Ammonia is the one thread that passes through Rick Strait’s 40+ year career. He has had most every job in the business. Operations = Shift Supervisor to Management; Maintenance = Forman to
Management; Engineering = Process Engineer to Director; Projects = Project Engineer to Project Manager to Director. In 1969 started his career at Sohio working in M.W. Kellogg ammonia plant serial number five (5) built in 1955 then went on to build and then design some of the other 250 plus Kellogg ammonia plants.
Richard B. (Rick) Strait is an Associate with AMB Parks Consulting and Adjunct Professor with the Rice Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. He retired in 2010 after a 25 year career with KBR (formerly M. W. Kellogg) an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) Co. recognized as one of the world leaders in ammonia, fertilizers and synthesis gas chemicals (AFS). At KBR he had numerous roles from process engineer to worldwide director of AFS. His last role at KBR was Director of Coal Monetization and Director of The Singapore Center of Excellence.
Prior to KBR he was with Agrico 1975 – 1984 where he was integral in the construction startup and operation of two fertilizer facilities in Catoosa, Oklahoma, including Project Manager on the second facility. He also ran other projects in Donaldsonville, Louisiana; Blytheville, Arkansas and Kilwa Masoko, Tanzania. Prior to Agrico he was with Sohio in Lima, Ohio where he was a Process Engineer and Project Engineer supporting fertilizer plants and acrylonitrile plants.
Rick holds an MBA from Tulsa University and a BSChE from The Ohio State University where he was one of Joe Koffolt’s “Jewels” and was taught metallurgy by Mars G. Fontana. Rick holds a PE license from Oklahoma (inactive). He also has six patents and many publications to his credit.
Farmers want low cost fertilizer and diesel fuel. In the US they spend six months checking for the low cost supply of fertilizer but in the developing world they are looking for supply from anywhere they can afford. Diesel fuel pricing is dynamic all year long and can be hedged in the US. In the developing world often times diesel fuel is in short supply or only available at a high price.
A concept is being developed where using local materials (natural gas, water and air) a farmer can produce ammonia and DME a diesel fuel substitute. The frontend produces hydrogen and carbon monoxide, this synthesis gas is converted to methanol and excess hydrogen is reacted with nitrogen from air to produce ammonia. Ammonia can be used as fertilizer directly or upgraded. Methanol can be used directly as a fuel but farmers around the world use tractors that run on diesel. These diesel engines can run on a blend of Di Methyl Ether (DME) or pure DME.
Natural gas and water are the only inputs required for production of ammonia, methanol and DME whether on a global or micro scale. Ammonia and methanol in combination is a production scheme where all the carbon can be contained in the methanol/DME product and not generating the carbon dioxide greenhouse gas (GHG).
To date the “economy of scale” has been the way to reduce the cost of an ammonia or methanol plant but we are at or near the limit of what is possible. Moreover very few companies need such large plants with their large price tags. The future is to make small highly automated plants that are portable, use readily available inputs and produce the products where they are needed. To this end the new small scale plant will include all the latest leading edge technologies that apply such as Micro Processing Technology (MPT), Process Intensification (PI) and automated safety systems.
The ammonia plant of the future is contained on one rail car, shop fabricated and containing all the latest technology. The methanol plant of the future could also be a standalone railcar. The DME plant of the future could also be a standalone railcar. But the grand scheme is to combine them all and take advantage of the synergy of these chemical processes.
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