Phosphate Rock Market Overview

The phosphate rock main market is the production of phosphate fertilizer products such as ammonium phosphates and superphosphates, which accounts for some 90% of the world phosphate rock consumption. Phosphorous plays an important role in root development and in the synthesis of protein, fats and carbohydrates. The rest is consumed as animal feed and in a variety of industrial/technical applications (for phosphoric acid required for detergents and cleaners, food production, metal cleaning, etc.).

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Sedimentary deposits provide between 80-90% of the world phosphate rock production, containing francolite–a carbonate-fluorapatite. Francolites with high carbonate for P substitution are the most highly reactive and the most suitable for direct application as fertilizers or soil amendments, but this usage is quite limited and it is estimated that world consumption is less than two million tonnes per annum. Some 10-20% of world phosphate production is mined from igneous deposits. Relative to sedimentary pebble rocks, igneous phosphates have a macrocrystalline structure and are denser and less porous. More than 30 countries produce phosphate rock for commercial purposes, with the top 12 countries supplying over 90% of all the material.

Lower grade rock undergoes a beneficiation process to remove impurities creating an improved quality product with higher phosphate content. The methods employed to beneficiate phosphate rock consist of washing, grinding, flotation (to isolate phosphate bearing ore from certain impurities) and drying. This beneficiation process usually yields a concentration of around 1.5 times, but higher ratios are possible with some rocks. The targeted result of the beneficiation process is a phosphate concentrate ranging from 28% to 35% P2O5.

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There is a limited usage of phosphate rock applied directly as a fertilizer. The use of rock phosphate for direct application as fertilizer depends on its level of solubility in the acidic soil. This application is dependent up on the structure and chemical composition of the rock. Mineralogical tests should be done to assess the suitability for direct application. It is stated that carbonate radical is responsible for the reactivity of directly applied P2O5 in the rock.

Sometimes the rock is partially acidulated – called PAPR – a process that converts the insoluble tricalcium phosphate of phosphate rock into a mixture of water-soluble monocalcium phosphate and citrate-soluble dicalcium phosphate.  The extent of acidulation depends on factors like the type of acid, acid-rock ratio, temperature, time of reaction, and the proportion of apatite and non-apatite materials in the rock.  Different acids have been used and they include phosphoric acid, sulphuric, hydrochloric, nitric, carbonic, oxalic, citric and acetic acids.

The physical  characteristics of a rock can sometimes limit its acceptability both for economic and environmental reasons. The hardness of a rock together with the particle size distribution and the type of grinding equipment used will determine the energy used in getting the rock fine enough for the processing stage.  Hard rocks and those with angular silica grains increase substantially the wear on grinding equipment. The size distribution of the particles also affects the rock’s handling characteristics.  Rocks with too many “fines” will be dusty causing P205 losses and environmental pollution.  The water content of concentrates is generally kept above 1.5% to limit dusting and below 2.5% for economic shipping.  The pore spacing of the rock also determines its handling characteristics, for instance igneous rock types have few pore spaces and may be saturated with moisture at only 1-2% H20.

The quantity of certain chemicals contained within a rock directly affects its usefulness for the manufacture of phosphoric acid and downstream fertilizers.   As well as affecting the process directly, many of these constituents interreact to produce other effects, some beneficial, but mostly detrimental to the reaction.  A key factor is the calcium sulphate content of the rock, the remaining CaO level will  be directly related to the consumption of sulphuric acid.  Seawater washing during rock beneficiation and insufficient freshwater rinsing can be a cause of high and fluctuating Cl levels. As an indication of carbonate levels in the rock, CO2 high values can indicate a tendency to foam during the reaction.  Heavy metal content of phosphate products seriously impact the composition of animal feed and food grade products (for example the high cadmium content of the Togolese rock ouput, gravely affects its export possibilities).

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Phosphate Rock Production

2012 = About 200 million tonnes rock

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China is the biggest world producer of phosphate rock.

There is a historic trend by which the phosphate fertilizer manufacturing goes from areas lacking the raw material, to those who mine it. So it happens that if in the beginning of the seventies trade of phosphate rock neared half of its production, today it is around a tenth.

In world phosphate rock trade, the Moroccan governmental producer OCP (Office Cherifien des Phosphates) is the key player with more than a third of the world exports.

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In 2011, the five largest rock importers were India, USA, Indonesia, Belgium and Brazil; in 2012 they were India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil and Poland.

Morocco has about a three quarters of the world phosphate rock reserves, they are the second world producer and the biggest exporter, accounting for more than a third of the world exports.

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India is the largest world importer of phosphate rock, and Jordan is its main supplier.

A key indicator for the rock price levels are the DAP price developments:

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The above chart uses prices of phosphate rock (Moroccan), 70% BPL, contract, f.a.s. Casablanca, and DAP, bulk, f.o.b. US Gulf.

