Pakistan: Vitality of the Fertilizer Industry

While they are groom perspectives on phosphate fertilizer prices for this summer, the Pakistani case shows the vitality of the fertilizer industry.

In Pakistan, farming accounts for one-fourth of gross domestic product and employs 43 percent of the workforce. Being a world top fertilizer consumer, they account for some five percent of the global intake.

Pakistan is dependent of fertilizer imports and has problems like its oligopolistic nature, with a market dominated by four major players: Engro, FFC, FFBL and Dawood Hercules. FFC and FFBL have together a share of nearly half of the urea and the phosphate market. Nevertheless, the fertilizer industry has remained the best performer at the capital market during the last decade.

The Karachi Stock Exchange’s (KSE) data show that during the last decade the fertilizer industry showed an enormous growth and remained the first with 45.58 per cent return on equity, leaving far behind the banks, which payed 18.66 per cent return, while the cement sector returned back to shareholders the profit of just 7.78 percent in the same period.

It has been reported that profits of all big players in the fertilizer industry almost doubled during the last calendar year and the main factor behind this increase in earnings has been the frequent increase in the prices of fertilizers.

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Malaysia: PetChem to emerge as second largest urea producer in South East Asia

Petronas Chemicals Group (PetChem) will double their urea production capacity through the the implementation of their Sabah Ammonia Urea (Samur) project, in east Malaysia. The Samur complex, close to the Brunei border and less than 100 kilometres to Sarawak, would be made up of an ammonia plant, a urea plant and a granulation plant, as well as integrated utility units and jetty facilities. The urea plant will produce 1.2 million metric tonnes per annum of granulated urea while the ammonia plant will produce 0.74 million tonnes annually of liquid ammonia. This will make PCG the second largest urea producer in South East Asia.

Petronas Chemicals Group Bhd is engaged in manufacturing, marketing and selling diversified petrochemical products, including olefins, polymers, fertilizers, methanol, glycols and other basic chemicals and derivative products. Its business segments include olefins and derivatives, and fertilisers and methanol. PCG has three manufacturing complexes in Gurun – Kedah, Bintulu – Sarawak  and Labuan that produce fertilizer and methanol. They began in 1985 their first production  of ammonia  and urea in the  Bintulu complex. The Samur project is expected to create at least 400 jobs for the local population once it becomes fully operational.

Saudi Arabia: Go Ahead for the Al Khabra Phosphate Project

The Saudi Petroleum and Mineral Resources authorities have announced that the government will spend USD 6.9 billion on preliminary investments to exploit the Al Khabra phosphate deposits, located 40 kilometres northeast of Turaif in the Northern Borders Province. A figure of USD 5.6 billion has been allocated for the development of the phosphate resource and USD 1.2 billion building the infrastructure of the Waad Mining City. Three wharfs will be built in Ras Al-Khair port as part of the project.

Saudi Arabian Mining Company Ma’aden has announced that it expects initial production of the project will start in Q4 2016. Saudi joint stock company Ma’aden was established to facilitate the development of Saudi Arabia’s non-petroleum mineral resources and to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from the petroleum and petrochemical sectors. The Sabic-Maaden’s venture has a production capacity of about three million tonnes per year of DAP, the fertilizer that dominates the phosphate trade. Ma’aden is planning downstream production of phosphoric acid, dicalcium phosphate and monocalcium phosphate used in manufacturing animal feed, PPA (pure phosphoric acid) used in food industries, and trisodium polyphosphate used in manufacturing detergents and for industrial purposes. Ma’aden’s phosphate project and the downstream opportunities will create around 2,700 jobs to be added to 22,000 jobs in the Promise of the North City for Mining Industries.

India: FACT Fertilizer Expansion Plans

Located in India’s west coast, Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) is one of the biggest fertilizer makers in Kerala, and its output includes urea and complex fertilizers.

Now FACT intends to set up a new sulphuric acid plant, urea plant, NP complex fertilizer plant, SSP plant and ammonia-urea complex. The proposed ammonia-urea complex at Cochin division will consist of an ammonia plant with a nameplate capacity 2,000 tonnes per day and a urea plant of 3,500 tpd. Certain existing facilities available like the urea silo, raw water pumping system, etc. are planned to be used for the project. Similarly, they plan a urea plant of a single train of 1,500 tpd as an add on unit to the existing 900 tpd ammonia plant. FACT also plans to set up a new sulphuric acid plant with a capacity of 2,000 tpd, to be based on the DCDA route in order to meet the environmental pollution standards.

The company aims to increase its annual complex fertilizer output to one million tonnes per annum by installing an additional 1,000 tpd NP plant at Cochin using outsourced ammonia, phosphoric acid and sulphuric acid. The company also plans to set up a 500 tpd SSP plant at their Udyogamandal complex, which is located some 20 km from Cochin. Some of the existing facilities like rock godown, rock handling system, etc. could be utilized for the project to the extent possible after their condition assessment.

FACT is a state-run company which besides fertilizers, has also interests in caprolactam (an intermediate used in nylon production), petrochemicals, hydrometallurgy, pharmaceuticals, engineering services, and others.

