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“Improved Hard Process”: improving access to low-grade P rocks?

June 4, 2012

A press release is out (LINK) about the ground-breaking for a demonstration plant in Fort Meade Florida that will test the scalability of a new process to extract P from relatively low-grade phosphate rocks, the kind that is mostly left in many formerly productive P mines (such as those in central Florida).  It’s called (somewhat amusingly, because the “hard” actually refers to Robert Hard, who originated the approach) the “Improved Hard Process” and seems to have some things going for it, such as the fact that it doesn’t produce large amounts of phosphogypsum waste (as with the current “wet process”).  It does produce some kind of solid “aggregate” as output; it is claimed that this will be commercially useful as a building material.  The lack of massive phosphogypsum waste certainly seems a good thing.  On the other hand, the approach relies on high temperature baking to drive off P in gaseous form (as P4O10) and thus, ultimately, the cost of the P fertilizer produced will depend on the cost of energy; given the low price of natural gas in the current boom this might not be an issue for a while however.   It should also be noted, however, that the process will further add a new source of greenhouse gases and thus doesn’t help on the climate change side of the sustainability ledger.  Anyway, given that it could have a major impact on estimates of P “reserves” this certainly bears watching.

A full promotional flier for the approach is at .


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