12 May 2022 – 13 May 2022

Hotel Casa 400, Amsterdam

Casa 400 Hotel
Casa 400 Hotel

Due to the difficult conditions currently affecting the fertiliser industry we have decided to postpone our Technical Conference in 2022. We are intending to enable the presentations to be made in the future, and will announce plans for this shortly.

Highlights of the conference would have been:

  • a presentation from the European Commission and follow up discussion panel on the practical consequences for the industry of the imminent implementation of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation.
  • a guided tour of ICL’s Amfert production facility (pre-booking required).
  • the popular Conference Dinner, held on the evening of 12 May. 

The Conference would have featured nine papers, in addition to the session on the EUFPR, covering topics including progress within the industry in producing green ammonia on a commercial scale, advances in sustainable fertiliser production, new processes to produce phosphoric acid from low grade rock, a review of the reality and practice of nutrient recycling in Europe, and aspects of the digitisation of fertiliser production – applications of digital twinning and the use of DNA tagging for supply chain security.

This conference would also have been available to follow via a Live Stream. While we appreciate that this cannot replicate the effectiveness of the networking and conversations facilitated by in-person attendance, it will enable those unable to travel to Amsterdam the opportunity to view the presentations and put questions to the presenters.

2022 IFS Technical Conference programme

The 2022 conference programme is described below.

Thursday 12 May

Phosphoric acid production from low grade rock: three processes compared

Kevin De Bois, Prayon Technologies, Belgium

The most commonly used process to produce dicalcium-phosphate is the neutralisation of calcium carbonate with phosphoric acid. Recently, the price of the high-grade rocks (MER<8) to produce phosphoric acid has significantly increased. Industry is therefore forced to use low grade rocks which complicates phosphoric acid production and decreases the quality of the phosphoric acid in terms of heavy metals and contaminants such as iron and aluminium oxides. Two alternatives processes have recently been developed: the hydrogen chloride acid process and the sulphuric acid process to produce DCP without using phosphoric acid. This paper will describe these three processes and review their respective pros and cons in terms of plant operations and final product quality.

Advances in improving the sustainability of fertiliser production: a review

Stephane Bungener and Maxime Loviat, Yara International, Switzerland

Yara has committed to achieve a 30% reduction in Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2050. Reaching these objectives will require a fundamental change in our strategic thinking, the technologies we use in our plants, as well as how we operate our plants. In this talk we will explain some of the technologies we will be employing to reach our aims, and the challenges which those entail. We see operational excellence and continuous improvement as an important part of reaching our targets  and will provide an insight  into our approach for improving our energy performance through operator actions. We will also describe the positive impacts and challenges we have experienced so far.

Developments in green ammonia production technologies: implications for the fertiliser industry

Kevin Rouwenhorst, Ammonia Energy Association, Netherlands

There are now dozens of green ammonia pilot plants operating or under development around the world, and the scale of these is now moving from ‘proof of concept’ towards commercial viability. This presentation will review the present state of progress, updating the presentation given to the Society in 2020, in what is rapidly evolving industry.

The drivers of this trend continue to come primarily from outside the fertiliser sector and represent new markets for ammonia, with the primary one being the need of the shipping industry to replace fuel oil. However 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. It will describe how players in the industry are responding, and the implications of this for the future of the industry.

Practical implementation of green ammonia technology: progress being made

Marc van Doorn, Fertiberia S A, Spain

Transforming from grey ammonia and fertiliser production towards green fertiliser production is not done overnight. It is a puzzle with many pieces. For each site we have to make a different puzzle and design the pieces accordingly. The required technologies also need to develop further. Water electrolysis has not yet been implemented on a large scale and on our site in Puertollano a 20 MW electrolyser will be commissioned this summer. The hydrogen for this electrolyser will be used for green ammonia and green fertiliser production in a hybrid setup.

The learnings from this new combination will be applied for new projects in our pipeline. The combination of grey and green ammonia production in one plant is not the most preferred solution, but a daring and necessary first step. New projects are being designed to replace the importation of grey ammonia with our own green ammonia production in Sagunto and Aviles in Spain.

The technical, logistical and economic considerations behind these choices will be discussed in this paper.

