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Analytical Solutions for the Haber-Bosch Process

On Sept. 9, 1913, BASF constructed the first commercial ammonia plant based on the Haber process in Oppau, Germany. This invention ushered in a new era in human history, and in the century since its inception, over 175 million metric tons of ammonia are produced annually, with an estimated market cap of over $100 billion.

This process is comprised of six major steps which include: reforming, gas-shifting, carbon dioxide scrubbing, dehydration, methanation, and ammonia synthesis.

This process is both energy intensive and costly to run; therefore, ensuring that the process operates within specifications is crucial to maintaining a plant’s overall bottom line. Sulfur for example, is a catalyst poison for most water-gas shift reactions, therefore ensuring that sulfur is not present in the stream is crucial to the longevity of the catalyst found in the water-gas shift reactor. Continuously monitoring this with inline solutions such as ultraviolet absorption spectroscopy that enable plant operators to correct for sulfur breakthroughs as soon as possible. For example, Applied Analytics’ OMA-300 has a response time of 1-5 seconds depending on the application, whereas a GC option could be as much as 20 minutes. That is almost 250 times longer.

Moreover, spectrometers, like AAI’s OMA-300-InGaAs, which include multicomponent functionality, can measure multiple components at once with a near instant response time. This is particularly helpful for locations after the reformers or water-gas shift reactors, where it can be used to monitor carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and moisture levels at once. This allows plant staff to have a real-time window into their reactor and make any adjustments as needed without delay.

Other measurements such as carbon dioxide levels found after gas-scrubbing and methanation can help ensure that no potential poisons will enter the ammonia reactor. An NDIR photometer, like Applied Analytics’ MCP-200, is both a proven and reliable solution for measuring this reactor poison. Likewise, if catalysts do lose performance, an ammonia analyzer like Applied Analytics’ OMA-300, is an excellent tool to detect a loss in conversion across an ammonia reactor. These trends can also be further corroborated with hydrogen measurement after the reactor. A good example of this type of system would be AAI’s APG-710. If you would like to learn more about one of these applications or have one in mind that is not listed here, then reach out to the AAI team today, and let us provide you with a window into your process.

The Haber-Bosch Process - Methane

ammonia production, habor-bosch methane diagram

AT1: Natural Gas Feedstock

AT2: Raw Syngas

AT3: Shifted Syngas

AT4: CO2 Effluent

AT5: Purified Feedstock

AT6: Final Products

The Haber-Bosch Process - Coal

ammonia production, habor-bosch methane diagram

AT1: Raw Sour Syngas

AT2: Shifted Sour Syngas

AT3: Acid Gas Effluent

AT4: Purified Feedstock

AT5: Final Products