Urea-ES technology seeks to provide vital sulphur nutrient to soils by incorporating elemental sulphur into the world’s most commonly used fertiliser, urea, helping to unlock higher crop yields and improved soil health. Combining Shell Thiogro’s sulphur-enhanced urea technology with UFT’s fluid bed granulation process will enable the largest urea plants in the world to produce granulated sulphur-containing urea.
Since 2014, Shell and UFT have been developing a partnership on Urea-ES technology. The successful pilot plant run demonstrates that sulphur-enhanced urea can be safely produced at UFT fluid bed granulation plants.
“Fertiliser producers had been asking us about incorporating sulphur into their urea for a long time,” said Matthias Potthoff, Director of Uhde Fertilizer Technologies. “From the first discussions with Shell Thiogro about a partnership to granulate the product of their sulphur-enhanced urea technology, it was clear this would be a win-win relationship.”
“We are pleased to be working with UFT, the foremost licensor of fluidised bed granulation plants in the world, on our latest Shell Thiogro technology. UFT’s urea granulation expertise and Shell’s sulphur knowhow complement each other perfectly. We are pleased to see a positive outcome from this partnership – we successfully granulated several formulations of Urea-ES in UFT’s pilot plant,” said Rafael Garcia, Global Technology Manager for Shell Thiogro technologies.
The companies announced their cooperation at a joint presentation at the CRU Nitrogen + Syngas conference in March, in which they presented samples of fluid bed granulated product made with Urea-ES technology.
Urea-ES technology utilises Shell Thiogro patented technology to emulsify micron-sized particles of elemental sulphur evenly throughout urea, forming a homogeneous emulsion. This is in contrast to existing elemental sulphur-containing urea technologies, which typically coat urea in a layer of elemental sulphur. The microscopic size of the sulphur particles, at under 40 micrometres (µm), promotes the oxidation of the sulphur within the crop season.
The advantages of Shell’s technology have been combined with the industry-leading features of UFT’s Fluid Bed Granulation Process, where the granulation mode is accretion instead of layering. The elemental sulphur liquor is finely dispersed in the urea melt before the solution is fed to the granulator. The flexibility of the UFT granulation process allows the production of Urea-ES without any significant changes. Just as in the normal urea granulation, the Urea-ES particles grow collectively through the solidification of tiny droplets on the seed material.
The result is a very hard granule, far superior in quality to granules produced through layering or agglomeration-based processes. This slow accretion process is unique in permitting the water present in the urea solution to be thoroughly stripped on a continuous basis resulting in the end product having a remarkably low moisture content.
The dispersion of the sulphur in the urea results in a homogeneous distribution of micron-sized sulphur particles in the Urea-ES granules.
The bulk of the crystallisation heat released as the Urea-ES solidifies is removed by evaporating the water in the urea solution. This method of heat release reduces the amount of ambient air required for cooling and the evaporation is highly efficient because it takes place directly on the granule surface.
Operation of the fluid bed granulation plant is simple and very reliable, guaranteeing a high on-stream factor. The granulator itself contains no moving parts, and its design is optimised to limit downtimes for cleaning to a strict minimum.
For more information about Urea-ES technology, visit www.shell.com/sulphur/thiogro or contact David Fillo, Shell Thiogro Global Business Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.uhde-fertilizer-technology.com or contact Bernd Peuckmann, UFT Senior Sales Manager, at email@example.com.