India: First Water-Soluble Fertilizer Plant

A 50:50 joint venture between India’s Coromandel International and the Chilean main fertilizer make SQM is setting up a 15,000-tonne-per-annum capacity plant, of water-soluble fertilizers. The output of water-soluble fertilizers are crop specific products which involve relatively lower labour, power and water requirements. Currently, India consumes about 70,000 tpa, the total of which are imported, 10,000 by Coromandel.

Initially they will focus on vegetables, fruits, cotton, chilli and sugarcane crops. The water soluble products have in India a price tag ranging between Rs 60,000 (some 1,213 US dollars) and Rs 100,000 a tonne (some 2,021 US dollars).

Brazil: the potash domestic capacity is in a growth trend

Brazil is a giant agricultural force, they are the world’s biggest exporter of coffee, orange juice and sugar, and the second largest exporter of soybeans. But they import some 90% of their potash needs, from places as far away as Canada, Belarus and Germany. The importance of potash derives from that it helps plants to grow strong roots, resist disease and withstand droughts. Brazil overtook India as the top global importer of potash in 2011, with imports of some 7.5 million tonnes KCl, i.e. a figure up in 21% on the previous year.  Now the top iron-ore and nickel producer Vale SA is a step closer to developing its Carnalita potassium project in northeastern Brazil after agreeing to rent mining assets from oil giant Petrobras. State-controlled Petrobras had rented the mining rights in that area in Brazil’s northeastern state of Sergipe for 30 years. The Brazilian governmental authorities are reforming the country’s mining code in part to make it easier to increase potash production and reduce the country’s dependence on imports. Brazilian food needs are increasing at a 3.8% rate per annum. Vale has a strategy of diversify from iron ore and becoming one of the world’s main fertilizer producers by 2017 by tripling their fertilizer production to some 25 million tonnes. The Brazilian government hopes to achieve independence of fertilizer imports by the end of the current decade. The main customers for the Brazilian potash are the soybeans (about half of the global supply), the sugar cane (also some 50% of the world output) and corn.

Iran: Turkey’s Gubretas is Planning a New Plant in Northern Iran

The Turkish fertilizer maker Gübretaş is planning to establish a new plant in Razi, the capital of the Arshaq district in northern Iran, to increase its production capacity by one million tonnes annually. This is complicated by the economic sanctions of the West against Iran to pressure it to abandon its race to acquire nuclear weapons. Gübretaş reached nearly 2 million tonnes production last year, reaching a total revenue of over USD 515 million.

Mexico: Innophos published 2011 figures

Leading specialty phosphates producer in North America Innophos Holdings manufactures both detergent and food grade pure phosphoric acid (PPA) at their Mexican Coatzacoalcos facilities through the wet process. Now they have release their last year full results for their specialty phosphates business showing that sales were up 28% for all of 2011 versus 2010, with selling prices and volume each up 14%, supported by record sales levels for the specialty ingredient product ranges manufactured in Mexico. Fourth quarter sales were up an even greater 37%, with prices up 21% and volume up 16% versus the fourth quarter 2010. Their detergent grade PPA is used for making STPP and other personal care products, their food grade PPA is geared to the production of specialty ingredients, purchased by pharmaceutical, food, beverage, oral care, and other industrial applications. Mainly due to environmental constraints, the STPP and detergent grade PPA has been reducing their volume in the latest years, in benefit of an increase of the food and technical grade PPA and the specialty ingredients. The latter are mainly focused in ammonium and potassium phosphates, which are sold globally. Operating income at US$22 million for 2011 was more than double the US$10 million recorded in 2010 on higher volume and selling prices that exceeded cost increases.  Most of this favorable variance occurred in the fourth quarter where US$10 million of operating income was recorded against US$2 million in the fourth quarter 2010. The Mexican Innophos operating income margin increased substantially to 18% for the fourth quarter 2011 compared to 5% for the same period in 2010, and showed good improvement for the year at a 12% overall for 2011 compared to a 7% for the previous year. The Mexican PPA constitutes 35% of all the Innophos output and the Mexican specialty phosphates account for 22% of the whole Innophos portfolio. The world industrial phosphate market is a small but important segment of total phosphate demand and accounts for around 6-8% of the global phosphate consumption. Industrial phosphates are growing faster in developing markets such as Latin America and Asia, where demand for convenience foods and beverages, ready-to-use baking mixes, packaged meat, and seafood products is increasing as a consequence of the increasing number and new habits of the middle class consumers.

Morocco: Financing of the OCP infrastructure

The European Investment Bank (EIB) intends to grant a USD 200 million loan to finance modernization of Morocco’s state-run Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP). The loan will cover a third of the group’s USD 600 million investment program to replace four obsolete sulphuric acid units at Safi. Also planned is the construction of two scrubbing units at Khourigba with a combined annual capacity of 15 million tonnes of phosphate. OCP has two-thirds of the world’s phosphate reserves and is the world’s top exporter of phosphate rock, but Morocco is a minor producer of oil and natural gas, and in fact, it is the largest energy importer in North Africa.