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.



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 2013, 44 percent of the urea fertilizer was consumed in East Asia, followed by South Asia, which took nearly a quarter of the product.





Urea, (Black Sea), bulk, spot,  f.o.b. Black Sea (primarily Yuzhnyy) beginning July 1991; for 1985-91 (June) f.o.b. Eastern Europe

Wheat (US), no. 1, hard red winter, ordinary protein, export price delivered at the US Gulf port for prompt or 30 days shipment

Kenya: New NPK factory

A new fertilizer factory was commissioned in the Eldoret town, Rift Valley Province in Kenya. The $1 billion factory will have an annual nameplate capacity of 150,000 metric tonnes of NPK and is expected to manufacture its first bag of fertilizer mid 2016. It is being set up by the Toyota Tsusho East Africa. World NPK capacity is estimated in some 100,000-120,000 tonnes product, and the main African producer is Egypt.

Ammonium Phosphates Snapshot

Ammonium phosphates are derived from a reaction of ammonia and phosphoric acid and they are nearly totally used as fertilizers. Less than 3% of the world consumption is used in industrial applications and animal feed. DAP, diammonium phosphate, is the main solid phosphate fertilizer. Its excellent handling properties and N-P-K composition 18-46-0 make it well suited to both large- and small-scale agriculture. The production of one tonne of DAP requires 0.23 tonnes of ammonia and 1,175 tonnes of phosphoric acid 40% P2O5 (0.470 tonnes P2O5). Actually this means that the production of one tonne of DAP requires almost one tonne of the fourth element, sulphur. The DAP trade is the dominant element in the phosphate scene, heavily influencing production and prices, some 35-40% of the global output of phosacid is used in DAP manufacture. More than 40% of the global production of DAP is traded across borders, much more than ammonia, but significantly less than potash. DAP is widely used in bulk blending. The production of 1 tonne MAP, monoammonium phosphate, typically 11-53-0, requires 0.15 tonnes of ammonia and 1.35 tonnes of phosphoric acid 40% P2O5.  MAP is produced in both granular and non-granular form, the latter being used in the production of granular NPK and suspension fertilizers.

ap01    ap02







Sulphur Market Overview

Sulphur is a key raw material for the fertilizer industry and its single largest end use is in the manufacture of phosphate fertilizers in the form of sulphuric acid. Sulphur is also used in the production of carbon disulphide, sulphur dioxide and phosphorous pentasulphide; pulp and paper uses; and rubber vulcanizing. Agronomically, sulphur is an essential element in forming protein, vitamins, enzymes, and chlorophyll in plants, and nodule development in legumes. It has been called the “fourth nutrient” and in 2014 China was its main consumer, followed by the United States.

World sulphuric acid supply is of some 250 Mt H2SO4, and it is produced from sulphur, oxygen and water via the contact process. The major growth drivers for sulphuric acid are the global consumption of phosphoric acid, titanium dioxide, hydrofluoric acid, ammonium sulfate manufacture, and for uranium processing and metallurgical applications.

S - Production


Crops have different sulphur sensitivities: alfalfa, canola, and clover are very responsive to sulphur, while cereal crops such as wheat and corn are less responsive.

Soil with less than one percent organic matter is prone to sulphur deficiencies; soil with greater than 5 % organic matter is usually unresponsive to sulphur. Sulphur deficiency is usually seen when the soil has less than 10 ppm of soluble sulphur, and it has a retarding effect on plant growth.

Elemental sulphur has at least 85% S, and there are different types of fertilizers also containing sulphur: ammonium sulphate has some 24% S, ammonium thiosulphate 26%, SSP 12%, magnesium sulphate 14%, potassium sulphate 18%, potassium thiosulphate 17%, sulphur coated urea 10% S. Elemental sulphur is also used as a pesticide or fungicide.

Sulphur is commonly incorporated to both granular compound fertilizers and bulk-blended fertilizers in the form of AS, SSP, or calcium phosphate. Most of the fertilizer sulphur applied to soils comes from sulphate-containing fertilizers. But the most concentrated sulphur carriers are the fertilizers containing elemental sulphur.

Many NPK formulations contain sulphur, but the amount has decreased with the trend towards higher analysis fertilizers.

Plant requirements for sulphur are equal to or exceed those for phosphorus. It is one of the major nutrients essential for plant growth, root nodule formation of legumes and plants protection mechanisms. Sulphur application rates in typical fertilization practices usually range from 5 to 20 pounds of sulphur per acre.

For the production of 1 tonne of 100% H2SO4 sulphuric acid, they are required 0.33 tonnes of sulphur (or 0.76 tonnes pyrites 48% S).


Most of the sulphur production comes from the processing of fossil fuels, sulphur mined in its elemental form has declined over the last decade to less than two percent of world production.

Iron pyrites (FeS2) have typically 40-53% S, pyrrhotite minerals (Fe6S7) 40%, gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O) 19%, and anhydrite (CaSO4) 24%.

Around 90% of the global sulphur production is by-product and only some 10% is elective. The largest producers are China and the United States, followed by Russia and Canada.

S - Top S Producers

S - Top S Exp

S - Top S Imp

The sulphur trade is dominated by the imports to China.

S - China Imp

In 2014 China imported some 10.2 million tonnes S and the main suppliers were West Asia, eastern Europa and Central Asia, Japan, Canada, and the United States.

The Chinese sulphur imports are mainly geared to the southwestern provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, and Guizhou, mostly for usage in the compound phosphate fertilizer factories. The majority of the Chinese sulfacid manufacturers are small producers. The pyrite process accounted for some 80% in the mid-nineties, but its proportion has been decreasing steadily since then, being less than half in the early current decade.

