Today’s Phosphate Industry
- Phosphate minerals are mined and are further processed into phosphoric acid that is used to produce various products.
- The bulk of the phosphate that is mined – more than 85% – is used to produce phosphate fertilizers. Another 5% is used to make animal feed supplements.
- The remaining phosphates are used in making a variety of food and specialty products such as soft drinks, toothpaste, and leavening agents; and in industrial applications such as detergents, pesticides, metal coatings, and water softeners.
- Global demand for phosphate fertilizers led to a large increase in phosphate production during the second half of the 20th century.
- Long-term demand for phosphate fertilizers is growing at about 2% per year, driven by population growth, improving diets and bio-fuels demand.
- The total market value of all phosphate products is estimated at >$30 billion.
Phosphoric Acid Production in the 21st Century
- The Wet Acid Process is the status quo and the dominant process used for phosphoric acid production.
- Furnace Acid Process market share is small and continues to erode due to its high operating costs.
The Wet Acid Process (WAP) and Furnace Acid Process (FAP) each have Advantages/Disadvantages in Making Phosphoric Acid.
~ Advantages: Cheapest commercialized technology.
~ Disadvantages: Requires high grade beneficiated ore; makes impure, dilute black acid; uses copious amounts of water; has environmental problems which include large gypsum piles and clay ponds.
~ Advantages: Can use ores without beneficiation or with reduced beneficiation; makes high-purity, water-white acid; requires limited water usage; produces solid slag that does not leach impurities and locks in radon radioactivity.
~ Disadvantages: Costly due to large electrical usage and the requirement that the raw material fed to the process be clinkered.