Constructing Safe and Efficient Ammonia Plants

June 26, 2019

Ammonia is used in a wide variety of industrial and commercial applications, and it is a key component of a successful and thriving petrochemical sector. It is estimated that in 2016 about 175 million tons of ammonia was produced, with the US ranking among the top five nations in terms of worldwide ammonia production. Given the central role that the Gulf Coast region plays in the US industrial sector, it is thus no surprise that ammonia production is an important part of that equation. Naturally, the first step for a thriving ammonia production industry is the construction of safe and efficient ammonia plants.

The Importance of Ammonia in Industrial Processes

Ammonia is most commonly used in agricultural fertilizer with an estimated 80% of the total amount of ammonia produced being used for this purpose. However, in addition to playing a crucial role in the agricultural industry, ammonia is also commonly used in plastics, pharmaceuticals, fibers and dyes, and a range of other applications. Ammonia therefore directly or indirectly enhances the lives of millions of Americans across all walks of life while also playing an important role in the larger US economy. Let’s take a closer look at how ammonia is produced and what goes into constructing safe and efficient ammonia plants

Key Phases of Ammonia Production

Ammonia is produced from natural gas feedstock such as methane, or from liquefied petroleum gases (LPGs) such as propane or butane. The key is using hydrocarbons to produce hydrogen, and then combining that hydrogen with nitrogen through the Haber-Bosch process in order to yield ammonia. The key phases of this process include the following:

  • Sulfur Removal
  • Steam-Methane Catalytic Reformer
  • Shift Conversion
  • Carbon Dioxide Removal
  • Methanation
  • Ammonia Synthesis

Each phase of the process requires specialized equipment and a controlled environment, which are built and developed during the construction of the ammonia plant.

Preliminary Assessment and Risk Management

When STI Group begins construction of an ammonia plant, the first step is to conduct a preliminary assessment and examine crucial risk management strategies. This will typically include the following steps:

  • Examining resources and opportunities
  • Planning for proper logistics management
  • Factoring in the required timeline
  • Evaluating budgeting constraints
  • Conducting comprehensive risk assessment
  • Mitigating risks
  • Critically examining geographic and environmental challenges
  • Considering the capacity and operational needs for the ammonia plant
  • Considering and highlighting any other key obstacles for success

Thorough and Comprehensive Civil Work

Once the preliminary assessment and risk management has been conducted it’s time to perform the civil work that goes into preparing the site for construction of the ammonia plant. Effective civil work will typically include some or all of the following:

  • Site improvement and preparation
  • Shoring and excavation
  • Foundations
  • Subgrade Stabilization
  • Construction of Heavy Haul Roads for equipment
  • Concrete work

Quality Construction Sets the Tone for Efficient Ammonia Plants

Ammonia plants must be optimized for efficiency during the construction process to ensure that once they are brought online they are able to safely and consistently meet all output and production demands. Smooth, efficient operation in turn helps offset many of the capital costs associated with ammonia plant construction and allows the facilities to return a profit sooner. 

STI Group provides full-scale, comprehensive EPC services for the construction of efficient, reliable ammonia plants. This goes hand-in-hand with our other industrial services including fabrication, maintenance, and shutdown services, allowing our clients to reap the benefits of having a one-source company capable of handling the logistics for all aspects of their ammonia plant construction and maintenance.