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.
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.
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.).
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.
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).
Phosphate Rock Production
2012 = About 200 million tonnes rock
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.
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.
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:
The above chart uses prices of phosphate rock (Moroccan), 70% BPL, contract, f.a.s. Casablanca, and DAP, bulk, f.o.b. US Gulf.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Joint stock company Saudi Arabian Mining Co. (MAADEN), Plymouth, Minnesota-based Mosaic Co. (MOS) and Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) agreed to form a seven billion dollars joint venture to mine phosphate rock and process it into fertilizer. Ma’aden, will hold a 60 percent stake in the venture and Mosaic, the world’s largest producer of phosphate fertilizers, will have a 25 percent interest, and Sabic 15 percent.
The Wa’ad Al Shammal Phosphate Project will be built at Wa’ad Al Shammal Minerals Industrial City in northern Saudi Arabia and the processing facilities at Ras Al Khair Minerals Industrial City on the east coast will be expanded. The two locations will be linked by an existing railway. The project will have a capacity of about 3.5 million tonnes a year and start in the late 2016.
Mosaic currently mines phosrock in Florida, where it’s operating at maximum capacity. The company will invest about one billion dollars in the Saudi project, funded over four years starting this year, and market about 25 percent of the output. The joint venture partners are developing plans for a local research and development facility which will encourage the study and development of phosphate products and processes.
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. Production at the new facilities is expected to commence in late 2016 with a total production capacity of approximately 16 million tonnes per year. Ma’aden is planning downstream production of phosphoric and sulphuric acid, DCP (dicalcium phosphate) and MCP (monocalcium phosphate) used in manufacturing animal feed, PPA (pure phosphoric acid) used in food industries, and STPP (sodium tripolyphosphate) used in manufacturing detergents and other industrial purposes.
After many years of negotiations Saudi Arabia acceded to the WTO in December 2005 and with a GDP (purchasing power parity) of over 740 billion dollars it ranks as the 22nd largest world economy.
In West Africa, the Togolese government launched on 2012 a tender searching for strategic partners to develop a 2 billion tonnes carbonated phosphate layer and fertilizer plant, 25km from the beach line and in adjacent to an existing operating phosphate project of its ownership.
Elenilto, one of the leading African mining developers, was selected by the government of Togo as one of the three short listed companies for the development. The company is planning to recover in the 1st stage 5 million tons annually marketable phosphate rock which can ramp up to 10 million tons annually (the concentrated product is 31.5% P2O5). The major part of the marketable rock will be used to produce and export phosphoric acid, and fertilizers as: DAP, MAP, GTSP and further products. The project is including the improvement and construction of wharf, power plant and transportation for the phosphate and fertilizers. Elenilto is developing offshore and onshore oil blocks, iron ore, tantalum, coal and other mineral large scale projects in eight countries in Africa and Europe.
Elenilto joined to the project the Chinese giant company, Wengfu Group, which is one of the biggest Chinese phosphate and fertilizer production companies with worldwide reputation and with many years of global operations in phosphates mining and fertilizer products production using high end technology. Wengfu is entering to the project as equity partner that will invest 40% of the required investments and will provide the management and professional services to the partnership jointly with Elenilto. Wengfu is the world’s sixth largest granulated fertilizer producer. The development of the project will be done in stages and within few years it is expected to begin production. The total investment in the project is estimated to be over 1 billion US$.