S - Prices


Resources of elemental sulphur in evaporite and volcanic deposits and sulphur associated with natural gas, petroleum, tar sands, and metal sulfides amount to about five billion tonnes. The main sulphur reserves are located in Canada, the United States, Poland, Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Spain, Italy, France, Japan, and others. The sulphur in gypsum and anhydrite is almost limitless, and some 600 billion tonnes of sulphur is contained in coal, oil shales, and shale rich in organic matter, tar sands, but low-cost methods have not been developed to recover sulphur from these sources. The domestic sulphur resource is about one-fifth of the world total. Sulphur supplies should be adequate for the foreseeable future.

Ethiopia: Allana SOP Project at Danakhil

Toronto-headquartered Allana Potash Corp. is a junior mining company with a focus on the acquisition and development of potash assets internationally with its flagship in the Danakhil Potash property (also referred to as the Dallol Potash Project), which is a previously explored potash property in northeastern Ethiopia. Now Allana has announced the results from an independent preliminary economic assessment (PEA) of production of SOP (sulphate of potash), a premium potash product widely used on chloride sensitive crops such as tobacco, fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts. In 2014 world production was of some 2.7 million tonnes K2O. China is the largest consumer. SOP production would be a separate mining operation producing about 1 million metric tons per year over an estimated 77- year operating life through solution mining of brine followed by solar evaporation. The Danakhil Project area is the one of hottest places on earth, which allows for the use of solar evaporation after solution mining and should bring significant cost savings. It has been reported that Ethiopia is the cheapest place to extract potash after Jordan, because the deposits are only 100 meters below the surface, compared with about 1,000 meters in Brazil and Canada where the grade is similar. Total operating costs, including production, transportation, port storage and loading, and sustaining capital expenditures, are estimated at $130/mt of SOP. The payback period from the start of production is estimated at four years.

Kazakhstan: Eurochem develops their phosphate infrastructure

EuroChem, Russia-based global nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer producer, will in 2015/16 start the construction of a beneficiation plant in the Zhambyl province in southern Kazakhstan. The output will be send to phosphate plants in Southern Russia. As of 2014, the company had a total of 4.2 billion tonnes of phosphate rock reserves and resources and realized capital expenditures of US$ 282 million in phosphates. Kazakhstan has 260 million mt reserves of phosphate rock and produced in the last couple of years some 1.6 million tonnes rock per year. Eurochem plans to produce in the current year over 120,000 mt of finished phosphate. The development in Kazakhstan is strategically important for Eurochem because of the threat that further declines in iron ore price may reduce the phosphate segment economics at the company’s Kovdorskiy GOK.

Key Indicative Fertilizer Prices


India: Basic Fertilizer Raw Materials Imports

India, the world’s second largest fertilizer consuming country, had on this decade an annual fertilizer consumption growth of 4.8 percent. The availability of raw material for indigenous production is poor. Urea is the only fertilizer that can potentially be produced without any imported content. But the paucity of natural gas, the most preferred feed stock for its manufacture, is coming in the way of doing so, necessitating the setting up of joint ventures for urea production in gas-rich countries. In the case of the other fertilizers, the country has no source of potash, and only limited resources of phosphate rock. India’s phosphate processing facilities are located along the coast to facilitate the imports of raw materials needed to produce upgraded phosphate products. India’s levels of rock imports are highly impacted by the situation of the country’s DAP inventories.

India has a great potential for fertilizer consumption growth because its soils are under considerable strain, the result of natural nutrient deficiencies, intense farming practices and diverse crop requirements.







New Israel-China phosphate j-v

Israel’s potash maker ICL has promoted a major step forward in the phosphate front. It is forming a j-v with the Chinese leading producer of phosphate rock and fertilizers Yunnan Yuntianhua by an investment of US$ 500 million. The Israelis will receive a 15% ownership of the Chinese company, which in 2013 had sales of 55.87 billion Chinese Renmimbi (US$ 9.02 billion). This was an increase of 465.1% versus 2012, when the company’s sales were 9.89 billion Chinese Renmimbi. The value of  the Yunnan company’s phosphate chain accounts for some three quarters of their total gross profit.

The new j-v company  will operate an integrated phosphate operation, based on an annual production of some 2.5 million tonnes of phosphate rock during the next 30 years, through the 100% ownership of the Haiko Phosphate Mines Assets. They will have a nameplate annual capacity of 700,000 tonnes of phosacid, 1.85 million tonnes of sulphuric acid, 60,000 tonnes of white phosphoric acid, 65,000 tonnes of speciality phosphates for the food and engineered materials market, and 850,000 tonnes of fertilizers. In this way, ICL will overcome her failure in developing the Barir phosphate field in Arad (Israel) due to environmental objections and secure for decades rock at a more competitive cost. ICL produced last year at its home base in the Negev 3.4 million tonnes rock, of which 946,000 were exported. Her main export market was India, where she sold 318,000 tonnes. Last year ICL also produced 576,000 tonnes of green phosphoric acid, 211,000 tonnes of white phosphoric acid, and 1.7 million tonnes fertilizers.

With the additional Yunnan phosphate capacities, ICL will be a more important mover in the phosphate scene, with some 6 million tonnes phosrock, 1,300 tonnes of phosacid, 350,000 tonnes of purified phosacid, 2.7 million tonnes of fertilizers and nearly 0.9 million tonnes of specialty fertilizers. The j-v will also give ICL new products like, for example, specialty water soluble MAP.

Key Indicative Fertilizer Prices


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