New solutions for producing high-purity MAP fertilizer more economically

25 Mar 2019

(Getty Images/stevanovicigor)

Some say the application of fertilizer has done more to reduce world hunger than any other single innovation or action. While perhaps true, the fertilizer sector and growers are unable to rest on these impressive laurels given growing demands for solutions that make more efficient use of nutrient resources and have a less negative impact on the environment. GEA is helping manufacturers to meet some of these tough challenges and reducing their production costs in the process.

The world’s population continues to grow, and with it comes the most basic requirement: the need to adequately feed more people, including those in regions where soil nutrients and rainfall are less than ideal for raising crops. Ecologically, the challenge is to produce more food, including fruits, cereals and vegetables, without increasing our environmental footprint. 

Fertilizer will play an important role in helping us reach this goal, however the industry and growers must find the right balance of inputs, minimize losses to the environment, reduce nitrate levels in groundwater, emissions of greenhouse gases, soil pollution, as well as surface runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous nutrients which hamper oxygen production in water bodies. Given worldwide mineral fertilizer usage increases year-on-year, Improving fertilizers and their performance is vital.

Increasing demand for water-soluble fertilizers

Multinutrient (NPK) fertilizer still dominates the landscape, however growers are increasingly looking for high-purity and water-soluble formulations for foliar applications where the same is applied directly to a plant’s leaves or foliage. If an irrigation system is used, this is referred to as fertigation, a new term constructed from the words ‘fertilization’ and ‘irrigation.’

The precise amount of nutrients made available to the plant is easily controlled and they are taken up quickly, reducing the chances that fertilizer is wasted or toxifies the soil due to over-fertilization. Given their low salt content, water-soluble fertilizers are less likely to burn plant tissue or clog spray systems and pumps. 

(Getty Images/Pgiam)

Several types of water-soluble fertilizers are available today, including monoammonium phosphate or MAP, which is a widely used source of phosphorus and nitrogen and contains the most phosphorus of any common solid fertilizer. MAP is widely used at the beginning of the growth season when phosphorus availability is crucial for the establishment of the root system, but it can also be tank-mixed with other fertilizers to meet crop nutritional needs throughout the growth cycle. Produced as a white crystalline pellet, it is highly concentrated and characterized by the following key attributes:

  • fully water-soluble
  • free of chlorine, sodium and other elements like heavy metals – all of which are harmful to plants
  • moderate pH value (safer and less corrosive); especially desirable for neutral- and high-pH soils
  • suitable for fertigation and foliar applications and production of fertilizer blends and nutrient solutions
Fertilizer Crystals
Raising the bar and lowering the cost of MAP fertilizer production for customers

In the production of MAP, high-purity phosphoric acid is generally used as the starting product. GEA has developed and implemented a ground-breaking solution to produce high quality soluble MAP fertilizer that eliminates:

  • the need to purchase purified phosphoric acid
  • the need to integrate an additional purification line 

The solution is already being successfully used by a GEA customer in Eastern Europe who was able to avoid considerable capital and operating expenditures thanks to the use of non-purified, merchant grade phosphoric acid, yet still achieve a high-purity MAP fertilizer, which as a product has a high market value.

A major technological coup for GEA within the fertilizer industry, the success of this innovation was the result of having the opportunity to test and combine different technologies and applications while drawing on the vast knowledge available across the diverse GEA portfolio and network. “We began with very small-scale lab tests to better understand the product behavior, then proceeded with tests on larger samples. Next, we tested the entire process with pilot plants for separation, membrane filtration, evaporation and crystallization technology,” explains Giedrius Gudeika, Head of Solutions Sales, GEA Baltics.

After just six months of trial and error, the GEA team finalized a solution that allows the customer to use up to 30% of its non-purified phosphoric acid feed to produce pure soluble MAP fertilizer while the remaining 70% is used to make standard granular MAP fertilizer.

With the new process to produce high quality soluble fertilizers, GEA hopes to play a role in driving the more responsible use of fertilizers.” - Didier Felix, Test Center Manager for Product Testing & Prototyping, Separation Processes, GEA

- Didier Felix, Test Center Manager for Product Testing & Prototyping, Separation Processes, GEA

100 years of crystallization experience at your service

GEA tailored plant solutions are adapted to the specific composition of the merchant grade phosphoric acid and tightly control impurities, thus guaranteeing the quality of the final product. With more than 100 years of experience in crystallization alone, GEA plant technologies are designed to meet the requirements of diverse fertilizer and phosphate applications and include: evaporators, crystallizers, centrifugal separators, spray dryers and fluid beds for agglomeration or granulation.

Fertilizer GEA Chystrallization Plant

Did you know?

About 90% of the phosphoric acid globally produced is used to make fertilizers. It is primarily converted into three phosphate salts which are used as fertilizers: triple superphosphate (TSP), diammonium hydrogen phosphate (DAP) and monoammonium phosphate (MAP). MAP is suitable for all soil types and for all agricultural crops and climates. Any grade of compound fertilizer can be produced with monoammonium phosphate as an input, and this product is non-hygroscopic, non-dust forming, non-caking, has constant granulometric composition and is water-soluble. By meeting market requirements for both purity and crystal size, GEA crystallization and drying solutions – which can accommodate both merchant grade acid or purified phosphoric acid as a basis – add value to the customer’s business.

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