Qatar: Nitrogen Expansion Will Make QAFCO Top Fertilizer Maker

When in the 2012 the Qatar Fertiliser Company will bring online its Qafco 6, Qatar will account for about 15% of the world’s traded urea with an annual production capacity of 5.6mn tonnes.

Qatar controls 15% of the world’s gas reserves and is considered a leading global supplier in this field.  The Qatar Fertiliser Company (QAFCO) makes use of this abundant gas resources to manufacture ammonia and urea. It is owned 75% by Industries Qatar (IQ) and 25% by Yara Nederland BV. IQ is a 70% owned subsidiary of Qatar Petroleum (QP). Thus QP is the ultimate parent of the Company.

QAFCO operates four ammonia plants with a combined production capacity of more than 2 million MT per annum in its only facility in Mesaieed. In the same premises they operate four urea plants, with an annual nameplate production capacity of 3 million tonnes.

QAFCO’s relatively older plants Urea 1 and Urea 2 produce prilled urea while the later plants Urea 3 and Urea 4 produce urea granules. Apart from this, QAFCO will be also producing Sulphur Coated Urea (SCU), a product that will increase the nutrient recovery, improve crop yields and help negate the side effects of urea on the environment.

Qafco’s urea is also used as the feedstock for the melamine plant. Melamine, which is used in the synthesis of melamine formaldehyde and melamine urea formaldehyde, has widespread industrial and commercial applications. It finds applications in laminates, wood adhesives, surface coatings and textile treating and moulding compounds.

Qafco 5 is now being commissioned and will be inaugurated at Mesaieed in December 2011. When Qafco 5 becomes operational in the late 2011, the company will achieve a milestone as the world’s largest fertilizer producer with an annual production capacity of 3.6mn tonnes of ammonia and 4.3mn tonnes of urea. Qafco 6 will enhance even more their strength.

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Australia: $800 Million Phosphate Mine Approved In Mount Isa

Legend International Holdings was given approval for a second mining lease in the North West Queensland Minerals Province. An $800 million mining lease in the Mount Isa area has been approved and is expected to create more than 1,300 jobs and inject a further $200 million a year into the local economy.

Legend estimates that there are almost 200 million tonnes of mineral reserves in the Georgina Basin area, and they expect the mine to have an operational life of 60 years and they are planning to build a fertilizer plant in Mount Isa and export the product via the Port of Townsville. Proven and probable mineral reserves of recoverable, commercially useable and internationally marketable phosphate rock concentrate estimated at some 55.5 million tonnes with a content of 33% P2O5 (72% bpl). There is planned a staged development of two granted mining leases and a third lease covering the project. For the first five years mine production is expected to start first with high-grade ore from the Paradise North deposit and the larger Paradise South deposit is then planned to provide high quality phosphate rock for the fertilizer plant (600,000 tonnes DAP/MAP) planned for Mount Isa. Legend is looking into upgrading the fertilizer production to 1.2 million tonnes per annum. Demand for fertilizers is rising as shrinking arable land and rising world food demand spurs consumption and takeovers.

The company still needs to complete an Environmental Impact Study (EIS), where the main concern is the water quality in the Leichhardt River catchment.

Brazil: New potash project in Minas Gerais

London-based Amazon Mining, a mineral exploration and development company founded by Brazilians in 2005, has signed a MoU (memorandum of understanding) with the Minas Gerais State government for the implementation of an industrial unit and the installation of a distribution centre located in the State of Minas Gerais destined for the manufacturing and commercialization of ThermoPotash, MOP (potassium chloride) and SOP (potassium sulfate). Amazon Mining Holding will operate through a subsidiary called Verde Fertilizantes and the project which will be located in Cerrado Verde.

About 80 percent of the Brazilian potash market, which is of some 7 million tonnes MOP per annum, is supplied by Canadian and Russian exporters. Up to now, domestic supply was given exclusively by Vale, from its Sergipe site, accounting only for some 8 percent of the demand. Verde Fertilizantes is planning to reach an annual production of 1.1 million tonnes of ThermoPotash, which will enable the sales of 0.35 million tonnes MOP yearly.

Up to now, the ThermoPotash manufacture was always discarded because of its high energy consumption, but Verde Fertilizantes said they plan to use petroleum coke instead of electric energy o natural gas.

Brazil is the world’s fourth-largest fertilizer consumer. Last April, sales for granular potash have been concluded in Brazil at US$520 cfr and above.

Belarus: Belaruskali Diversifies into NPKs

Belaruskali, one of world’s biggest manufacturers of potash fertilizers, plans to build a 240,000 tpa NPK plant at the Belaruskali industrial site by December 2012. This would be in continuation of the 100,000 tpa NPK manufacturing line that was launched last February and which is based on dry blending. The new project envisages putting all nutrients into one fertilizer pellet: finished commodity components (ammophos, carbomide, ammonium nitrate, sulphate or ammonium chloride, potassium chloride) will be crushed and mixed in proper proportions. The mixture will then be sprayed with water, steamed and granulated. After that granules will be dried in the drying drum and separated.

