In just over three years Yara's plant at Brunsbüttel has transformed its environmental profile, slashing emissions to air by systematically converting to use of natural gas.
The small town of Brunsbüttel is located just north of Hamburg, in the Northern German Lände of Schleswig-Holstein. One of Yara's largest European production facilities of ammonia and urea, it is ideally located, with easy access to both the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea through the Kiel Canal.
The site contains two production units - an ammonia plant and a urea plant. An air separation unit in the ammonia synthesis plant delivers the gases nitrogen, oxygen and argon, used for various technical and industrial purposes.
The ammonia plant has not been like any other of Yara's ammonia units, because it was designed to use heavy fuel oil residues as feedstock instead of natural gas. This has changed.
The transformation started back in 2010 when the first auxiliary steam boiler was converted from oil-fuelled to gas-driven, with the second auxiliary steam boiler following suit in 2012. The project concluded in the summer of 2013 and since then natural gas is also used as feedstock for hydrogen production.
This project gives the Brunsbüttel plant a good opportunity for the future - it has improved the plant in all areas, not least environmentally. The Yara facility can now demonstrate intensely reduced emissions. Compared to the beginning of 2010, emissions are down by 2,000 tons SO2 per year; 400 tons NOx per year; and about 450,000 tons CO2 per year.
It also has had a financial benefit for Yara. During winter, when cold grips the north of Germany, gas is not always available for the industry due to restrictions in the gas transportation infrastructure. Nevertheless, running 65% of the time on gas and 35% on oil reduces the production cost of ammonia by 10 to 15% per year and therefore ensures a long term future for Yara Brunsbüttel. If gas were available for the entire year production costs would decrease by a further 5% and CO2 emissions would fall by an additional 150,000 tons annually.
The Brunsbüttel project shows that when innovation and the will to improve performance come together there are opportunities that also benefit the environment. This is typically what Yara's Creating Impact strategy is all about - finding business advantages by tackling challenges to sustainability.
Brunsbüttel Key dates
1975 Decision to build plant by VEBA
1978 Start-up of ammonia plant
1979 Start-up of urea plant
1985 Taken over by Norsk Hydro
2004 Becomes part of independent company Yara International ASA after Yara's operations are spun off from Norsk Hydro
2010 - 2013 Existing steam boilers adapted to natural gas fuelled and POX (partial oxidation reactors) adapted to operate both with oil or gas as feedstock, significantly reducing emissions
Ammonia 750,000 tons
Urea 600,000 tons
Air1/Reductan 150,000 tons