US Huntsman and Pursell Make PU Coated Fertilizer That Reduces Runoff

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DENVER (ICIS) – Huntsman and Pursell Agri-Tech have developed a polyurethane (PU) coated fertilizer that dramatically reduces the amount of nitrogen and phosphate that runs off farmland, a phenomenon that causes algal blooms killers of fish in bays, gulfs and oceans.

The product, called PureActive, is a finalist for the Polyurethane Innovation Prize, awarded by the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) at the Polyurethanes Technical Conference.

The coating enables the controlled release of fertilizer at the plant, said Jan Buberl, vice president, Americas Polyurethanes and Global Propylene Oxide / Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether (PO / MTBE). He made his comments in an interview with CIHI.

The fertilizer release rate can be customized for the crop and growing conditions, he said. It can be 30 days, 60 days or even 90 days.

As a result, farmers can apply the fertilizer at the right time, in the right place and at the right rate, increasing the proportion of fertilizer that reaches the plant.

In typical fertilizer applications, only a fraction is used by crops. The rest escapes into the environment as runoff.

Rivers carry the fertilizer to the ocean, where it feeds the algae, causing massive blooms.

When algae die, they break down. The decomposition process consumes oxygen in the water, suffocating fish and other marine life.

The scale of oxygen depletion is so great that scientists call these areas dead zones. This year, the Gulf of Mexico dead zone covered 6,334 square miles (16,400 square km).

The PU coating in PureActive can drastically reduce the amount of fertilizer that leaks into the ocean, Buberl said.

Right now, the main use of the fertilizer is in turf and ornamentals, Buberl said. However, the companies intend to develop the fertilizer for corn.

Although PU coatings for fertilizers already exist, their production requires a lot of time and energy, Buberl said.

This can be a challenge as fertilizer use is seasonal. In addition, fertilizers are a high volume business.

For the typical application of
PureActive, Huntsman and Pursell were able to reduce their energy use by more than 30%, Buberl said. The time saved was 20 to 25%.

This is Huntsman’s first entry into the fertilizer market, Buberl said. Future applications of PU include hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and seeds.

Developing these kinds of downstream applications is a key part of Huntsman’s PU strategy, Buberl said. This strategy requires Huntsman to work closely with its downstream customers.

“With Pursell we had a good relationship,” he said. “Pursell has the same entrepreneurial spirit.”

The polyurethanes technical conference runs until Thursday.

Interview article by Al Greenwood


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