An $18-million outsourcing agreement and facility upgrade for Yara S.p.A.’s Ferrara, Italy, plant with industrial water treatment provider GE is helping meet increasing customer demands for profitability and reliability, the company said. The plant in Ferrara supplies ammonia and urea liquids fertilizers to agricultural markets, which are growing strongly. But while production of these products requires copious amounts of clean water, the plant must rely on brackish, low-quality surface water sources.
Yara S.p.A., a unit of Yara Intl. ASA, provider of mineral fertilizers, outsourced its Ferrara water treatment operations to GE in 2005 to reduce costs, increase reliability and focus on its main businesses. With the recent contract expansion, GE will continue to build, own and operate the water treatment plant with onsite GE personnel through 2020. The facility currently produces up to 320 cu meters per hour of demineralized water using two proprietary GE technologies: brackish water reverse osmosis filtration and electrodeionization (EDI). GE’s technology is mobile and can be set up quickly, providing cost savings and emergency backup.
“The arrangement we have with GE enables us to capitalize on more favorable market conditions, which can be fleeting. We are confident we can meet the strong demands for fertilizers at acceptable margins because we can find alternative sources of water, and it also gives us substantial cost savings,” said Frank De Vogelaere, plant manager, Yara’s Ferrara, Italy, plant. “The cost savings come in two ways: we don’t have to buy expensive demineralized water from an outside supplier, and we have avoided production losses caused by low-quality water. Our expanding activities with GE are a direct result of GE’s performance over the years, and thus we have evolved out of a traditional supplier-vendor relationship into a more effective collaboration.”
GE’s relationship with Yara S.p.A. grew out of a 2002 supply agreement for water treatment chemicals and related systems, which is ongoing. It has helped Yara avoid boiler shutdowns that occurred with a previous supplier, which were costing Yara a substantial amount per year in lost production. Also, since 2007, Yara has outsourced to GE its condensate polishing requirements: filtration of condensed water from boiler steam to prevent deposition and corrosions which can damage equipment and lead to energy inefficiencies.
“We have worked hard over a period of years to help Yara meet its business goals and are proud of our supporting role in their success,” said Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO—water and process technologies for GE Power & Water. “To truly support customers requires not just the best technology and a deep knowledge of industrial applications plus a dedicated corps of field personnel, it also requires the right attitude. Our attitude is that we exist to help our customers do their jobs better and at less overall cost. That is why we pioneered and have built, owned and operated hundreds of water treatment plants for customers around the world, in scores of different industries, which enable them to get on with their own businesses and not have to worry about water-related issues.”
For both the recent Yara upgrade and for the condensate polishing plant, GE is supplying all water treatment equipment, plus engineering and design, pipe work, electrical installation and all other site-related requirements, as well as spare parts and field service representatives for the lives of the agreements.