News Article

After More Than Year, JDCPhosphate Has New Technology Ready to Go
Date: Jul 18, 2013
Source: ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: JDC Phosphate of Fort Meade, FL

FORT MEADE | JDCPhosphate has found its gingado.

An article about JDCPhosphate of Fort Meade on page C8 of Thursday's Business section incorrectly referred to the "late" Robert Hard, inventor of a new technology to manufacture phosphoric acid for fertilizers. Hard is alive. Also, the last name of Brett Wilmott, an Australian phosphate company investor, was misspelled. The online version has been edited to reflect these changes.

That's Portuguese slang, often heard during Brazil's annual Carnival (or Mardi Gras) festival, for a singer or dancer showing exemplary style and energy, someone who "really has it going," said CEO Theodore "Tip" Fowler.

After more than a year of planning, construction and testing, JDCPhosphate will start production next month at its demonstration plant in Fort Meade, Fowler said on Tuesday. It will begin slowly and ramp up to full production, 12,000 tons annually, by the end of the year.

"We're going through some exciting times," Fowler said. "Our investors are extremely supportive and appear excited about this new technology."

The plant will demonstrate the feasibility of a process for making phosphoric acid, the main ingredient in phosphate fertilizers, called the "Improved Hard Process" or IHP. It has the potential to revolutionize phosphate fertilizer production, Fowler and phosphate industry officials agree.

Current technology for manufacturing phosphate fertilizers, called the "wet acid process," requires high-grade phosphate ore and leaves behind thousands of tons of gypsum, an environmentally damaging by-product.

Because of its slight radioactivity, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has refused to permit any secondary uses for gypsum, such as a road base material, and requires phosphate companies to store it in large stacks common across Polk County, which many people mistake for natural hills. But the gypsum stacks require expensive controls and monitoring to contain any water runoff.

IHP has several advantages, including the ability to produce phosphoric acid from lower grades of ore with magnesium and other impurities, Fowler said. One study estimated that would create another 1 billion tons of usable phosphate reserves in Florida alone.

IHP also produces a more concentrated water-acid solution, up to 70 percent acid compared to 54 percent by current technology, Fowler said. That lowers transportation and other production costs, he added, and concentrated phosphoric acid is better suited to making liquid fertilizers, a more profitable product. The byproduct from IHP production is not radioactive and has the potential as a material in road bases and concrete manufacturing, Fowler said.

But until JDC, no one could take IHP, developed in the 1970s by the chemical engineer Robert Hard, from the laboratory to an industrial production scale. Joe Megy, JDC's co-owner and chief technology officer who worked with Hard, has done so.

The JDC plant's 12,000-ton capacity pales in comparison to a full-scale production plant with an annual capacity of 200,000 tons or more, Fowler said. But if the Fort Meade plant proves successful, scaling up to a 200,000 ton plant would not pose significant engineering challenges.

Once IHP proves successful, JDC plans to license the technology to companies interested in building a full-scale plant, he said.

Minemakers Ltd., an Australian mining company, has the inside track at building the first full-scale IHP plant. It invested some of the more than $20 million to build the plant and has a 6 percent interest in JDC, including a licensing agreement.

"I am keenly interested in the ecological benefits associated with this revolutionary new method, in that it uses low-grade ore which conventional methods can't thus extending global reserves significantly, while also not producing the negative waste product phosphogypsum," said Brett Wilmott, a Minemakers investor in Adelaide, South Australia, in an email to The Ledger.

"In my view the phosphate industry is about to be turned on its head, thanks to the ‘never say die' attitude of Megy and those who have assisted him in forging ahead in the development of a cheaper, cleaner and superior method," Wilmott added. "I'm delighted to play my small part in this likely game-changer."

The current plan calls for Minemakers to build an IHP plant at its Wonarah mine, Fowler said. Much of the Wonarah reserve contains low-grade ore suitable to IHP.

"From a Minemakers investor's point of view, it is exciting the potential that the IHP technology opens up for Wonarah," said Matthew Dewstow of Sydney, also in an emai.. "IHP makes Wonarah a viable option, opening up one of the largest known phosphates deposits for production to a country that imports most of its phosphate based fertilizers."

The impact would be felt beyond Australia, he said.

"If commercial IHP is successful, it has the potential to impact not only the Florida phosphate market but benefit countries all over the world," Dewstow said.

[ Kevin Bouffard can be reached at or at 863-401-6980. ]