INNOVATION: Zimbabwe to convert coal into fertiliser

A Zimbabwean government-owned entity, Verify Engineering, is preparing to use locally available coal to develop ammonia-based fertilisers as the country ramps up agricultural productivity.

“We are going to employ [a] gasification process for us to come up with ammonium-based fertilisers. The processing technologies and designs are already in place,” said the company’s board chairperson, Edgar Kamusoko.

The project, which is a joint venture partnership between Verify Engineering and Magcor Consortium Group of Companies from Canada, is expected to produce a “significant” amount of top-dressing fertiliser for farmers to satisfy the country’s fertiliser demand.

This comes after Verify completed a feasibility study on coal gasification technology as a means of producing gas which can be further upgraded into nitrogenous fertilisers by using the Bosch-Haber process.

The southern African country has a high demand for fertiliser, but local production can only meet 10% of the demand. The remaining 90% needs to be imported – which is a problem for farmers in a country that faces foreign currency shortages and a wildly fluctuating exchange rate.

Verify Engineering is a significant producer of acetylene, medical oxygen, industrial gases, and nitrogen gases and supplies customers in the healthcare, petrochemical refining, manufacturing, beverages, food, fibre-optics, steel manufacturing, chemicals and water treatment industries.

The firm was established in April 2005 with the support of the Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Ministry and launched a strategic business unit in 2021.

In 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa approved the implementation of the project, valued at $750 million. After this, the two companies visited China to carry out technical diligence on the Chinese companies that would help them implement the project.

“The [Chinese] companies were supposed to demonstrate their ability and proven track record in carrying out such projects and, in particular, their ability to integrate different types of licensed technologies on their front-end engineering and design as well as carrying out construction,” Verify’s CEO, Pedzisai Tapfumaneyi, told Zimbabwe’s Sunday Mail.

According to the Zimbabwe Fertiliser Manufacturers Association, the country’s fertiliser industry requires about $135 million annually to operate at 60% capacity or more to meet current demand.

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