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.
Bloomberg broke news today of a potential merger between Agrium and PotashCorp:
The combination could be announced as soon as next week, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. No final decisions have been made and the Canadian companies could decide against a deal, they said.
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.
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."
As rumored last month, Honeywell yesterday confirmed its plans to spin off its resins and chemicals business, including the ammonia plant at Hopewell, and expects the transaction to be "completed by early 2017."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over the last few years, Agrium has said very little about the potential restart of its export oriented ammonia-urea plant in Kenai, AK, except that we shouldn't expect any "imminent" announcements.
However, this week's hearings on a tax incentive bill by the Alaska Senate Finance Committee are accompanied by a raft of new documents, showing the project is very much still on the table - it just needs gas (financial incentives would be nice, too).
[Update 03/18/2016: Alaska passed Agrium's tax incentive bill yesterday.]
Fatima Fertilizer Company published its 2015 Annual Report last week.
I wouldn't normally write an update simply to say that a company has posted a document but, while lots of people are watching for news of Midwest Fertilizer's $2.8 billion Indiana greenfield, I think fewer people are watching its sponsor company in Pakistan.
Bloomberg News ran an article last week suggesting that Honeywell was "considering exiting its business that makes chemicals for manufacturing nylon," which would include its ammonia plant at Hopewell, VA.
Honeywell is working with financial advisers on options for the caprolactam unit, which could be spun off or sold, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren't public. The business earmarked for divestment generates an estimated $150 million to $200 million in profit, according to one of the people. It could fetch about $1 billion, a separate person said.
Capacity can be a confusing word, with different meanings for different users: it can be a guarantee of minimum design, an estimate of maximum production, a benchmark for performance appraisal, or a valuation tool.
Many users of this site contact me to ask how to interpret capacity data. I'm grateful to a handful of industry leaders who kindly contributed their interpretations of "capacity" to the following discussion, to help me illustrate different approaches to the idea.
Additionally, I've just published over 50 years of raw data, courtesy of USGS, which may help for those looking for historical production, consumption, and capacity data.
CVR Partners closed its merger with Rentech today, giving birth to a new subsidiary, East Dubuque Nitrogen Fertilizers, LLC, which will now operate the nitrogen plant in East Dubuque, IL.
CVR Partners previously ran just one nitrogen plant, the Coffeyville, KS, ammonia-UAN plant, which gets its pet coke feedstock from its sister refinery (owned by CVR Energy, the parent company of CVR Partners).
So, this merger "provides the partnership with an expanded geographical footprint, diversification of its raw material feedstocks, wider customer reach and greater potential for cash-flow generation."
Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) has withdrawn its application for certification from the California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission - essentially shelving the project indefinitely.
The proposed "clean coal" (actually, 75% coal and 25% pet coke) project was to have produced 300 MW net power, and 2,080 stpd ammonia using technology by Casale, most of which would have been upgraded to 1,700 stpd urea and 1,400 stpd UAN.
Full details are in my Research Note for HECA in Kern County, CA, but the project's main problems were:
While we wait for the current slate of new ammonia plants to start up this year, here's a reminder of the projects that are still in development across North America.
More than a dozen major ammonia plants are in various stages of planning or financing. None of these have started construction yet. Some have been stuck in limbo for years, while others keep making progress. The project pipeline represents a potential investment of over $20 billion and additional ammonia capacity of more than 9 million tons per year.
Obviously, not every project will move ahead - in fact, conventional wisdom says none will - but new trends are emerging that may influence their success or failure.
A list of the biggest projects follows below, summarizing their evolving costs, pushed-back schedules, and changing EPC contractors.
Midwest Fertilizer Company announced yesterday that it had awarded the EPC contract for its world-scale nitrogen fertilizer complex to ThyssenKrupp.
This is the first real progress for the project in over a year: in Spring 2015, the previous EPC contract negotiations with Tecnimont collapsed. In the meantime, Midwest's sponsor, Fatima Fertilizer Company, has been busy wrangling regulatory issues with its equity raise in Pakistan, the $1.259 billion bond has been retired and reauthorized maybe a half dozen times, and the air permit has been extended until June 2017.
This will be a transformative year for the ammonia industry. Four world-scale ammonia plants are scheduled to begin production, as well as three smaller plants, a couple of expansions, and a "clean coal" behemoth.
If all these projects start up successfully this year, they will add more than five million tons of ammonia capacity.
The new projects scheduled for 2016 will increase North American capacity by more than a quarter - and, because only one of these projects is in Canada, will increase US capacity by more than a third.
IFFCO Canada's off-again, on-again urea plant has been put "on hold" ... again.
This project was first put on hold last year, when, in December 2014, they took a "strategic pause" because there was too much doubt about securing a long-term gas supply, and also because the engineering and construction costs had swollen to $2 billion, far above the original estimate of $1.2 billion.
But by June 2015, IFFCO Canada was moving ahead again, with progress on a natural gas supply agreement and a new and more affordable EPC partner. Within six months, a broader and less easily solved problem has wrecked the project's financials anew: global urea prices.