Acid division - Richards Bay
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The Richards Bay plant produces sulphuric acid (H2SO4), phosphoric acid (P2O5) and granular fertiliser (MAP/DAP). H2SO4 is primarily an input in the production of P2O5. The granular fertiliser plant operates independently from the acid plants and may be shut down at times when demand is low.
Foskor Richards Bay is 3 km from the deep-sea port which, by virtue of its sheer proximity, provides easy access to market. Raw material inputs such as sulphur and ammonia from Canada and the Middle East are imported and final products are exported via the port of Richards Bay.
At full capacity, Foskor Richards Bay can produce per annum 2.2 million tons of H2SO4, 720,000 tons of P2O5 and 300,000 tons of MAP/DAP. About 88% of granular fertiliser is sold locally.
Foskor’s fertiliser price is based on the global prices set in US Dollars and is published weekly in the Fertiliser Market Bulletin (FMB).
Production processes used to manufacture acid and fertiliser
Richard Bay’s production facilities comprise one granulation, two phosphoric acid and three sulphuric acid plants, supported by various storage amenities.
Sulphuric acid is a raw material for phosphoric acid (P2O5), although excess quantities are sometimes sold to the market. Initially granular sulphur is burnt to form sulphur dioxide. This gas is converted to sulphur trioxide in a steam boiler and is then mixed with water to form sulphuric acid.
Phosphoric acid is an end product in itself and is also an input in granular fertiliser. In order to produce phosphoric acid, phosphate rock concentrate from Phalaborwa is reacted with sulphuric acid and recycled phosphoric acid to form weak phosphoric acid in slurry form. This is then filtered to remove gypsum particles as a waste product. After filtration, concentrated, high grade phosphoric acid is produced by boiling off excess water.
Granular fertilisers, i.e. diammonium phosphate (DAP) and mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP), are sold as an input to NPK fertilisers. Ammonia and sulphuric acid are reacted with phosphoric acid under controlled conditions to produce either MAP or DAP slurry, which is then granulated and dried to deliver an on specification product. By adding zinc to the MAP reaction, MAP zinc is produced to service a specific niche market.
Foskor’s Acid Division in Richards Bay has invested considerable resources in addressing legacy issues and correcting the perception that it is an environmentally hazardous operation. Two start-up scrubbers were designed and constructed at a cost of R36.5 million, to reduce emissions and discomfort to personnel at the sulphuric acid plants. These were commissioned in May 2009 and May 2010 respectively. All emissions from the plant are now routed through an alkali scrubbing medium, before being vented into the atmosphere.
The Acid Division committed R158 million to discharging gypsum, a by-product, into the sea in a manner that is not harmful to the aquatic and marine life. A pipeline and pumping system from the port were constructed to substitute industrial effluent from uMhlathuze Water with sea water, so that the gypsum can dissolve odourlessly and more quickly. Alternative uses for gypsum are being sought; it is possible that gypsum could be used to build wall panels for houses in the region.
A further outlay was made to upgrade the roads and storm water systems built in 1976, and a truck-stop with 18-truck capacity was added. The new storm water drainage systems will drastically reduce groundwater pollution, increase the life span of the roads carrying heavy traffic, make the roads safer for the public and simplify storm water drainage maintenance procedures.
A 4.95 megalitre potable-water surge tank, due for completion in the second half of 2010, will reduce the risk of pressure surges and control the intake of municipal water. More efficient water usage from Foskor will be an added benefit to the surrounding community, which will hopefully face fewer water interruptions.
It is not surprising that Foskor Richards Bay was named Employer of the Year 2008/09 by the Zululand Chamber of Commerce and Industry in August 2009. The Chamber also honoured Foskor with an Above and Beyond Award for ‘Best service excellence’ and a Premium Award as the top performing company in that region.