknesses as a methodology, its results and the interpretation that decision makers conclude from LCA are strongly dependent on the background data-sets such as EcoInvent 3.3 (inventory).

In terms of phosphorus (P) fertilisers, the current inventory is based on studies from the 1990s. Over the last 20 years impact categories in LCA and efficiencies in fertiliser industries have progressed, so an update of this inventory is required. Furthermore, current EU member states policies claiming P recovery activities in Europe argue against Europe’s dependency on P, and for a higher level of sustainability, compared to the conventional P fertiliser industry. Therefore, the question arises as to whether there is actually a higher level of sustainability that can be achieved. Our work focuses on an accuracy check of existing data and the generation of a reliable data-set for LCA of mineral and recovered P fertilisers.

In terms of P recovery from wastewater path, the comparative LCA includes two different basic approaches to recover struvite from digested sludge and centrate. These two approaches are combined with different measures upstream to increase economic feasibility and recovery rates of processes, such as thermal and thermal-alkaline hydrolysis, waste activated sludge stripping or acid leaching. Inventory data are based on 6 operating full-scale systems and 3 large-scale prototypes in Europe and the US. In addition 4 approaches for phosphorus recovery from sludge ash are considered. We conclude that the recovery process itself and especially the local boundary conditions at the WWTP are important for the overall ecologic feasibility. The assessment also draws a clear picture on which approaches and recovery processes are more or less attractive for WWTP operators.

New technology to upgrade phosphate sources into Di-calcium Phosphate

Alexandre Wavreille, Prayon, Belgium

Driven by demographic expansion, the demand for phosphatic nutrients is continuously increasing all over the world. However in contrast, the quality of phosphate raw material, conventional or secondary, is slowly decreasing year by year.

Prayon Technologies has developed and patented a new process route using sulphuric acid in dilute conditions that allows the production of Di-calcium Phosphate (DCP) from phosphate sources with a low P2O5 content or rich in impurities. This DCP can either be processed as raw material for phosphoric acid production or used in the animal feed field. This paper will describe this new process.

Optimising the management of a DCS alarm system
Michael Gill, Orica, Australia

The management and design of DCS alarm systems is generally understood to be important but can sometimes fall short of best practice in terms of resulting alarm rates. In 2011 an event occurred in an Orica manufacturing facility that provided the impetus to undertake DCS and alarm management improvements to deliver best practise outcomes.

In order to achieve the required results, a structured project was undertaken to implement a new DCS with software capable of achieving effective alarm management. In addition, a rigorous process was undertaken to ensure a comprehensive alarm management program was in place that systematically reviewed alarms in the project phase, but also ensured a process was in place for ongoing operations.

This presentation describes the steps undertaken to achieve this and shows some of the results to illustrate the importance of a well designed and managed DCS alarm system.

Advanced Process Control in fertiliser production

Knut Wiig Mathisen, Yara International, Norway

Advanced Process Control (APC) is a supervisory process control method based on the model predictive control algorithm. Yara International ASA,, has implemented APC in ammonia, nitric acid, urea and finished fertilizer plants since 2004 and currently have 20 applications in operation. 17 applications are using IPCOS,, software whereas three are using Honeywell,, technology.  

This paper describes the approach, project phases and procedures we are using when implementing APC together with the external software technology supplier. Key APC signals, strategy and benefits in four different fertiliser processes, ammonia, nitric acid, urea solution and granulation plants, are described without disclosing confidential or sensitive information. Importance of a well-working regulatory control system including controller tunings and advanced regulatory control functions for e.g. input flow ratio control is emphasised. Main APC projects risks including organisational challenges, process control system changes and plant modifications are presented. Finally, current challenges and future trends including integration with real-time, non-linear optimisation and increased use of online analysers and soft-sensors are discussed.

A practical approach to Process Safety and Asset Integrity Management for ageing facilities

David Herrero, Fertiberia, Spain and Mark Fisher, DNV GL Ltd, UK

As assets age, managing their mechanical integrity becomes an increasing challenge and this has an impact on the Process Safety of those assets and the associated facilities. Process Safety is about ensuring that hazardous materials remain contained and controlled so that the risk associated with them is at an acceptable level. As such good Asset Integrity Management is an essential part of successful Process Safety Management.

In recent years the engagement of industry with process safety has grown from the oil and gas industry into petrochemicals, chemicals and into a multitude of other industries managing low frequency, but high consequence risks. This broadening engagement has been driven by societal pressure but also by the investment community who see such major risks as being contrary to good environmental, social and governance performance. For management teams there has been an increasing recognition that companies who are good process safety performers also tend to run more reliable and profitable businesses.

