Donaldsonville, LA — CF Industries

UPDATED: 09/27/2017 — see Change Log

OWNER: CF Industries Nitrogen LLC (CF Industries Holdings Inc)
PROJECT: Nitrogen fertilizer complex, Brownfield ammonia-urea-UAN 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): 450 permanent — see Job Openings [LINK]
START-UP DATE (reported): 1966

COST (reported): $2.2+ billion, originally $2.1 billion
JOB CREATION (reported): 93 permanent, 2,500+ peak construction — see Job Openings [LINK]
START-UP DATE (reported): 2016 ammonia and UAN, 2015 urea

Ammonia 2,710,000 mtpy 4,335,000 stpy [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] CF Industries 2016 10-K. Sources: linked below.
[3] [Membership required]. Sources: linked below.
[4] [Membership required]. See Methodology.


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Donaldsonville began producing ammonia in 1966. Today, the site is a collection of individual plants, variously owned across the decades by CF Industries as well as Terra, Triad, Mississippi Chemical, First Mississippi, and Ampro. The new ammonia plant was due to start-up in early 2016 and finally became operational in October 2016; the new urea plant was commissioned in November 2015, and the new UAN plant in March 2016. Donaldsonville is now “the largest nitrogen facility in the world.”

COST: None given
JOB CREATION: 450 permanent — see Job Openings [LINK]
START-UP DATE: 1966, 1969, 1970, 1977, 1980 ammonia plants I-V

COST: $2.4 billion estimate, originally $2.1 billion
JOB CREATION: 93 permanent, 2,500+ peak construction — see Job Openings [LINK]
START-UP DATE: 2015 urea plant V, 2016 ammonia plant VI, UAN plant III
LIKELIHOOD: Done — see Methodology

Ammonia 2,710,000 mtpy PREVIOUS:
3,070,000 stpy GROSS
1,130,000 stpy NET
3,640 stpd GROSS
1,275,000 stpy GROSS
280,000 stpy NET
4,335,000 stpy GROSS
1,390,000 stpy NET
8,960 stpd
3,270,000 stpy
1,460,000 stpy
2,966,857 mtpy GROSS
1,006,975 mtpy NET
1,324,490 mtpy GROSS
254,012 mtpy NET
4,291,347 mtpy GROSS
1,260,987 mtpy NET
1,680,000 stpy NET
3,850 stpd GROSS
1,155,000 stpy NET
2,835,000 stpy NET
2,765,000 stpy
1,405,250 stpy
2,508,366 mtpy GROSS
1,524,070 mtpy NET
1,274,821 mtpy GROSS
1,047,798 mtpy NET
3,783,187 mtpy GROSS
2,571,868 mtpy NET
2,415,000 stpy NET
5,050 stpd GROSS
840,000 stpy NET
3,255,000 stpy NET
2,552,000 stpy
1,788,500 stpy
2,315,136 mtpy GROSS
1,622,500 mtpy GROSS
3,937,636 mtpy GROSS
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] CF Industries 2016 10-K, assumes average operation for 350 days per year, and company presentations. Sources: linked below.
[3] LDEQ Title V permit documents, 2015. Sources: linked below.
[4] Adjusted Capacity is in metric tons per year assuming operations for 365 days per year; gross capacities based on permit documents, net capacities based on company reported capacity. See Methodology.

FEEDSTOCK: Natural gas

CF Industries announced its $3.8 billion expansion plans in November 2012, for a $1.7 billion ammonia-urea plant at Port Neal, IA, and a $2.1 billion ammonia-urea-UAN plant at Donaldsonville.

In October 2016, CF announced that the new ammonia plant was operational, making Donaldsonville “now the largest nitrogen facility in the world.” The ammonia unit started up in September and has now reached “consistent, stable operation over the nameplate capacity of approximately 3,600 tons per day.” During the start-up phase, the plant “has produced more than 50,000 tons of ammonia.”

According to CF’s Q3 2015 earnings announcement, in November 2015, the urea plant was “mechanically complete and in the process of being commissioned.” In the analyst earnings call CF’s CEO acknowledged that this was “later than expected,” as it had been scheduled for start-up in “third quarter 2015.” In December 2015, CF announced that the urea plant had “been operating since November 17, 2015 and has achieved consistent, stable operation. The plant has produced over 80,000 tons of granular urea since start-up.” By February 2016, when CF published its Q4 2015 earnings presentation, the plant had “produced over 230,000 tons of granular urea through January 2016.” By early 2017, the urea plant was operating consistently well above nameplate capacity, according to CEO comments during the Q4 2016 earnings call. “We brought it up to nameplate and then continued to step it up over the next couple of months and ultimately where the D’ville plant is currently operating is between about 10% and 15% above the nameplate.”

Apparently, this is “the first new world-scale urea plant to be completed in North America since 1998.”

