Fertilizer Industry Fundamentals

According to UN data, during the fifty years period between 1961 and 2009, the agricultural land increased by 12% but the total agricultural food output increased a remarkable 150%. This success was to a large degree a consequence of the introduction of new technologies, fertilizers, pesticides and high-yield crops.

The world’s population has gone from 2.5 billion people in 1950 to 7 billion in 2011, and in order to continue feeding an always growing population, expected to reach more than 9 billion in 2050, the fertilizer industry will have to continue its contribution to the agricultural growth and to meet the rising demand for food.

The main drive for the manufacture of more fertilizers is the population growth, but also other factors like the decrease of arable land per capita, dietary changes leading to greater protein intake, and the growing share of the crops production for biofuels.

World biofuel production has grown from 7 million tonnes of barrel equivalent (Mtoe) in 1990  to 60 Mtoe in 2011. According to some estimates, this number could grow to 188 Mtoe by 2030.

The fertilizer fundamentals are based on depleted fertilizer inventories and high grain prices that make them more affordable.

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Ghana: Negotiations on Nitrogen Fertilizer Plant J-V

In 2010 the governments of Ghana and India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the setting up of a fertilizer plant in Ghana’s western region, where gas and oil are available from commercial production. Both governments are working hard to conclude the deal, and it has been hinted it could be reached the final agreement by the end of the current year. India’s overseas attempts in promoting foreign fertilizer ventures, is driven by India’s cabinet, on May 19th, 2011, more than doubled the price of gas sold to makers of fertilizer. Mumbai-based IFFCO (Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited), the country largest fertilizer seller, plans to secure fuel for the project from Ghana Oil Company. Estimated Ghana oil reserves have jumped to almost 700 million barrels.

The plant, when established, will have the capacity to produce one million metric tonnes of fertilizer. Mumbai-based Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers Ltd., India’s biggest state-run urea maker, is involved in the implementation of the project.

India is one of the major trading partners of Ghana, which is the world’s third-largest cocoa producer, and the second global exporter. Agriculture accounts for roughly one-quarter of the GDP of Ghana and employs more than half of the workforce, mainly small landholders. Among the important constraints to increased fertilizer use are inadequate and expensive credit, unsatisfactory marketing arrangements for the produce, the relatively small area under irrigation, insufficient funding of agricultural projects and inefficient use of fertilizers by farmers. Only 0.2 percent of the cultivated land is irrigated whereas several large irrigation schemes are underutilized.

India: ONGC to set up urea manufacturing unit

Last year the oil giant Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC) discovered huge gas reserves at Khobal, near the Assam-Agartala National Highway (NH-44). Last April ONGC official authorities stated they had decided to set up a urea fertilizer manufacturing unit in North Tripura district, in the border with Bangladesh. The region has nearly 70,000 hectares of gross area under cultivation. With the commissioning of the project the demand for urea fertilizer will be met not only for Tripura but also for the entire north-east region and a large chunk of the fertilizer could be exported to the neighboring Bangladesh. The site for establishing the project has been selected at Khobal considering close proximity to the Khobal gas field from where the natural gas (hydro carbon) would be supplied. At least six big investors expressed their interest in the funding of the fertilizer project.

India: New Nitrogen Factory Planned in Burdwan

The Matix Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd. has acquired land for the setting up of a nitrogen fertilizer plant at the Panagarh Industrial Park in Burdwan district, West Bengal. The company is expected to start commissioning the production unit sometime in 2013, and, in a first phase, it is likely to meet West Bengal’s demand for nearly 1.3 million tonnes of urea. The capacity is expected to become 3 million tonnes of urea by 2014. The fertilizer unit will use coal bed methane (CBM) as feedstock, and the cost of the project is of nearly one billion US$.

The total Indian urea production stood at 22 million tonnes in 2010-11, as against the annual demand of 28-29 million tonnes. The gap of 6-7 milion tonnes is met through imports. The Indian fertilizer ministry estimates say that by 2016-17, this demand could touch 34 mt.

Namibia: Sandpiper Marine Rock Phosphate Project Positive Feasibility Study

The Sandpiper marine phosphate project is located offshore from the Namibian coast and is currently in a study stage. It  envisages steady-state production of three million tonnes per annum of phosphate rock grading 27-28% P2O5 over an initial mine life of 20 years, including a two-year ramp up period. The output is planned to be used for direct application in agriculture, and for phosphoric acid manufacturing and SSP secondary attack. The phosphate sands and mud will be slurried and pumped via a 27 kilometre pipeline to the process plant site located approximately 6 kilometres inland to the south east of Walvis Bay.

The Sandpiper Project is held by the joint venture company Namibian Marine Phosphate Limited (NMP). NMP is owned by Minemakers (42.5%), UCL Resources Limited (42.5%) and Tungeni Investments (15%). The Feasibility Study capital cost estimate for the Sandpiper Project is US$326.3 million.

Canada: Yara bets on potash

Giant fertilizer maker Yara has agreed to make a strategic investment of approximately CAD 40 million in IC Potash Corp (ICP) and has entered into an off-take arrangement for 30% of all products produced by ICP’s Ochoa project in New Mexico for a period of 15 years. ICP and Yara have also agreed to discuss the possibility of establishing a jointly held entity for the purpose of marketing products produced by the Ochoa project. The New Mexico mine contains proven and probable reserves of more than 400 million tonnes of ore. Potash is used by farmers to strengthen plant roots and defend against drought.