For the European Fertiliser industry, operating in an environment of tight margins and ageing facilities, adopting Process Safety principles appears challenging but has real benefits in sustaining business performance by reducing risks to people, environment, assets and reputation. The approach presented in this paper proposes mobilising the entire workforce to see the facility as a series of hazards and effective risk controls, and to monitor and maintain the performance of those controls. It talks about engaging management and technicians in building a profile of the major risks on the facility and understanding the precursors to incidents so that timely, proactive responses can be made. It goes on to describe the governance that is needed to support the implementation of Process Safety, the behavioural changes that are needed and how managers monitor performance and measure success.

The paper uses the experiences of Fertiberia and Fertial to illustrate the drivers, challenges and benefits of implementing Process Safety and Asset Integrity Management. It describes the changes they have made and the journey they are on to get to excellence.

Wet electrostatic dust separation in ammonium nitrate plants
Alessandro Gullà, AWS, Italy

This paper describes a successful project to reduce emissions from an ammonium nitrate plant, using WESP technology.

In 2015 Lovochemie a.s., a fertiliser company based in Lovosice – Czech Republic, was faced with new local air emissions regulations in their new universal granulator, producing ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulphate and calcium ammonium nitrate. The company needed to keep the limits for dust to less than 6 mg/Nm3 and for ammonia to less than 4 mg/Nm3. Lovochemie was required to achieve “ZERO OPACITY” as the main target for the clean gas.

After six months of on site tests in 2015 using a WESP pilot plant, where we analysed dust concentration before and after our equipment, the client came to the conclusion that WESP was the right choice for this application and a final HAZOP certified the full reliability and safety of this technology.

At the end of 2015 a contract was signed and a full scale plant was commissioned during the first quarter of 2017 and started to operate on May 2017. After start-up the detected levels of both dust and ammonia were much lower than the regulatory requirements. The plant is still successfully working with the full satisfaction of our client.

Reducing emissions from ammonium nitrate based fertiliser operations

Graeme Cousland, Begg Cousland, Scotland

Process gases from the production of HDAN ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate based fertilisers (and explosives grade LDAN) are contaminated to differing degrees by soluble or insoluble solids and ammonia, which then require gas scrubbing or gas filtering equipment installed to prevent emission to atmosphere.

Fibre-bed technology has been used for decades and with Brownian Diffusion type designs prilled ammonium nitrate and ammonia emissions can be minimised. A key requirement for using fibre-bed candle filters is that there are no insoluble elements in the exit air, which would block the filters. Fibre-bed candle filters using P.T.F.E. media can sometimes also be used to treat the vapour from ammonium nitrate neutralisers, capturing A.N. particles and NH3.

Where there are insoluble solids present, for example C.A.N. production and emissions from granulators and dryers, then there are various designs of gas scrubbing equipment that can be implemented, to achieve legally required atmospheric emission limits, while being as maintenance-friendly as possible. To improve operational performance and to minimise down-time and cleaning, optimised packing materials for cross-flow and vertical fume scrubbers, deliver longer life and better results. Solid particles and ammonia fumes can also be handled without risk of blocking using the Begg Cousland “Becoflex” rotary brush technology, which is a highly efficient and low energy package system, that requires significantly less liquid than most other wet scrubbers.

The paper will review and give examples of these issues, solutions and results.

Review of latest developments in the measurement of pH in ammonium nitrate reaction loops
Gonzalo Fernández Ozalla and Francisca Galindo, Fertiberia, Spain

Control of pH is of extreme importance in the neutralisation reaction process of nitric acid and ammonia to produce ammonium nitrate. Many accidents, including explosions with fatalities, have been reported related to problems in the pH control of ammonia nitrate reactors. The state of the art for this control is a standard pH probe measuring the pH of a sample, usually at 10% of concentration and at a temperature lower than 100oC. The sample needs to be diluted and refrigerated to avoid crystallisation and damage in the pH electrode. Based on the sampling system, the pH measure is delayed, it is quite unreliable and attention-demanding; typical failures of the system are crystallisation of the sample, uncontrolled dilution water, uncontrolled cooling and delays of the response. 

In Fertiberia-Sagunto the pH control of the reaction is of greater importance due to the designed working conditions at high temperature (180oC) and at low pH (close to 1). The original pH control (standard system plus tritrometer) was not safe enough and caused many problems in the pH control system of the reactor. Fertiberia has recently installed a new control system concept based on sensors that measure free nitric acid or ammonia content. They are installed directly in the exit pipe of ammonium nitrate solution from reaction, at high temperature. This system gives an instant response of the excess content of the reactants, without delays and directly translatable to pH. Several months of operation have proved the reliability of this control system and the consistency of the results.

