Belle Plaine, SK — Yara

UPDATED: 10/19/2017 — see Change Log

OWNER: Yara Belle Plaine Inc (Yara International ASA)
PROJECT: Nitrogen fertilizer complex and brownfield ammonia-urea plant[memberful does_not_have_subscription=”1314-ammonia-industry-annual-subscription,1311-ammonia-industry-monthly-subscription,3338-ammonia-industry-30-day-subscription”]

COST (reported): None given
JOB CREATION (reported): 150 — see Job Openings [LINK]
START-UP DATE (reported): 1992

COST (reported): None given
JOB CREATION (reported): None given
START-UP DATE (reported): 2016

Ammonia 1,900 mtpd [Membership required] [Membership required]
Units: stpd, stpy, mtpd, mtpy = short/metric tons per day/year.
[1] United States Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Yearbook, Nitrogen gives capacity in metric tons per year, calculated as “engineering design capacity adjusted for 340 days per year of effective production capability,” rounded to three significant digits. Source: most recent year, Table 4: Domestic Producers of Ammonia,
[2] Yara 2016 Annual Report. Sources: linked below.
[3] [Membership required]. Sources: linked below.
[4] [Membership required]. See Methodology.


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Built in 1992, the Saskferco project was, until 2016, the newest world-scale, natural gas-based ammonia plant in North America. It was purchased by Yara in 2008, and expanded in 2008-9. Yara considered building a new brownfield ammonia-urea plant but, in 2013, cancelled those plans because costs grew too high and it had concerns about overcapacity.

COST: C$435 million in 1991, $1.6 billion 2008 purchase price, C$84 million 2008 expansion
JOB CREATION: 150 — see Job Openings [LINK]
START-UP DATE: 1992 ammonia and urea, expanded 1997 and 2008, 2004 UAN

COST: None given
JOB CREATION: None given
LIKELIHOOD: Dead — see Methodology

Ammonia 1,900 mtpd 693,500 mtpy GROSS
0 mtpy NET
Urea 3,000 mtpd 1,095,000 mtpy GROSS
1,005,575 mtpy NET
UAN 700 mtpd 255,500 mtpy
Units: stpd, stpy, mtpd, mtpy = short/metric tons per day/year.
[1] United States Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Yearbook, Nitrogen gives capacity in metric tons per year, calculated as “engineering design capacity adjusted for 340 days per year of effective production capability,” rounded to three significant digits. Source: most recent year, Table 4: Domestic Producers of Ammonia,
[2] Yara 2016 Annual Report. Sources: linked below.
[3] Government of Saskatchewan Environmental permit documents online give no capacity data. Sources: linked below.
[4] Adjusted Capacity is in metric tons per year assuming operations for 365 days per year; gross capacities based on company’s daily capacity (given as “average” production), net capacities take into account the required feedstock for upgraded products. See Methodology.

FEEDSTOCK: Natural gas
END PRODUCTS: Ammonia, Urea, UAN

Yara’s Belle Plaine plant mostly sells granulated urea and UAN, although it occasionally also sells ammonia “for agricultural purposes during peak ammonia seasons.” The plant can only sell ammonia by reducing output of its other products

Click to enlarge. Yara: Q3 2017 Earnings Presentation, 10/19/2017
In 2016, Yara derated the ammonia plant from 1,950 mtpd to 1,900 mtpd, according to Yara’s 2016 Annual Report, published in March 2017. Despite this downrating, the site appears to be increasing output – at least on the basis of end product volume – according to Yara’s 3Q 2017 earnings presentation, which charted a 9% increase in total production during the third quarter since 2015.

The Belle Plaine fertilizer complex consists of an ammonia plant, a urea granulation plant, and a nitric acid plant. Yara’s website claimed that its urea plant was “the largest single line granulation plant in North America,” although this may no longer be true since the major new urea plants started up at Donaldsonville, LA, and Port Neal, IA.

The plant benefits from its location in Western Canada, where its natural gas feedstock cost is “linked to AECO Hub, which has historically been priced lower than Henry Hub.”

