EuroChem's CEO confirmed in the Russian press yesterday that the company still intends to build its massive greenfield nitrogen plant in Louisiana. This article introduces some of the changing market conditions that will impact, for better or for worse, EuroChem's final investment decision.
2016 was a transformative year for the North American ammonia industry but, in 2017, the bigger impact will be on the urea industry.
Here's an update on four urea expansions expected on-stream this year and next, which will add almost two million tons of new urea capacity. In the process, they'll reduce the amount of ammonia that's available for sale by more than one million tons.
And, as a bonus, I have news on an embattled "clean coal" project that, in what might be a last gasp attempt at a viable business model, could potentially add another 1.5 million tons of urea in Texas.
I've published recent updates on four greenfield nitrogen plants that hope to break ground in 2017, potentially adding 1.8 million tons of ammonia capacity in the US.
The project pipeline is long, however, and others are making progress too. This article provides updates on another four projects that, together, could add more than 4 million tons to North American ammonia capacity through 2022.
In December 2016, Louisiana DEQ issued final air permits for the brownfield project at Pollock, LA, and disclosed significant new details about TopChem's proposed 500,000 ton per year ammonia plant.
Midwest Fertilizer Company continues to juggle progress and setbacks on its $3 billion greenfield nitrogen plant in Indiana, following the December 2016 termination of its EPC contract with ThyssenKrupp. In the last few weeks, we've seen updates on the EPC contract, air permits, debt financing in Pakistan, and the $1.259 billion tax-exempt bond issue in the US.
An affiliate of Bloomberg News in Mexico recently reported that Pemex has hired UBS to "explore strategic alternatives" for its fertilizer subsidiary, including potential asset sales.
Five years after breaking ground, and almost three years behind schedule, US Nitrogen's ammonium nitrate plant in Tennessee has finally reached "full production capacity."
This project has been so fraught with problems - permitting, compliance, engineering design, construction, community acceptance, health and safety - that it wasn't always obvious whether the plant would ever be fully operational. Even now, a raft of legal challenges remain unresolved.
CF Industries announced this morning that its new ammonia and urea plants at Port Neal, IA, "have been successfully commissioned and started-up."
Midwest Fertilizer Company's EPC contract with ThyssenKrupp is now terminated.
I wrote last week about Iowa Fertilizer Company's greenfield plant at Wever, IA, and mentioned that OCI NV had begun hinting about mergers and acquisitions activity in recent disclosures.
This "phase of consolidation" has now begun for the Dutch owner of both the world-scale plant under construction at Wever, IA, and the ammonia-methanol plant operating at Beaumont, TX.
Grannus awarded two contracts for design and technology licensing in November, and it has started December with a third announcement, naming its new EPC partner.
Yesterday's announcement, which sees the previous engineering partner entirely replaced, focuses on the company's business model, which is not to be an ammonia producer, but to be a global licensor of regional-scale ammonia plant technology.
AM Agrigen has had its air permit extended for another year (unlike one other proposed greenfield) but, in its application, disclosed a completely different plan for the project.
For over a year, I've been commenting on the creativity that ammonia project developers have been forced to display, in order to demonstrate a viable business model.
The remaining pipeline of potential new ammonia plants has shifted away from brand-new, multi-billion dollar, world-scale plants producing multiple end products; these demonstrated good efficiencies of scale but became - evidently - almost unfundable.
Now the focus is on developing smaller ammonia plants, using diverse feedstocks, and avoiding as much new machinery as possible.
Over the last few weeks, Iowa Fertilizer Company and its parent, OCI NV, have been busy with the commissioning phase of their major greenfield at Wever, IA. However, they've also been restructuring bond payments, which was necessary "to ensure the successful completion of construction and first year of operations."
In the process, we've seen the bond rating downgraded, the IRS launch an examination, disclosures of project costs rising further, and hints at future mergers & acquisitions.
OCI has successfully refinanced the project. They hope to start producing ammonia soon but, if history is any guide, defining "soon" may be difficult.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has just published the 2014 edition of its Mineral Yearbook: Nitrogen, which is, in my opinion, the best source of basic statistics for the national and global ammonia industry.
I've incorporated this new data in an update to my Salient Ammonia Statistics, which is an excel spreadsheet, available to download.
Without any announcement, PotashCorp is expanding one of its ammonia lines in the US.
In the last two weeks, Grannus LLC has awarded two contracts for process design and technology licensing: the first for hydrogen production, and the second for the ammonia loop.
These replace the engineering contract announced earlier this year, and bring the "zero-emission" ammonia plant closer to reality - albeit with a revised start-up schedule.
In case you wondered why the CEO of ThyssenKrupp Industrial Services resigned last week in Germany, it's all because of Midwest Fertilizer Company's greenfield plant in Indiana - and the (alleged) shenanigans involved in securing the Midwest EPC contract from Fatima Fertilizer Company in Pakistan.
I'm calling it quits for one of the major nitrogen greenfields in the US.
Now that Honeywell has spun off its Resins and Chemicals division into the standalone AdvanSix Inc, we finally have some corporate transparency about plant operations.
In its first independent announcements over the last two weeks, notably including an operational update and its Q3 2016 earnings report, AdvanSix has provided lots of details of its financial and operational performance, and specified - for the first time - the plant's ammonia capacity.
Also, we learned that the planned turnaround in the fourth quarter was extended by two weeks of unplanned maintenance, which will hit Q4 2016 earnings to the tune of $20-25 million.
TopChem Pollock is still working on its ammonia plant restart in Louisiana. However, the air permit process is slowing things down for them, despite their expedited application.
CF Industries today announced that its Donaldsonville ammonia plant is now operational.
This new ammonia plant is about six months late and perhaps 10% over budget, which is hundreds of millions of dollars, as I explain in my Research Note for Donaldsonville, LA.
Incitec Pivot announced this morning the "completion of performance testing and handover" of its new brownfield ammonia plant at Waggaman, LA.
So what was the last big new natural gas ammonia plant in the US?
The Louisiana governor joined Incitec Pivot and Dyno Nobel last week for a "dedication event" for the new ammonia plant at Waggaman, LA. The festivities included a ribbon-cutting and the unveiling of a ceremonial plaque, despite the fact that the plant is not quite finished with its commissioning process.
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.
Local newspapers reported two pieces of very interesting news at the end of last week, regarding the pipeline of proposed ammonia plants in the US.