Ammonium nitrate fertilizers: benefits, challenges and solutions – 32nd Francis New Memorial Lecture

Kish Shah, UK

Ammonium nitrate based fertilisers have been successfully used for more than a century. Amongst the range of nitrogen fertilizers available, ammonium nitrate has been very popular in many parts of the world. It contains fast-acting nitrate and slower-release ammonium, which makes ammonium nitrate effective under various climatic conditions. It is considered to be agronomically more efficient and less damaging to the environment than urea. As regards safety, ammonium nitrate possesses hazardous properties which, when not handled properly, have caused major accidents with loss of life and damage to property.

These risks are well understood and safety measures have been available to control them. Managers and engineers in the industry and other stakeholders continue to face various challenges to promote safety throughout the distribution chain. These issues will be described with examples. Environmental challenges related to the production and use of ammonium nitrate will also be discussed.

Production site guided tour

The day’s session will be followed by a group visit to the ICL Amfert production facility. This has existed for more than 100 years, during which time it has had several different owners and was acquired by ICL in 1982. It currently produces around 500kt of fertiliser, comprised of 450kt granular and 50kt Run of Pile (ROP). As well as being a production site, it also acts as a logistic hub for ICL, transhipping around 2M t of product to subsidiaries of ICL or direct to customers. There is also a storage and blending facility for food grade White Phosphoric Acid.

Its production process is based on superphosphates, and P is the basis of all its products, which include P (GSSP and GTSP), PK and NPK. The production process consists of two parts. In the first part, the acidulation, phosphate rock is mixed with sulphuric acid and/or phosphoric acid. After this reaction it goes to a Broadfield den. The produced product, run of pile, will then be mixed with different raw materials (potash, polyhalite etc.) and fed to a granulation drum. After granulation the material is dried, screened and cooled. After 2-3 weeks storage the final product will be shipped out to the customers.

At the moment Amfert is doing research into the replacement of P rock by secondary phosphates and has already successfully produced a first grade where all the P rock is replaced by sewage slush ash.

Friday 13 May

Reality and practice of nutrient recycling in Europe: a review

Robert van Spingelen, European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform / RecyFert B.V, Netherlands

This presentation will cover various aspects of the current and potential nutrient recycling situation across Europe. It will include potential tonnages of phosphorus (P) in different waste streams, and what part is available for recycling today and in the future. The reuse – recovery – recycling routes for different nutrient waste streams, including synergies with biogas production. It will include perspectives for nitrogen recovery, such as ammonia stripping from digestate, manure storage, and NOx emissions reductions from waste water treatment.

It will review the various technologies for nutrient recycling today at either full or pilot scale, based on the ESPP’s Nutrient Recovery Technology Catalogue . This covers input materials, current implementation status, and output products and fate of contaminants.

The presentation will also review the regulations and drivers that are shaping the development of nutrient recycling. In anticipation of the following overall presentation by European Commission on the EU Fertilising Products Regulation, this will focus on some outstanding questions and obstacles, such as the implementation status of the German and Swiss P-recovery obligations and perspectives in other countries. Also considered will be Landfill tax, Water policy, Farm-to-Fork, Circular Economy policy and other drivers.

Implications for the fertiliser industry of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation

Jeremy Pinte, DG Grow, European Commission, Belgium

The presentation will explain the practical elements of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation that will impact upon the fertiliser production industry.

Discussion panel on the implications for the fertiliser industry of the EU Fertilising Products Regulation

This panel will discuss and debate the implications of the imminent implementation of the EUFPR, along with steps that fertiliser producers should be taking to adjust to its requirements and take advantage of the opportunities that it will provide. Delegates will be invited to pose questions to the panel. 

Panel members will be:

  • Jeremy Pinte, GD Grow, European Commission.
  • Antoine Hoxha, Fertilizers Europe.
  • Estelle Vallin, European Fertilizer Blenders Association
  • Robert van Spingelen, European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform
  • Stephane Bungener, Yara International


Fertiliser supply chain security using DNA tagging: potential benefits and a case study

Tony Benson, Applied DNA Sciences, UK

Counterfeit fertiliser is a global issue, with blind tests regularly highlighting the high proportion of substandard product on sale to farmers, particularly in poorer countries. Fake fertilisers cost the world’s economy billions of dollars a year; reduce crop yields and may even contain toxic materials which are harmful to human health. The nature of fertilisers means that it is extremely difficult to differentiate between counterfeit and genuine products without extensive laboratory testing. This paper will consider the use of synthetic deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecular tags to “label” the fertilisers themselves, as well as to secure printed batch information on outer packaging. The SigNature® DNA tags used in this case study can be authenticated in the field using portable testing equipment, providing forensic traceability throughout the supply chain.