Belaruskali exports more than 80% of its output to 65 countries. In 2010 they produced eight million tonnes KCl, and the main consumers were Brazil, China, India, Poland, Norway, Indonesia.

Australia: Yara to build TAN plant

Norway’s giant fertilizer maker Yara is expanding in the mining explosives market by building an ammonium nitrate plant in Australia in a joint venture that creates closer ties with estranged partner Burrup Holdings. Their 50/50 joint venture is planning a $700 million plant in Burrup, Western Australia, with a capacity of 300,000 tpa of TAN. The technical ammonium nitrate is geared to supply the fast-growing iron ore mining operations in the Pilbara region of Australia. Oslo-based Yara owns 35 percent of Burrup Holdings and said it would own 67.5 percent “directly and indirectly” of the new business, to be called Burrup Nitrates.

Brazil: Vale heading for fertilizer expansion

Vale Fertilizantes, the fertilizer unit of Brazilian mining giant Vale SA, aims to become a leading player in global fertilizer markets by 2015, when its annual output is targeted at 3.4 million tons of potash, up from an estimated 800,000 tons in 2011, and 12.7 million tons of phosphate rock, up from 6.4 million tons foreseen in 2011. In the first quarter of 2011 Vale Fertilizantes invested 22% more than in the same quarter 2010. Vale expanded its position in fertilizers in 2010 after buying Brazilian producer Fosfertil SA and Bunge Ltd.‘s fertilizer assets in Brazil for a total of $4.7 billion. These operations were grouped together under Vale Fertilizantes, which more recently absorbed Vale Fosfatados SA, a sister company in the phosphates area.

Soybeans Snapshot

Soybeans provide oil and protein, and appear in a large variety of processed foods. Soybeans were a crucial crop in eastern Asia long before written records, and were first introduced to Europe in the early 18th century, but they did not became an important crop outside of Asia until about 1910.

Soybeans use some 3-7% of the nutrients applied to agriculture. Very roughly, in the latest years, rice received about 1% of the nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops, 2-8% of the phosphate fertilizer, and a similar percentage of potassium fertilizer.

Soybeans are one of the “biotech food” crops that have been genetically modified, and genetically modified soybeans are being used in an increasing number of products. The number of genetically modified soybeans cultivated for the commercial market in the United States grow from some 8% of all soybeans in 1997 to 93% last year.

Soybeans are a 40-50 billion US$ market, ranking in 2008 in the eight place among the agricultural commodities by value. About a third of its production is traded to others countries, being the main producer and exporter the USA, followed both in production and exports by Brazil and Argentina.

Tunisia: Bleak future for Alkimia

The Tunisian government-owned Chemical Company Alkimia, the main producer of sodium tripolyphosphate in the region of the Middle East-North Africa has disclosed its activity indicators for the first quarter of 2011, and according to them, production in first three months of 2011 reached only 19,500 tonnes against 35,860 tonnes in the first quarter of 2010. STPP is a raw material used in the manufacture of detergents in powder.

This decline is related to the cessation of the Tunisian Chemical Group factories, the only supplier of phosphoric acid to the company. As a response to the lack of phosphoric acid, the STPP production units in Gabes slowed in February and made a total shutdown of production in March 2011.

Similarly, sales have declined substantially, accounting for only 42% of sales from Q1 2010.

The increases announced for the price of phosphoric acid for the second quarter of 2011 were very influential.

As for investments in the first quarter of 2011, they mainly focused on the renewal of certain equipment and in the maintenance of production tools.

In any case, the STPP of Alkimia is becoming non-competitive among detergent manufacturers who have been developing polymères and enzymes, which are a more cheaper replacement. STPPs have long played an essential role in detergents, binding hard-water ions such as magnesium and calcium that would otherwise diminish the effectiveness of the surfactants by forming poorly soluble complexes. Despite their high level of performance, however, phosphates in general have come under increasing pressure from environmentalists and politicians because of their contribution to the eutrophication of water, which promotes excessive plant growth and decay, severely reducing water quality.

Spain: Israel Chemicals buys fertilizer company Fuentes

Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL), one of the world’s leading integrated fertilizer and specialty chemical companies, has acquired Spanish fertilizer company Antonio Fuentes Mendez SA. The company did not disclose the size of the deal. The acquisition includes all four companies of the Fuentes group, its production line of liquid fertilizers, soluble fertilizers, and the production line of field fertilizer compounds. Fuentes has production plants in southern Spain, facilities at the Cartagena Port, offices, and other facilities.

Israel Chemicals’ specialty fertilizer sales total $650 million a year, and Fuentes had a turnover of €113 million ($163 million) in 2010.

This acquisition will turn Israel Chemicals into the leading supplier of specialty fertilizers for agriculture in the Spanish market, which is growing rapidly and is the largest market for specialty fertilizers in the EU.

ICL is a major producer of potash, compound potash and phosphate fertilizers, food grade phosphoric acid, elemental bromine, magnesium and a major player in specialty chemical high margin niche markets. In December 2010, Israel Chemicals acquired Scotts’ Global Professional business (Global Pro) from The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company for $270 million.