The importance of both occupational and process safety in ammonia plants – lessons from practical experience
Harrie Duisters, OCI N.V, Netherlands

OCI N.V. is a global fertiliser and methanol producer, operating 11 ammonia plants that form the core of its fertiliser production. The size of these ammonia plants and the combustible and toxic nature of the chemicals used in the process in combination with the process conditions (temperature, pressures) in the many pieces of equipment, makes ammonia production a challenging area when it comes to managing safety.

Safety has two aspects. It relates to a) occupational safety, also called workplace safety, that focuses on the people working in the plant guaranteing a safe and healthy work environment and b) process safety that has to do more with the plant equipment to make sure the there is no loss of containment that can cause a fire or explosion or a toxic release.

Occupational safety metrics are typically Lost Time Injury Rate, which within OCI fluctuates around 0.1 (# per 200,000 manhours), and Total Recordable Injuries Rate, which is about 0.4 at OCI.

This paper describes the program that is in place within OCI to progressively improve occupational safety. Information will be presented on:

  • Health effects of ammonia exposure
  • First aid
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Hazards in the workplace

Furthermore, several key process safety risks are discussed, such as:

  • Nickel carbonyl formation in the methanator catalyst.
  • Mixing of process gases containing ammonia and CO2, forming carbamate leading to blockage and over pressurisation in, for example, the flare stack.
  • Over speed of machinery leading to damage to assets and injury to personnel.
  • Formation of explosive mixtures due to presence of air or oxygen leading to fire/explosion and loss of containment.
  • Accumulation of mercury at low temperature zone leading to corrosion and health impact.
  • Corrosion of copper containing material by ammonia.
  • Presence of chlorine, causing catalyst poisoning and stress corrosion cracking in stainless steel equipment.
  • Damage to primary reformer catalyst tubes due to over firing during plant start up.
  • Formation of explosive NH4NO2 compound in selective catalytic reactor de-NOx units.
  • High Temperature Hydrogen Attack (Nelson curves for selecting the correct material).
  • Ammonia tank stress corrosion cracking.

The forces driving industrial scale-up of green ammonia pilot plants and their implications for the fertiliser industry
Mr. Trevor Brown, Ammonia Energy Association, USA

There are now dozens of green ammonia pilot plants operating or under development around the world. This presentation will introduce these projects and describe the forces – technologies, markets, economics, and regulations – that are driving the expansion of green ammonia from pilot-scale demonstrations to industrial-scale commercial production.

Today’s ammonia plants cause 1% of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including the carbon dioxide temporarily embedded in urea. In order to reduce these emissions, all the established ammonia production technology licensors have begun to offer process technology packages that replace fossil inputs (fuel and/or feedstock) with alternative technologies, including renewable energy and process electrification. However, while some within the fertilizer industry are among the first movers exploring the transition pathways to green ammonia, the drivers behind this shift come primarily from outside the fertiliser sector and represent new markets for ammonia.

For example, the International Maritime Organization’s Initial GHG Strategy, published in 2018, calls for a 50% reduction in GHG emissions from the shipping sector by 2050. To meet this target, the sector will need to adopt a new carbon-free liquid fuel, available at scale within decades, to replace heavy fuel oil, marine diesel, and LNG. According to analysis by Lloyd’s Register and Maersk (the largest operator of container ships), the three most viable options are synthetic alcohols (ethanol, methanol), bio-methane, and ammonia. Already, ammonia maritime engines are under development by market leaders, including MAN and Wärtsilä, and shipyards are preparing designs for building ammonia-fueled vessels, including Daewoo in South Korea and Dalian in China. According to DNV GL’s Energy Transition Outlook 2019, ammonia could represent 25% of the shipping sector’s fuel mix by 2050, a scenario that would require production, distribution, and global trade of roughly 100 million tonnes of green ammonia per year.

Shipping is not the only sector looking at green ammonia. The mining industry wants low-carbon explosives; electricity producers want seasonal storage for renewable power; nations with economies that rely on energy exports want the ability to commoditise green hydrogen produced from wind and solar. This presentation will describe these and other external drivers for green ammonia, and frame the risks and opportunities that this transition presents to the fertiliser industry.

The Mineral Sizing Journey from Pit to Port and its Influence on Fertiliser Products
Rob McConnell, ICL Boulby, UK.

The progressive reduction of particle size is a fundamental requirement for an efficient mining and processing operation. The selection and application of size reduction and screening technology will impact the economics of the business and directly influences fertiliser finished product quality.

The paper will give an overview of the fundamentals of size reduction, and the main technologies used. The application of specific principles relative to the processing of minerals for fertiliser products will be discussed.

The paper will describe the application of the technology from the underground operation through to a finished fertiliser product, for the production of potash and polyhalite based fertilisers. Case study references will be used from ICL operations in the UK (ICL Boulby) and in Spain (ICL IBP).