Engineering Contractors in the Chemical Industry. The Development of Ammonia Processes, 1910-1940.

Jun 21st, 2015
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In 1924, Bruno Waeser, a German observer of the chemical industry, remarked: "Im Vergleich zu dem, was die Stickstoffindustrie heute darstellt, war sie 1913/14 noch ein recht kümmerliches Pflänzchen!" Indeed, the nitrogen fertiliser industry grew tremendously in these years.

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Engineering Contractors in the Chemical Industry. The Development of Ammonia Processes, 1910-1940.In 1924, Bruno Waeser, a German observer of the chemical industry, remarked: "Im Vergleich zu dem, was die Stickstoffindustrie heute darstellt, war sie 1913/14 noch ein recht kmmerliches Pflnzchen!"1 Indeed, the nitrogen fertiliser industry grew tremendously in these years. BASF's development of an ammonia synthesis process was a crucial innovation that made this growth possible. Ammonia, a chemical compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, is the crucial intermediate for the production of nitrogen fertilisers. BASF's successful development of a large scale ammonia synthesis process opened up an entirely new technological field and had a far-reaching commercial impact on the company. It is one of the most important innovations of the twentieth-century chemical industry. In 1924, when Waeser made his remarks, several other companies besides BASF had developed ammonia processes. Some of these firms were engineering contractors, companies that specialised in the engineering and construction of chemical plants. These contractors built many plants and the nitrogen fertiliser industry took off.The development of BASF's ammonia process is one of the best documented innovation successes of the chemical industry.2 Surprisingly little has been written on the processes that were developed in the wake of this breakthrough however. Sometimes these alternative technologies are characteri

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