Acid division - Richards Bay
The Richards Bay plant produces sulphuric
acid (H2SO4), phosphoric acid (P2O5) and
granular fertiliser (MAP/DAP). H2SO4
is primarily an input in the production
of P2O5. The granular fertiliser plant
operates independently from the acid
plants and may be shut down at times
when demand is low.
Foskor Richards Bay is 3 km from the
deep-sea port which, by virtue of its
sheer proximity, provides easy access
to market. Raw material inputs such as
sulphur and ammonia from Canada and
the Middle East are imported and final
products are exported via the port of
At full capacity, Foskor Richards Bay
can produce per annum 2.2 million tons
of H2SO4, 720,000 tons of P2O5 and
300,000 tons of MAP/DAP. About 88%
of granular fertiliser is sold locally.
Foskor’s fertiliser price is based on the
global prices set in US Dollars and is
published weekly in the Fertiliser Market
Production processes used to
manufacture acid and fertiliser
Richard Bay’s production facilities
comprise one granulation, two phosphoric
acid and three sulphuric acid plants,
supported by various storage amenities.
Sulphuric acid is a raw material for
phosphoric acid (P2O5), although excess
quantities are sometimes sold to the
market. Initially granular sulphur is burnt
to form sulphur dioxide. This gas is
converted to sulphur trioxide in a steam
boiler and is then mixed with water to
form sulphuric acid.
Phosphoric acid is an end product in
itself and is also an input in granular
fertiliser. In order to produce phosphoric
acid, phosphate rock concentrate from
Phalaborwa is reacted with sulphuric
acid and recycled phosphoric acid to
form weak phosphoric acid in slurry
form. This is then filtered to remove
gypsum particles as a waste product.
After filtration, concentrated, high grade
phosphoric acid is produced by boiling
off excess water.
Granular fertilisers, i.e. diammonium
phosphate (DAP) and mono-ammonium
phosphate (MAP), are sold as an input to
NPK fertilisers. Ammonia and sulphuric
acid are reacted with phosphoric acid
under controlled conditions to produce
either MAP or DAP slurry, which is then
granulated and dried to deliver an on specification
product. By adding zinc to
the MAP reaction, MAP zinc is produced
to service a specific niche market.
Foskor’s Acid Division in Richards Bay has invested considerable resources in addressing legacy issues and correcting the perception that it is an environmentally hazardous operation. Two start-up scrubbers were designed and constructed at a cost of R36.5 million, to reduce emissions and discomfort to personnel at the sulphuric acid plants. These were commissioned in May 2009 and May 2010 respectively. All emissions from the plant are now routed through an alkali scrubbing medium, before being vented into the atmosphere.
The Acid Division committed R158 million to discharging gypsum, a by-product, into the sea in a manner that is not harmful to the aquatic and marine life. A pipeline and pumping system from the port were constructed to substitute industrial effluent from uMhlathuze Water with sea water, so that the gypsum can dissolve odourlessly and more quickly. Alternative uses for gypsum are being sought; it is possible that gypsum could be used to build wall panels for houses in the region.
A further outlay was made to upgrade the roads and storm water systems built in 1976, and a truck-stop with 18-truck capacity was added. The new storm water drainage systems will drastically reduce groundwater pollution, increase the life span of the roads carrying heavy traffic, make the roads safer for the public and simplify storm water drainage maintenance procedures.
A 4.95 megalitre potable-water surge tank, due for completion in the second half of 2010, will reduce the risk of pressure surges and control the intake of municipal water. More efficient water usage from Foskor will be an added benefit to the surrounding community, which will hopefully face fewer water interruptions.
It is not surprising that Foskor Richards Bay was named Employer of the Year 2008/09 by the Zululand Chamber of Commerce and Industry in August 2009. The Chamber also honoured Foskor with an Above and Beyond Award for ‘Best service excellence’ and a Premium Award as the top performing company in that region.