ICP’s objective is to start commercial production in the fourth quarter 2015, with an estimated annual production of some 0.7 million tonnes of SOP and SOPM (Potash Magnesium Sulphate). SOP is a non-chloride based potash fertilizer used in the cash crop and horticultural industries, and for agriculture in saline and dry soils. It is considered a premium product, carrying a substantial premium over the price of MOP.

In another development, Ethiopotash is developing a potash resource in Dallol in the Danakil Depression of Ethiopia, based on the mining and exploration permits held by the company. Yara entered in 2009  into an agreement with two partners to participate with 16.67% ownership in Ethiopotash. The partners were XLR with 57.33% ownership and management of the company, and Seftec with 26% ownership. Yara has now agreed to increase its ownership to 51% and take over management of the company, while XLR will retain a 49% ownership.

Estimated capacity for the Dallol project is 1-1.5 million tonnes potash per year, with resources of more than thirty years mining. Drilling activity started at site in 2010, and most drilling and drilling related activities have now been completed. The project development phase will be finalized with a Definitive Bankable Feasibility study which is expected to be completed in mid 2013. This study will be the basis for a decision on whether to proceed with project execution and realization, with production start-up 2-3 years thereafter.

United Kingdom: Emergence of the York Potash Project

Israel Chemicals monopoly on potash mining in the United Kingdom will be challenged by a proposed US$2.7 billion potash mine that’s set to become the largest in the U.K., and is in talks with lenders on helping to finance the development. London-based potash mineral company Sirius Minerals Plc explores for and mines potash on properties in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and they have done a preliminary study on a mine on the Yorkshire coast in northeast England. The project, called York, may host the world’s largest estimated resource of polyhalite, used to make SOP (sulfate of potash), the rarer and more valuable of the two main forms of the fertilizer nutrient. Sirius plans to produce an annual 1.4 million tonnes of potash as from 2017 and is studying an expansion to 4.1 million tonnes a year by 2024 at an additional cost of about US$3.3 billion. The project could include also gypsum and epsomite (a hydrous magnesium sulfate mineral) production.

Besides the North Yorkshire mine, Sirius Minerals (formerly Sirius Exploration Plc) holds tenements in the Williston Basin in North Dakota in the United States, the Canning Basin in Western Australia, and the Adavale Basin in Queensland, Australia. The company acquired York Potash Ltd. in January 2011.

Turkey: New NPK Plant Planned in Yarimca

The Turkish fertilizer maker Gubre Fabrikalari T.A.S., which is involved in the manufacture and sale of chemical fertilizers and phosphoric acid, operates two manufacturing plants in Turkey, which are located at Yarimca and Iskenderun, and controls over 15% of the Turkish fertilizer market. Now they are planning increase its annual NPK production capacity to 500,000 tons from 200,000 tons and build an ammonium storage tank with a capacity of 20,000 tons. A tender has been offered, and the plant would be installed in the Yarimca district, near Istanbul, with a nameplate capacity of 2 x 250,000 NPK tpa. Dust and gaseous effluents will be range of accordance with the regulation on the control of the air pollution of industrial origin which is currently in force.

Belgium: EuroChem acquired BASF fertilizer capacities in Antwerp

The world leading chemical company BASF has completed the sale of its fertilizers activities in Antwerp, Belgium, to Russia’s largest mineral fertilizer maker, EuroChem, as of March 31, 2012, as planned. The appropriate antitrust authorities have given their approval for the transaction. The total purchase price amounts to around €830 million, including a deferred part of circa €130 million payable over the period 2013 to 2016. This transaction will lead to an expected pre-tax disposal gain of approximately €600 million for BASF in the first quarter of 2012. EuroChem is one of the top twelve global agrochemical companies by nutrient capacity, producing primarily nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers, as well as certain organic synthesis products and iron ore. They rank #6 in the global capacities of tradeable ammonia and #7 by capacity of tradeable phosphoric acid. In 2011 they accounted for a fourth of Russia’s nitrogen market and a fifth of its phosphate market. They have over 900 million tonnes of proven and probable potash reserves.

The scope of the transaction includes plants for CAN/AN fertilizers (calcium ammonium nitrate/ammonium nitrate), NPK fertilizers (nitrogen-phosphate-potassium) and nitrophosphoric acid as well as three related nitric acid plants. The activities were carved out into a separate company, now named EuroChem Antwerpen NV. About 330 employees have been transferred to the new company.

The EuroChem Antwerpen facilities include 2.3 million tonnes of NPK and CAN/AN; they are surrounded by the Scheldt and Scheldt-Rhine Canal and have access to jetties providing infrastructure for fertilizer distribution and for raw material acquisition via the North Sea and the Rhine River. EuroChem Antwerpen is now one of the largest fertilizer complexes in Europe and it will expand EuroChem share in that market in 3%.

Kazakhstan: Kazphosphate upgrades industrial phosphates

Kazphosphate LLC completed last year un upgrade at its purified phosphoric acid plant and has more than doubled the output of acid and sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP), and improved the acid to food quality, opening new markets in the EU where  the product is in great demand. The industrial phosphates factory is located 15 km to north-west from Taraz along the northern slopes of the Ulken-Burul mountain.

The main activities of the Company are exploration works, mining and processing of phosphate rock, production and sales of yellow phosphorus and its derivatives, phosphate fertilizers and fodder phosphates, output of mineral raw material for industrial products. The company’s products are delivered domestically and exported mainly to the European markets, the CIS countries, and to China. They have a reserve of 1.8 billion tonnes of phosphate ore. Their export capabilities are limited by the fact that the nearest port is around 4,000 kilometres away. There is an US$80 million sulphuric acid plant being built adjacent to the fertiliser plant in Taraz, and due to come online in the fourth quarter of this year.

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