Brazil: OCP purchasing around a 10pc stake in Heringer

Giant phosphate producer OCP and Brazilian fertilizer producer Fertilizantes Heringer have entered into a definitive agreement, under which OCP will purchase around a 10 percent stake in Heringer.  Under the terms of the deal, Casablanca-based OCP will buy a minimum of 5,385,712 and a maximum of 5,686,316 new common nominative shares, or 9.5-10.5pc, of Heringer’s shares for USD 64.9m. The company’s production capacity increased from 5,7 million tonnes in 2011 to 6 million tonnes in 2013. OCP, the world’s biggest phosphate exporter, is claiming a stake in Brazil to take advantage of booming demand for fertilizers at a time when Mosaic and Yara are also snapping up assets, driving a consolidation in the industry.

Heringer will invest the proceeds gained from this sale in increasing its blending capacity in its key markets. Brazil is expected to supply in the current year some 32,1 million tonnes fertilizers, a volume 3.2% larger than in 2013. Soybean farmers, who buy about a third of the fertilizers used in the country, are expected to grow a record crop this year as Chinese demand for animal feed remains strong.

Urea Fertilizers Snapshot

Urea, N-P-K composition 46-0-0, is the most commonly produced and widely traded nitrogen product. It is estimated that 90 percent is used as fertilizer and the rest for industrial purposes. Synthesized from ammonia and carbon dioxide (CO2), urea is the only primary nitrogen product chemically classified as organic (because of its carbon content). Nitrogen is the most crucial and major nutrient element in plant growth. It is abundant in nature and enhances better yields.  Because urea is produced from ammonia and carbon dioxide, which is a by-product of ammonia production, all urea plants are located adjacent to or in proximity to an ammonia plant.

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China and India account for more than a half of urea output (as well as capacity), however, these two countries are the largest urea consumers, over half of it. In 1912, more than forty percent of the urea fertilizer was consumed in East Asia, followed by South Asia, which took nearly a quarter of the product.

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Indonesia: Gresik to Open East Java Phosphoric Acid Plant in 2nd Quarter

State-run fertilizer company Petrokimia Gresik plans to open a 200,000 tpa phosphoric acid plant in East Java in the second quarter of the current year.

Construction began in 2010 and the output will be shared in two equal parts by Gresik and by the Jordan Phosphate Mines (JOPH). The plant will have a nameplate capacity of 0.2 million tonnes phosphoric acid per year, 0.8 million tonnes sulphuric acid per year, and 1 million NPK fertilizer per year. The factory will need yearly some 150,000 tonnes of ammonia, 800,000 tonnes of phosphate rock (imported from Jordan), and 270,000 tonnes of sulphur.

Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, consumes some 50,000 tpa of fertilizer nutrients. They are the third largest world producer of paddy rice, following China and India.

Jordan Phosphate Mines Company operates 3 mining facilities in Jordan and a chemical manufacturing complex in Aqaba and they reported sales of USD 1.08 billion for the year ending December of 2012. JPMC produces more than 7 million tonnes of phosphate rock annually, making Jordan the sixth country worldwide in terms of production and the second largest country in terms of export.

Fertilizers Snapshot

The fertilizer industry confronts a variety of challenges which trigger its growth. Population increase projections estimate that by 2050 there will be 2 billion more people to feed, in a planet that is losing land to urbanization, industrialization and desertification. In addition there has been conversion of land from arable crop production to biofuel manufacture. Diet changes, in particular in the emergent markets, are increasing consumption of protein rich foodstuffs such as red meat, poultry and dairy products.

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Nitrogen is the most crucial and major nutrient element in plant growth. It is abundant in nature and enhances better yields.

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Phosphorus plays a major energizer role of plant production, it is crucial to photosynthesis and reproduction and an aid to other yield-developing processes.

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Potash plays a vital role in crop growth and helps plants resist cold and drought.

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PRICES

Vietnam: Israel Chemicals Ltd and Duc Giang to mine phosphate in Bao Thang

Israel’s ICL have signed last September a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the privately owned Vietnamese company Duc Giang, a manufacturer of thermal phosphoric acid (P4). Their aim is phosphate mining and beneficiation in the Bao Thang province in Vietnam. Israel Chemicals was seriously shaken this year after Potash Corp. scrapped a proposed takeover in April and as Uralkali said July 30 it would end the Belarusian joint venture, raising concern of a price war on the potash markets. Last year, ICL had his third consecutive year of growth, with US$7.22 billion in sales. To put this figure in perspective, we can compare it with the US$1.33 billion sales of the Saudi Arabian Fertilizer Company for the year ending December of 2012.