In November 2015, the UAN plant was “on track to start up in the fourth quarter” of 2015. This didn’t happen: by February 2016, it was “mechanically complete” but still “in the process of being commissioned.” In March 2016, CF announced that the UAN plant “started-up in early March 2016, and has achieved consistent, stable operation. The plant has produced more than 80,000 tons of UAN since start-up … It is the largest operating single-train UAN plant in the world.”

The ammonia plant was originally due to start up “in early 2016.” By February 2016, “welding and piping (majority of remaining work/cost) [was] expected to be completed within 8-weeks.” By March 2016, “the new ammonia plant is within a few weeks of being mechanically complete.” It wasn’t until September 2016 that start-up testing began, and late October 2016 that CF announced the plant was fully operational.

These expansions have seen significant cost increases during construction. In March 2015, CF Industries announced that combined costs for the Donaldsonville and Port Neal projects had increased by “just under 10 percent” to $4.2 billion. Most of this increase was for Port Neal, bringing expected costs at Donaldsonville to ~$2.2 billion. In November 2015, CF announced that these combined costs had risen again by “approximately 10 percent,” with Port Neal again contributing most of the increase.

According to CF’s Q3 2016 earnings report, the total cost of the two expansion projects had risen to $5.2 billion. Although CF did not provide a breakdown between the two sites, I estimate current capex for Donaldsonville at $2.4 billion (and Port Neal at ~$2.8 billion).

The new ammonia, nitric acid, and UAN plants will use technology from Thyssenkrupp Uhde; the urea plant is from Stamicarbon. Uhde Corporation is providing engineering and procurement services.

As part of CHS‘s 2015 “strategic partnership” investment in CF Industries, CHS will have the right to buy up to 1,095,000 (short) tons of urea and 580,000 tons of UAN every year. According to a corporate presentation from November 2015, Donaldsonville will provide 590,000 tons of urea and 220,000 tons of UAN toward this commitment.

Product is distributed from Donaldsonville by truck, rail, and pipeline, as well as barges and, for export, ocean-going vessels.

Until the new plant started up in 2016, the Donaldsonville site included five ammonia plants, three granular urea plants and one urea solution plant, three nitric acid plants, two ammonium nitrate plants, and two UAN plants. The new plants are ammonia VI, urea V, nitric acid IV, and UAN III.

The site used to contain another plant, the old Triad ammonia #1 plant, which was shut down in April 2004. CF sold this in 2013 to LSB Industries, who reconstructed it at El Dorado, AR, in 2016 – this project almost bankrupted LSB, as reconstruction costs spiraled out of control.

Central Farmers Fertilizer Company, the direct precursor to CF Industries, was established in 1946 as “a fertilizer brokerage operation by a group of regional agricultural cooperatives.” (A thorough history of co-operatives in fertilizer production was published by the US Department of Agriculture in 1990.)

In 1955, CF entered the fertilizer production industry with an ammonia plant in Lawrence, KS. The $14 million plant was built by Consumers Cooperative Association (CCA, which became Farmland Industries), but operated as a subsidiary, Farm Chemicals Association, with CCA owning 75% and CF owning 25% (CF later sold its share). In 1965, another co-op, Fel-Tex Inc, opened an ammonia plant in Fremont, NE, which CF leased from 1967 and purchased in 1971. In 1966, CF began operating a plant in Terre Haute, IN, as Central Nitrogen Inc, a joint venture with various other co-operatives.

The first ammonia production at Donaldsonville began in October 1966 when First Nitrogen Corporation started-up a 1,000 stpd Kellogg plant. First Nitrogen was initially a 50-50 joint venture between CF and First Mississippi Corporation (the commercial affiliate of farmers’ co-op Mississippi Chemical Corporation). The companies wanted to secure fertilizer supply for CF’s co-op members, building on the success of Mississippi Chemical’s plant at Yazoo City, MS, which was the first ammonia plant owned by a co-operative when it opened in 1951. Finding a location for First Nitrogen’s plant was initially difficult: it had to be near natural gas feedstock, but on the Mississippi River, so that fertilizer could be barged north to CF’s members. The Donaldsonville site was selected because Texaco wanted to extend its pipeline up the west bank of the Mississippi: First Nitrogen became the anchor customer that made the pipeline extension viable, with a 20 year supply contract. First Nitrogen’s plant was so successful that, within a year after starting up, CF bought out First Mississippi’s 50% share of the joint venture “for $4.4 million (nearly double what First Mississippi had originally invested).”

First Mississippi immediately came back to Donaldsonville with Triad Chemicals Inc, a joint venture with its affiliates Mississippi Chemical and Coastal Chemical (these last two entities were later dubbed Miscoa). Triad began operations in 1969, with a 1,000 stpd Kellogg ammonia plant as well as a 1,200 stpd urea plant. In its first year of operation, the Triad ammonia plant produced “368,000 tons, then a world record.”

CF also wanted to produce more at Donaldsonville and, by 1970, had built itself a second 1,000 stpd Kellogg plant. Then, in 1977, CF commissioned two more 1,000 stpd Kellogg plants, bringing its total to four ammonia plants.