In this example a unique DNA tag was added to granular fertiliser in the coating drum. Homogeneity testing showed that this provided a consistent method of application, with the level of DNA recovery closely correlated with the amount of coating added to the drum. This uniform tagging performance enabled dilution of fertiliser with untagged granules to be successfully detected. Analysis also confirmed the DNA was extremely stable on fertilizer for a period of at least 12 months at elevated temperatures (60 °C).

A case study demonstrating the practical use of DNA tagged fertiliser will be presented. This will follow the full-scale production of 18,000 metric tonnes of granular fertiliser in Europe through to a final destination in Ghana where in field authentication of the SigNature DNA tag confirmed the fertiliser to be a genuine product. This successful trial established the applicability and usefulness of DNA tagging to enhance traceability throughout the global fertiliser supply chain.


Digital twin of a fertiliser production DCS system: development, use and benefits

Amit Chauhan and Maneesh Sankhyadhar, Yara Fertilisers India Pvt Ltd, India

Yara Babrala is a fully owned subsidiary of Yara ASA International and was commissioned in the year 1994. It has single stream of ammonia plant of 2000 MTPD capacity and two streams of prilled urea plant of 1750 MTPD each. The technology supplier of the ammonia plant was M/S HTAS (Haldor Topsoe) and of Urea was Snam Spa Italy. The site has been consistently recognised as one of the most energy and water efficient plants in the fertiliser sector, among the same vintage of plants.

Many industrial accidents occur because of the gap in required competencies for plant operations, a lack of practical exposure in handling process upsets and malfunctions. A high fidelity Operator Training Simulator (OTS) can bridge this gap by combining the theoretical knowledge and practical experience by leveraging the technology, modelling software through a customized OTS.

Yara Babrala was experiencing a high turnover of the control room operators, which increased the need for faster training programs. At the same time the implementation of Advance Process Control (APC) in the Ammonia and Urea Plants meant that Control room operators were not exposed as much as previously to startup, shut down and troubleshooting experiences.

To address all these challenges Yara Babrala decided to implement a Direct Connect OTS for the Ammonia and Urea Processes. The Direct connect OTS deployed supports field and console stations functionality, the models are scalable along with comprehensive training features. The console stations are exact replicas in terms of hardware and functionality of real Distributed Control System (DCS, so that operators can practice in a simulated environment rather than on a real DCS). It enables operators to develop competencies in a safe, standardized, and repeatable manner. The evaluation features provide timely feedback to trainees. The built-in features help instructor to identify areas for improvement during training. The OTS comprises these modules:
• Normal Plant Operation
• Plant Start Up
• Plant Shut Down
• Emergency operations
• Customized plant disturbance scenarios
• Customized malfunction of equipment’s.

These OTS training modules enabled Yara Babrala to reduce the learning curve of fresh control room operators from around nine months to three months. In addition, the competency of experienced operators was enhanced by practicing unforeseen scenarios, plant upsets and learning from others’ plant incidents. Yara Babrala also used the OTS to test any proposed operating procedures (SOP), what if analysis and HAZOP recommendations. OTS now become one of the main and effective training tools at the site and Yara Babrala has achieved all the envisage benefits of the OTS project.


The benefits of using “Digital Twins” for plant operations

Leo Rams, Stamicarbon, The Netherlands.

There are many different applications of “Digital Twin” systems: this presentation will focus on Operator Training Simulators (OTS) and Digital Process Monitors (DPM) for processing industries. The engine of the digital twin is in these two cases respectively a real-time dynamic simulation model and a steady-state simulation model of the actual plant.

Both models will accurately behave like the real plant each within in their domain, for OTS this is the full operating range of the plant, while for DPM this is a certain range around nominal production. The OTS is used to optimise the performance of the operators who operate the plant, hence the plant. The DPM is used by the operators to optimise the production of the plant.

The presentation will include a selection of “live demos” of OTS and DPM systems for different plants.