Natural Gas

​The production of ammonia (NH3) requires nitrogen (N), which we derive from the air (80% of which consists of nitrogen). The other component is hydrogen (H), which is extracted from natural gas (which consists largely of methane (CH4)). Natural gas is extracted by traditional oil companies by drilling down into deep-lying strata. The EU has realised that natural gas is a relatively clean and strategic source of energy. The market has been gradually forced to liberalise, so that there are now a large number of providers of gas and a transparent marketplace for providers, dealers, and large-scale users.
OCI Nitrogen purchases more than 1 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually just to manufacture ammonia; about 1000 m3 of gas is needed to produce one ton of ammonia. This makes OCI Nitrogen one of the largest customers for natural gas in the Netherlands, accounting for more than 3% of total Dutch consumption.
​As a natural product, natural gas has a variable composition. In the Netherlands, a distinction is made between high-calorific gas and Groningen gas (low-calorific gas due to its high nitrogen content).
Groningen gas is used mainly by domestic consumers and by SMEs, while large-scale industry makes use of high-calorific gas. For OCI Nitrogen, it is extremely important to purchase gas that is of the most consistent possible quality and that has the maximum methane content. If the gas contains more ethane (C2H6) and therefore less methane (CH4), more CO2 will be produced per ton of ammonia; the C:H ratio then changes from 1:4 to 1:3. The value of the gas is determined, however, by its calorific value, which has little to do with the amount of CO2 emitted.
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