The Water Intensity of Ammonia

The Water Intensity of Ammonia Production. Click to embiggen.

Agrium continues to plan for the potential restart of its ammonia-urea plant in Kenai, Alaska: its draft water permit is now entering a 30-day public comment period.

However, the fact sheet for the draft permit contains one particularly interesting chart, which follows below, to illustrate the water flows throughout the ammonia-urea plant. In an industry that holds its data close, this is a refreshingly detailed flow chart.

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Longview, WA — Pacific Coast Fertilizer


OWNER: Pacific Coast Fertilizer (joint venture)
PROJECT: Brownfield ammonia plant

SUMMARY STATUS: Planning Phase
First announced in September 2016, Pacific Coast Fertilizer is presently in the "project definition stage." While the announcement focused on one potential site, the project has yet to confirm a location. This major project has been in development for some time, and claims some heavyweight industrial partners.

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The Investment Case for Sustainable Ammonia Synthesis Technologies

This website will remain a project tracker for ammonia capacity expansions.

However, it will also begin reporting on - and agitating for - the development and deployment of new, sustainable ammonia synthesis technologies.

I will feature projects from my (extensive) database of pre- and post-commercialization ammonia synthesis technologies, and demonstrate the commercial benefits of moving this mature industry beyond the acceptance of the technical limits of Haber-Bosch.

To start with, I'm presenting a conference paper next week to introduce "The Investment Case for Sustainable Ammonia Synthesis Technologies." My paper will be available online after the conference, and my abstract follows below.

You're welcome to check out next week's NH3 Fuel Conference, which is hosted by UCLA, in Los Angeles, on Monday 9/19 and Tuesday 9/20.

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POT+AGU merger is on

The merger of equals between PotashCorp and Agrium was confirmed to be moving ahead this morning, in a press release announcing their boards' unanimous approval of the plan "to Create a World-Class Integrated Global Supplier of Crop Inputs."

"A new parent company will be formed to own both companies. PotashCorp shareholders will receive 0.400 common shares of the new company for each common share of PotashCorp they own, and Agrium shareholders will receive 2.230 common shares of the new company for each common share of Agrium they own."

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US Nitrogen shut down “under federal and state investigation”

The grand SNAFU named US Nitrogen appears to have come to a temporary pause.

Despite starting up all the units over the last few months - nitric acid, ammonium nitrate, ammonia - the regulatory teams at state and federal levels overseeing US Nitrogen now appear to have come in and closed the site down, until they can enforce environmental and safety standards.

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US Nitrogen start up, in violation

US Nitrogen hasn't publicly announced that its new ANSOL plant is operational, yet, but it has advised regulators that the plants have started up. Its reps are telling the local press that it will be operational by "the end of summer."

In the meantime, the team is rectifying a newly-identified spate of permit violations and deficiencies - which is a little awkward, because regulators are presently considering its permit renewals, which met with great resistance from the local community during the public comment period.

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West Terre Haute, IN — Phibro

West Terre Haute-IL-Phibro

UPDATED: 08/02/2016 — see Change Log

OWNER: Philipp Brothers Fertilizer (Phibro LLC / Energy Arbitrage Partners)
PROJECT: Ammonia plant conversion

SUMMARY STATUS: Planning Phase
In January 2016, investors announced plans to re-establish Phibro, the storied commodities trader. Five months later, in May 2016, Phibro purchased the gasification units of a decommissioned "clean coal" power plant, and announced plans to produce ammonia from petroleum coke.

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CF-OCI merger cancelled

CF Industries terminated its proposed merger with OCI this morning.

"The Treasury announcement on April 4, 2016 materially reduced the structural synergies of the combination. Since that time, both companies have worked together collaboratively ... However, the companies were unable to identify an alternative acceptable to both parties and, therefore, agreed to terminate the combination."

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Waggaman update: on schedule, on budget, expected Q3

Source: Incitec Pivot Limited, IPL 2016 Half Year Results Presentation, 05/10/2016

It's refreshing to write an update for a plant where construction is on schedule and on budget, which appears to be the case at Dyno Nobel's ammonia brownfield at Waggaman, LA.

Recently, we've seen delays, cost-overruns, and lawsuits aplenty for projects like US Nitrogen at Greenville, TN, OCI at Wever, IA, and LSB Industries at El Dorado, AR.

But Dyno Nobel's parent company, Incitec Pivot, described progress quite differently during this week's earnings call:

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LSB Industries is selling its climate control business

LSB Industries will soon be a pure-play nitrogen producer. It announced this morning that it "has entered into a definitive agreement to sell the Company's Climate Control Business."

Although separating its two businesses has been an explicit possibility for some time, and this sale makes a lot of sense, the timing is noteworthy. LSB has been forced into making deals to stay afloat since the costs of its El Dorado expansion spun out of control in 2015.

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OCI’s Wever greenfield: capex up, lawsuit, and intense monitoring

There's plenty of new news about OCI's Iowa Fertilizer Company and its world-scale greenfield nitrogen plant at Wever, IA.

In the last two weeks, we've had earnings reports both from OCI and from the project's EPC contractor, Orascom, which is OCI's sister company. Plus, we had a response and countersuit in the ongoing lawsuit between Orascom and one of the project's subcontractors.

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Introducing TopChem, Investimus Foris subsidiary for Pollock


Investimus Foris has yet to make any announcements about its ammonia plant retrofit at Pollock, LA, but it has clearly made significant progress over the last few months.

The Lithuanian company established its US operating subsidiary, TopChem Pollock LLC, in October 2015. It assumed ownership of the plant site in December 2015, inheriting the unpaid environmental permitting fees of the previous owners. And it submitted its air permit application to LDEQ in March 2016.

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PotashCorp: downgraded, capex reduced, but new urea brownfield

Source: PotashCorp, BAML Global Agriculture & Chemicals Conference, 03/02/2016.

In a move that might appear contrary to its "Disciplined Approach" of "Matching Supply to Demand," PotashCorp is quietly planning a potential new urea plant at Geismar.

More details of the brownfield project, which received its air permit in December 2015, are in my Research Note for Geismar, LA. The new urea plant is an addition to PotashCorp's existing plans for a major ammonia expansion.

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Ammonia production causes 1% of total global GHG emissions

I often come across this statistic: the ammonia industry is responsible for 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Where did this "1%" number come from?

If you look at the footnotes, you realize that the sources for this statistic are decades old; most citations lead to Vaclav Smil's Enriching the Earth, published in 2000. Nonetheless:

The statistic holds true today - the number is closer to 1.024%, as I'll demonstrate.

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US Nitrogen lawsuit describes problems during construction

Austin Powder's new $225+ million ammonium nitrate plant was supposed to begin operations in March 2014. Now, more than two years late, the US Nitrogen plant at Greeneville, TN, is still in start-up mode.

Yes, there has been a lot of local opposition. Yes, permit revisions and all the appeals have slowed progress. But there were also technical, engineering causes for the ongoing delays.

US Nitrogen has just made some of these problems public.

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Urea production is not carbon sequestration

To make urea, fertilizer producers combine ammonia with carbon dioxide (CO2), but when farmers apply that urea to the soil, an equal amount of CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere. No CO2 is permanently stored or sequestered through the production of urea.

This is a statement of the obvious, I'm told, but it's worth stating for three reasons. First, not everyone knows it. Second, there was zero data in the academic literature supporting the fact, until now (see below). And third, next generation ammonia-urea plants with "zero-emissions" are becoming a reality, despite some of these new technologies relying on fossil fuel feedstocks.

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