Safer Fertilizer | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: December 6, 2011

Safer Fertilizer

Honeywell, J.R. Simplot to make nitrogen-rich product with low explosive potential
Department: Business
Keywords: explosive, fertilizer, ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate

Honeywell is joining with fertilizer maker J.R. Simplot to build the first commercial facility for Sulf-N 26, a granular fertilizer that is comparable to ammonium nitrate, but without the explosive potential.

Sulf-N 26 is made with a patented Honeywell process that chemically fuses ammonium sulfate, which acts as a fire retardant, and ammonium nitrate to produce a stable molecule that delivers nitrogen to crops. Honeywell classifies the product as an ammonium sulfate nitrate fertilizer.

The Department of Homeland Security has proposed a rule that would regulate the manufacture and sale of fertilizers containing more than 30% ammonium nitrate due to the compound’s misuse as an explosive. Ammonium nitrate combined with fuel oil was used in the bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, in 1995. Although Sulf-N 26 uses ammonium nitrate as a raw material, the final product contains no ammonium nitrate and Honeywell says it does not expect it to be regulated if the proposed DHS rule goes into effect.

In contrast to ammonium nitrate, which is 34% by weight nitrogen, Sulf-N 26 is 26 wt% nitrogen and 14 wt% sulfur. Ammonium sulfate on its own is also used as a fertilizer, but with 24 wt% sulfur it is the most acidifying form of nitrogen fertilizer and is not appropriate for use in many types of soils.

According to the agreement, Honeywell will engineer, construct, and own a modular facility to produce the fertilizer at Simplot’s Lathrop, Calif., site. Honeywell generates ammonium sulfate as a by-product of making caprolactam, a nylon feedstock, in Hopewell, Va. Simplot will operate the new facility and sell the fertilizer in the Western U.S., Western Canada, and Northern Mexico. The firms plan to begin producing Sulf-N 26 by early 2013.

Click here to see a video of Sulf-N 26 detonating versus ammonium nitrate detonating.

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CH (December 6, 2011 11:59 PM)
It doesn't blow up but is it safer for the environment and for people who live in rural communities?
N (December 11, 2011 2:05 PM)
It's nice to know that fertilizer will not blow up, but this really doesn't help the environment. Fertilizers cause eutrophication, which is when nitrogen from the soil (nitrite) flows into large bodies of water and causes an algal bloom and thus causes fish to die from oxygen starvation. Just thought I should mention it.

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