Keywords: ammonia production, catalyst, technology development, Haber-Bosch, energy efficiency.
In just over 100 years the ammonia production industry has grown massively and continues to do so to feed the ever expanding World population. The work of Alwin Mittasch on the catalyst and Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch on the process and technology has been proven right from the first industrial plant operated by BASF in 1913 to the massive plants of today.
This paper reviews the work of those early pioneers and demonstrates how the foundations they laid can be seen underpinning the process used for all four ammonia plants constructed at BASF’s Ludwigshafen site. The developments in the mid-20th Century were focussed on large changes to the flow sheet and new unit operations, but in more recent years the focus has shifted to incremental improvements in the catalyst and a deeper understanding of the processes.
There have been dramatic increases in environmental performance and energy efficiency over the last 100 years, but with modern processes energy utilisation is nearing the theoretical minimum and looking forward, specific energy consumption can only be reduced marginally, if at all.
The ammonia industry will be with us more or less in its present form for decades to come. The present production capacity for synthetic ammonia of over 170 million metric tonnes per year will continue to grow at 1-2% every year to satisfy the increasing demands for food and ammonia-based intermediates from an increasing number of people enjoying increasing welfare.
Dr Johannes G Reuvers1, John R Brightling2 and Daniel T Sheldon2.
1 BASF SE, Fertilizers Business Unit Europe, D-67056 Ludwigshafen, Germany.
2 Johnson Matthey plc, PO Box 1, Belasis Avenue, Billingham, Cleveland TS23 1LB, UK.
28 pages, 25 figures, 3 tables, 10 references.