Morocco: OCP plans expansion

Casablanca-based OCP (Office Cherifien des Phosphates), the largest phosphate exporter, has currently a market share of 16% of the global demand for phosphate-based fertilizers and they are planning to increase it to 40% by 2020. At the beginning of the current decade, the world demand was approximately 39 million tones P2O5 and it is forecasted to increase to about 45-48 million tones in 2020. The state-owned OCP plans to triple their production capacity. Currently they have 150 clients in five continents. To meet their production goals, the OCP plans to oversee the construction of four new mines in Khouribga and Benguérir, expected to provide an additional capacity of 20m tonnes of phosphate rock per year. Work is also underway in expanding their logistic capacities and developing new industrial infrastructure at the phosphate hub of Jorf Lasfar, including phosphate washing and enrichment plants.

Phosphate Snapshot

Most of the phosphate output is used for fertilizer. Phosphorus plays a major energizer role of plant production, it is crucial to photosynthesis and reproduction and an aid to other yield-developing processes. Different crops require different quantities of phosphate fertilizer, for example a maize crop yielding 6–9 tonnes of grain per hectare requires some 31–50 kg of phosphate fertilizer to be applied, soybeans requires about 20–25 kg per hectare. Most natural and agricultural soils are phosphorus deficient.

Other important phosphate activities are the manufacture of feed products and industrial applications like detergents and cleaners, food and beverages, metal finishing, water treatment and toothpaste.

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Phosphate fertilizer consumption is driven by the increasing needs of agricultural growth, which has to feed a global population which has increased by 130% from 1960 to 2011, the decreasing amount of available land, the growing need to produce animal feed, and the growing share of biofuels in the crops output. World consumption of P2O5 contained in fertilizers was projected to grow at a rate of 2-3% per year during the next 5 years, with the largest increases expected in Asia and South America.

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China is the largest consumer and producer of phosphate fertilizers, it is the main factor shaping the phosphate market. India is the second global consumer. The Chinese are also the largest consumer of feed phosphates, accounting for 31 percent of global consumption. The USA and Brazil consume 9 percent and 12 percent of global feed phosphate respectively.

The global consumption of phosphate fertilizers was estimated to have been in 2012 of some 40.7 million tonnes P2O5, slightly less than the 41.3 millions consumed in 2011. This was mainly a result of lesser demand of the Asian markets, as consequence of different factors, among them the negative effect on the Indian farmer economics of the review of the subsidy system.

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In relation to the industrial phosphates, China is the world’s largest producer, accounting for more than half of the global capacity.

 

Estimated 2012 Phosphate Rock Capacity

(Total: about 200 million tonnes rock)

 

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PAC Cap

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Global phosphate fertilizer (MAP/DAP/TSP) sales volume in 2011 totalled 25.3 million tonnes product (up 1.0% year-on-year). China remained the world’s largest exporter of DAP in 2012 and accounted for a quarter of the global market.

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Nitrogen Fertilizers Snapshot

Nitrogen is the most crucial and major nutrient element in plant growth. It is abundant in nature and enhances better yields.


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Because of its high nitrogen content (46%), urea is the most popular form of solid nitrogen fertilizer, particularly in the developing regions of the world, and is traded widely in the international market. More than 40% of all food grown in the world is fertilized by urea. Growing faster than dry nitrogen-containing fertilizers, nitrogen solutions are mostly used in the United States and Western Europe.

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China is the largest consumer and producer of nitrogenous fertilizers, it is the main factor shaping the nitrogen market. Global nitrogen demand has strengthened significantly during the second half of 2012 and into 2013, balancing the strong increase in supply from China.

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Nitrogen products are manufactured from anhydrous ammonia, which is most commonly synthesized from natural gas, steam and air.

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N Prices

The highly competitive nature of this market makes nitrogen fertilizer prices relatively volatile.

Urea Prices

POTASH FERTILIZER SNAPSHOT

Potassium is an essential plant nutrient and an essential nutritional requirement for both humans and animals, for which there is no effective substitute. Potassium is used to make fertilizer, biofuels, gun-powder, and various industrial chemicals. About ninety percent of potash is used for fertilizer manufacture. Potassium Chloride (KCl) is the most common source of potassium. The mineral plays a vital role in crop growth and helps plants resist cold and drought. Due to its high chlorine content, MOP is widely used in chlorine resistant crops such as wheat, rice, soya, maize, and pastures. Potassium intake is also important in animal nutrition and milk production.

Potassium sulphate and potassium nitrate are the main non-chloride K fertilizers.

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Compared with other fertilizer nutrients, the potash industry is much consolidated, with Canada, Russia, Belarus and Germany accounting for more than 3/4 of world production. There are about twelve large potash manufacturers, most of them non-governmental owned.

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Significant additions to the global potash capacity are planned in Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Congo (Brazzaville), and the United Kingdom.

Reserves

Potash reserves are concentrated in just a few areas: major producing regions include the FSU, North America, Germany, and the Dead Sea area.

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Potash production is located only in about a dozen countries and some 80% of the world output is traded.

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Potash changes are driven mainly by the demand of the global fertilizer industry, in particular the Indian and the Chinese one, but also by the growth of the agrofuel production. The key crops influencing the potash price are first of all corn, and then soybeans and rice.

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