Ammonia expansions in 2014

At the start of this year, I was expecting five ammonia projects to start up in 2014.

One went into operation in January, another is expected later this year – the three others illustrate some of the many and colorful reasons why projects get delayed.

Rentech’s East Dubuque expansion in Illinois came online in January 2014 – this was itself a delay from its proposed late 2013 start, but technical problems had set them back a couple months (a “fire that occurred in the ammonia synthesis loop”). It’s been running happily since then, as demonstrated by their 20% increase in revenues (although they just announced it’s going down again for “repair of the leaking tubes in the waste heat boiler”).

Orascom’s Beaumont expansion in Texas is on schedule to start up in the fourth quarter of 2014, the company just confirmed. The project is running $50 to $60 million over budget however, because of increasing labor and crane costs, and increasing scope. They’ll be shutting it down for a month to do the turnaround work. The plant, which they restarted at the end of 2011, has run at “capacity utilization rates” of 112% this year, which made me look a little deeper into their actual permitted capacity and tweak my Adjusted Capacity figure for the plant. [update, November 2014: start-up has been delayed to January 2015]

US Nitrogen’s greenfield in Greeneville, Tennessee, hasn’t actually announced that it won’t start up in 2014, but I’ll eat my hat if it does. They’re plowing ahead with plant construction but the whole project has become so mired in permit appeals and legal challenges that I can’t see them fixing matters before 2015 (if then). If you’ve missed that particular circus, I won’t repeat it here: read the full details (I’ve left this page open to non-members).

Mosaic’s debottlenecking at Faustina in Louisiana was, admittedly, never a project that Mosaic promised for 2014, but I’d anticipated them moving forward without fanfare. Instead, it remains a footnote in quarterly reports. Mosaic reps confirmed to me that the project is still “on the radar” but they have no schedule for any investment decision.

Southern Company’s Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi is still bludgeoning its way forward. With a new price tag currently estimated at $5.5 billion and more than 6,000 construction workers on site, their revised start-up date is the first half of 2015. Last month, they ran a successful test of the combined cycle gasifiers, which bodes well (although they could yet encounter plenty of problems). This isn’t an ammonia plant – it’s a vast clean coal power plant that produces ammonia as a byproduct, and will likely be a poster child for the next generation coal industry. Their reasons for cost overruns are delightfully phrased: “adverse weather, unexpected excessive craft labor turn-over, and unanticipated installation inefficiencies.”

So, the new ammonia capacity now expected to come online in 2014 comes to a little less than 100,000 metric tons. A drop in the ocean compared to what’s coming next.

One comment

  1. Lewy says:

    Im working as a crane operator at the Wever, IA. site things are running about 3to 6 months behind schedule here, hard winter and poor craftmanship from Iowa. Has put this project behind it wont catch up.

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