Our focus on nitrogen fertilizers
Half of all food consumed in the world depends on the application of nitrogen fertilizers. They are produced in our plants through the petrochemical processing of natural gas.
Our core competence
Natural gas based petrochemicals are our core competence. Ferrostaal has long and vast experience in the natural gas downstream industry. In the production of fertilizers we focus on nitrogen based products.
Safe and healthy food supply
Nutritious food needs adequate portions of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) for proper growth and development. Fertilizers guarantee humans, animals a safe and healthy supply of food and nutrients. Without commercial fertilizers, the world would be without one third of its food supply.
Advantages of nitrogen
Nitrogen is the most important and commonly lacking nutrient in crops. In addition, nitrogen fertilizers have the advantage of offering high concentration of immediately available nitrogen to the crop roots in comparison with highly variable organic fertilizers. Nitrogen fertilizers offer the general benefit of increasing crop size and improving crop quality.
Global food production based on nitrogen fertilizers
The global fertilizer market is not only a significant market in terms of size, but also an essential industry serving global food production. Mineral fertilizers for use in agriculture are based on three main nutrients - nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Among the plant nutrients, nitrogen is most important to achieve higher crop yields. Thus nitrogen is by far the largest nutrient applied, accounting for 60 % of the total global consumption.
Although not the only factor nitrogen (N) is often a limiting factor to crop production. It is main constituent of proteins and it is essential for growth and development of plants. Supply of nitrogen determines plant growth, vigor, color and yield.
Ammonia (NH3) forms the basis for all nitrogen fertilizers, Ammonia can be applied directly to the soils as it contains the highest amount of nitrogen (82%). Prior to application as fertilizer although, ammonia is commonly processed further into downstream products which are much easier to handle. The most important downstream products made from ammonia are urea and nitrates.
Grain production (rice, wheat, corn etc.) is the most important activity in the world and its global production would not be possible to achieve without intensive agriculture and use of mineral fertilizers. Therefore, grains are naturally the largest end-market for fertilizers (>50%) followed by cash crops such as vegetables, fruit, flowers and vines.
Production process of nitrogen fertilizers
Ammonia is the key intermediate for all nitrogen fertilizer products. It is a chemical compound of nitrogen and hydrogen. Essential raw materials for the production of ammonia are ambient air and natural gas.
Ammonia is produced in industrial scale by combining nitrogen from air with hydrogen made from natural gas. This happens under medium temperature and high pressure and in the presence of catalysts. In our three ammonia plants we built in Trinidad we made use of this process, known as the Haber-Bosch process.
Production of UAN
In the integrated Ammonia-Urea-Melamine (AUM) complex we built in Trinidad we use the carbon dioxide that is also produced in the Haber-Bosch process, together with Ammonia to convert into urea solution. Urea subsequently forms the feedstock material for both UAN (urea ammonium nitrate) and melamine. In the UAN plant in Trinidad, nitric acid is first produced from ammonia and atmospheric oxygen. In a second process step, this is neutralized with ammonia producing ammonium nitrate. This is then mixed with urea solution to form UAN, one of the main products of the AUM complex. UAN is a liquid fertilizer which is characterized by a high content of nitrogen.
The use of fertilizers permits sustainable population growth
The world population is growing constantly. By 2050, there will be another three billion people living on the earth. A comprehensive food supply must be guaranteed for sustainable growth to be achieved. Using fertilizers which we produce in our petrochemical plants increases crop yields and thus secures supply for the world's population.
Increasing demand for fertilizers
The increasing demand for food and animal feed is leading to ever increasing use of fertilizers in agriculture. The more the population increases, the greater the demand for food, and consequently more must be grown. With increasing prosperity also habits change and typically more meat gets demanded. This means that forage crops must be grown intensively. Currently half of the food consumed by humankind are produced on the basis of nitrogen fertilizers.
Important fertilizer producer
With its large number of fertilizer plants, Trinidad is one of the most important producers with a ten percent share of global production. The Black Sea and the Arabian Gulf are the main market hubs for ammonia and urea. The most important producers and also the largest consumers of fertilizers include China, India and the USA.