Keywords: fertilisers, ammonia, nitric acid, NPK, particulation, granulation, energy efficiency, safety, self-sustaining decomposition.
Today, fertiliser-manufacturing processes are generally considered 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 and 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.
Johannes G. Reuvers, Crop Nutrition Consultancy – Environment and Production, 67591 Hohen-Suelzen, Germany.
28 pages, 1 figure, 1 plate, 62 references