Bolivia reaches full running rates at its urea, ammonia plant; Wastewater treatment market to expand 6% annually and reach $175 billion by 2029; U.S. freight railroads reach accord with unions for 14% immediate pay increase

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Image courtesy of Bolivia´s Hydrocarbons Ministry.

Bolivia reaches full running rates at its urea, ammonia plant

Bolivia´s Hydrocarbons Minister Franklin Molina Ortiz said on Aug. 20, 2022 that fertilizers are guaranteed for the sugar cane and other crops because the country´s fertilizers plant is now running at capacity, a year after its restart became possible.

“The ammonia and urea plant a few days ago, for the first time since it started operations, has reached 100% of capacity with 2,100 metric tonnes of urea per day,” Molina said, speaking during a sugar cane fair in the region of Santa Cruz, according to a statement from the Hydrocarbons ministry.

The government is working to execute Bolivia´s recent announcement of a 60,000-tonnes-per-year NPK fertilizer plant for 2023, Molina said.

Bolivia´s government is also working with sugar cane producers to promote biofuels production. The government has reached agreements to buy ethanol and use sugar biomass for electricity generation with domestic cane producers, it said.

The urea, ammonia plant was restarted a year ago after an interruption of nearly two years.

Bolivia´s highest paid workers are from India

A Bolivian media called Brujula Digital reported on Sept. 12, 2021 that the state-owned ammonia and urea plant had on its payroll foreign personnel that earned a lot more than Bolivians, and a lot more than the president of the company or the president of the country.

The employees of the Bolivian state oil efforts to turn natural gas resources into urea that make the most were identified as a person from India that earns about $74,000 per month, and two other employees, also from India, that make $36,000 monthly.

A field supervisor, of Venezuelan origin, earns about $11,000 per month, according to Brujula Digital.

When Bolivian President Luis Arce´s government restarted operations of the urea plant in 2021 after winning elections, the government said it had to rely on foreigners to get the plant operating as they brought knowledge locals lacked.

Higher salaries are justified as the foreign professionals agreed to transfer their knowledge to locals, Molina had said.

Molina had said at the time that the workers and management appointed by the one-year interim government that preceded Arce were Bolivians and indeed earned a lot less but only caused hundreds of millions in damages.

Bolivian officials had in the past estimated damages at $450 million, in part for not having qualified personnel, that led to nearly a two-year plant stoppage that started during Bolivia´s preceding government. There is strong import demand from neighboring countries.

Wastewater treatment market to expand 6% annually and reach $175 billion by 2029

The industrial wastewater treatment market, which uses hydrocarbon-derived products such as hydrochloric acid as well as many other chemicals, may expand nearly 6% over the next seven years and reach $175 billion by 2029.

“Stringent water treatment regulations, lack of freshwater resources, and the increasing prevalence of waterborne diseases,” will drive growth, said on Sep. 1.

“Growing demand for energy-efficient and advanced water treatment technologies, and increasing demand for wastewater recycling, reuse of water, and biogas generation” have accelerated the expansion, it said.

Water polluted by industrial and agricultural activities can contain synthetic and organic compounds toxic to all life without treatment.

The market is very broad but can be segmented into food and beverage, pharmaceutical and chemical, power generation, pulp and paper, oil and gas, mining, petrochemical, semiconductors, and other industrial applications, the researchers said. 

“In 2022, the food and beverage segment is expected to account for the largest share of the industrial wastewater treatment market,” the research group said. This is in part due to growing wastewater-reuse demand.

Some key U.S.-based participants are DuPont de Nemours, 3M, and Dow.  Companies from Canada include Trojan Technologies Inc. and Golder Associates.

Chemicals used in water treatment include chlorine and muriatic acid, also known as hydrochloric acid, obtained from crude oil or mineral sources.

Hydrogen chloride, the intermediate for hydrochloric acid, makes other products like PVC, also heavily used for water irrigation and sewage.

U.S. freight railroads reach accord with unions for 14% immediate pay increase

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents the nation’s freight railroads in national collective bargaining, said on Aug. 29 that freight railroads have reached tentative accords with unions for a significant pay increase.

The union leaders that held the talks represented over 15,000 rail employees, according to a National Railway Labor Conference´s press release.

The accord is a 24% wage increase during the five-year period extending retroactively from the start of 2020 through 2024. There will be a 14% wage increase effective immediately to be later complemented with five annual lump-sum payments each for a thousand dollars.

The portion of the wage increases and lump sum payments that are retroactive "will be paid out promptly upon ratification of the agreements by the unions’ membership,” the NCCC said.

Rail is a key transportation mode in the U.S. for many commodities including chemical resins and fuels.

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