For 24 years, the Saskferco Project in Belle Plaine was the newest major natural gas-fed ammonia plant to be built in North America. However, in 2016, that mantle passed to Dyno Nobel’s plant at Waggaman, LA. Despite other new plants coming online in 2017, at Donaldsonville, LA, Port Neal, IA, and Wever IA, Yara is likely to regain the mantle of owning the most recent, new build, world-scale ammonia plant when its joint venture project starts up at Freeport, TX, at the end of 2017 (although the Freeport plant won’t use a natural gas feedstock).

(Many other plants have begun operations since 1992, in other categories: a new build that used petroleum coke feedstock in Coffeyville, KS, existing units that were restarted in Pryor, OK, Beaumont, TX, and Geismar, LA, or shipped and reassembled to Beulah, ND, or small-scale new builds, including Morris, MN.)

In 1992, Cargill Fertilizer commissioned the Saskferco Project, which began as a partnership between Cargill’s Canadian subsidiary, Cargill Ltd, the Crown Investments Corporation of the Province of Saskatchewan, and Citibank Canada. The project was initially unpopular with other US fertilizer producers, who lobbied against it to the ITC and the US Department of Commerce, claiming potential injury from the “unfair subsidization” the project received from Saskatchewan.

The plant’s original capacities were 510,000 mtpy ammonia and 680,000 mtpy urea. In its original marketing plan, “more than one-half of the Saskferco output was scheduled to move through Cargill retail and wholesale distribution outlets,” with the remainder being sold through Farmland Industries, Land o’Lakes, and others.

In 2004, Cargill’s Crop Nutrition division merged with IMC Global to form a new entity, the Mosaic Company, which operated the Belle Plaine plant until 2008, when Yara purchased the Belle Plaine plant and a couple storage facilities, for approximately $1.6 billion. At that time, Saskferco was “a private company owned 50% by the Mosaic Company, 49% by the provincially owned Investment Saskatchewan and 1% by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.”

Mosaic had begun an expansion project at Belle Plaine that Yara completed in 2008-9, to increase “ammonia and urea capacity by twelve percent and 14 percent, respectively.”

In 2012, Yara’s board approved expansion plans at Belle Plaine, including a new ammonia-urea line with an annual capacity of 1.3 million tons of urea. The project received its environmental permit approval from Saskatchewan in May 2013, which specified the scale of the expansion at 100% of the existing ammonia capacity, and 108% of the existing urea capacity, as well as the introduction of urea ammonium sulfate (UAS) to the product line.

In June 2013, Yara announced that it was “postponing” the brownfield. Although Belle Plaine was “an optimal location for a future North American nitrogen expansion,” Yara wanted to “spend more time evaluating construction cost development and other key project parameters.”

“We are not ready to initiate a Belle Plaine expansion today, primarily due to recent increases in construction cost both in Canada and North America generally. There is also a significant risk of future nitrogen over-supply in North America as new project initiatives are announced, despite deteriorating project profitability,” said Jørgen Ole Haslestad, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yara International ASA
Yara press release, 06/14/2013


View larger map with all ammonia plants.

ADDRESS: Kalium Road, Belle Plaine, SK S0G 0G0, Canada



  • USGS: Minerals Yearbook, Nitrogen [RECENT / ARCHIVE]
  • Government of Saskatchewan, Environmental permit documents: Yara Belle Plaine – Fertilizer Plant Expansion, 2013-008 [LINK]


  • 03/27/2017: Yara: 2016 Annual Report [PDF]
  • 06/14/2013: Yara press release: Yara postpones Belle Plaine expansion project [LINK]
  • 04/22/2013: Seeking Alpha earnings call transcript: Yara International’s CEO Discusses Q1 2013 Results [LINK]
  • 06/11/2012: Yara press release: Yara proceeds with Belle Plaine and Porsgrunn expansions [LINK]
  • 07/15/2008: Yara press release: Yara enters into agreement to acquire Saskferco in landmark growth initiative [LINK]

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