In 1980, First Mississippi further expanded its footprint at Donaldsonville, when AMPRO started operating a new 1,150 stpy Kellogg ammonia plant. AMPRO was a partnership, 50% owned by First Mississippi and 50% owned by six oil companies. Construction was complete in 1977 but, because of the recent energy crisis, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had “refused to allow the oil companies to exploit the Louisiana gas reserves,” and it took AMPRO three years to secure sufficient feedstock to begin operations. In 1989, First Mississippi bought out the other partners, and AMPRO became a wholly-owned subsidiary.

In 1994, Mississippi Chemical reorganized as a public company and, in 1996, it bought FirstMiss Fertilizer, which owned First Mississippi’s fertilizer assets, for “approximately $297 million,” to take full control of the Triad and AMPRO plants. The AMPRO plant was undergoing an expansion at the time, which was the first US retrofit to use the Kellogg Advanced Ammonia Process (KAAP).

From 1991 to 1996, CF Industries embarked on a series of major modernizations, overhauling and expanding its old plants and installing new urea, nitric acid, and UAN plants. On May 24, 2000, a fire and explosion at ammonia plant III killed three workers and injured many others; the plant was out of commission for the rest of the year, and many other production units needed extensive repairs.

In May 2003, Mississippi Chemical entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and, in August 2004, it was purchased by Terra Industries Inc for $268 million, making Terra the “leading US producer” of UAN, ammonia, and ammonium nitrate.

CF Industries remained “a traditional manufacturing and supply cooperative until 2002,” when it decided to prioritize “financial performance” over “assured supply to our owners.” Soon after, in 2005, CF Industries launched its IPO and became a public company. In 2010, CF Industries bought Terra for ~$4.7 billion. At that time, CF only owned two nitrogen plants, albeit the two largest in North America, in Donaldsonville and Medicine Hat, AB. With the addition of Terra’s Donaldsonville units and its other plants in Courtright, ON, Port Neal, IA, Verdigris, OK, Woodward, OK, and Yazoo City, MS (as well as plants in Billingham and Severnside in the UK, and a 50% ownership of the plant at Point Lisas in Trinidad), CF Industries had become a “global industry leader.”[/memberful]

View larger map with all ammonia plants.

ADDRESS: Highway 3089, Donaldsonville, LA 70346, United States



  • USGS: Minerals Yearbook, Nitrogen [RECENT / ARCHIVE]
  • EPA Emissions data: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Large Facilities: CF INDUSTRIES NITROGEN, LLC – DONALDSONVILLE NITROGEN COMPLEX [LINK]
  • Risk Management Plan: Right to Know Network: CF Industries Donaldsonville Nitrogen Complex [LINK]
  • LDEQ permit documents: search AI # 2416 [LINK] (for archive documents, search AI #s 2398, 2245, or 122533)
  • US Securities and Exchange Commission filings: EDGAR Search Results, CF Industries Holdings, Inc. CIK#: 0001324404 [LINK]


  • 09/25/2017: The Advocate: Final settlements reached in 2013 blast at CF Industries plant [LINK]
  • 03/27/2017: Gonzales Weekly Citizen: CF Expansion Project complete [LINK]
  • 10/26/2016: CF Industries press release: CF Industries Announces Start-Up of New Ammonia Plant at Donaldsonville Nitrogen Complex [LINK]
  • 03/30/2016: CF Industries press release: CF Industries Announces Start-Up of New UAN Plant at Donaldsonville Nitrogen Complex [LINK]
  • 03/04/2016: Argus Insight: CF to step up UAN, urea exports with expansions [LINK]
  • 03/03/2016: CRU Insight: Will Latin American demand save UAN from itself? [LINK]
  • 02/17/2016: CF Industries press release: CF Industries Holdings, Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter Net Earnings [LINK]
  • 12/16/2015: CF Industries press release: CF Industries Announces Start-Up of New Urea Plant at Donaldsonville Nitrogen Complex [LINK]
  • 11/04/2015: CF Industries press release: CF Industries Holdings, Inc. Reports Third Quarter Net Earnings [LINK]
  • 02/17/2015: CF Industries press release: CF Industries Holdings, Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter Net Earnings [LINK]
  • 07/16/2013: CF Industries press release: CF Industries Receives Louisiana and Iowa Air Permits [PDF]
  • 11/09/2012: Stamicarbon press release: Stamicarbon has been Awarded Licensing Contracts for Two New Urea Plants for CFI, USA [LINK]
  • 11/05/2012: ThyssenKrupp Uhde press release: ThyssenKrupp Uhde Wins Mega Contract for Fertiliser Plants in USA [LINK]
  • 11/01/2012: CF Industries press release: CF Industries Announces Capacity Expansions [PDF]
  • 03/10/2010: CF Industries press release: CF Industries and Terra Industries Agree to Combine, Creating a Global Industry Leader [PDF]

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