The simple economic argument for investing in a new ammonia plant in the US today is that ammonia prices, being cyclical, will recover from their present short-term low, but that natural gas prices, being fundamentally altered by the shale gas revolution, will stay low in the long-term.
Dyno Nobel's new plant at Waggaman, LA, is producing ammonia above its daily rated capacity. Conversely, total production in 2017 is expected to be closer to 80% of annual capacity, because it is likely to be taken offstream regularly this year while it ramps up.
This article discusses the early performance of the Waggaman ammonia plant, and the cost overruns it saw during construction.
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.
Dyno Nobel's Australian parent, Incitec Pivot, published a Market Update at the end of August 2016, with news of good progress at its $850 million brownfield ammonia plant.
They are "deep into [the] commissioning phase" now, with "performance testing expected in September."
It's refreshing to write an update for a plant where construction is on schedule and on budget, which appears to be the case at Dyno Nobel's ammonia brownfield at Waggaman, LA.
Recently, we've seen delays, cost-overruns, and lawsuits aplenty for projects like US Nitrogen at Greenville, TN, OCI at Wever, IA, and LSB Industries at El Dorado, AR.
But Dyno Nobel's parent company, Incitec Pivot, described progress quite differently during this week's earnings call:
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.
Two major mergers have been announced in the last seven days - CVR Partners with Rentech, and CF Industries with OCI.
It's fair to say that the competitive landscape for ammonia will soon change, but you could look at both these transactions as companies running fast to stay still.
Any gain in market share caused by each merger is likely to be short-lived, because there are no less than 15 expansion projects already under construction, with more yet to get underway.
Any market share projections that fail to take these expansions into account will be short-sighted, so I've put together some charts ...
UPDATED: 03/13/2017 — see Change Log
OWNER: Dyno Nobel (Incitec Pivot Limited)
PROJECT: Ammonium Nitrate plant
SUMMARY STATUS: Operational
In operation since 1965, the Cheyenne plant primarily produces industrial ammonium nitrate, for Dyno Nobel's explosives market. It is currently producing ammonia at record levels. The site has been expanded recently, with additions of a second industrial ammonium nitrate plant and a DEF production unit.
UPDATED: 03/15/2017 — see Change Log
OWNER: Dyno Nobel LA Ammonia LLC (Incitec Pivot Limited)
PROJECT: Brownfield ammonia plant
SUMMARY STATUS: Operational
The Waggaman ammonia plant is now operational. Construction began in December 2013, they held a "dedication ceremony" in late September 2016, and announced "successful completion of the performance testing process" and "take over [of] management and operation" in October 2016. The project claims to have come in on budget, although construction saw major cost overruns. On the site of Cornerstone Chemical's Fortier plant, "WALA" sells its ammonia to Cornerstone and merchant traders, as well as making Dyno Nobel self-sufficient for ammonia in the US. This is Dyno Nobel's third ammonia plant, and parent company Incitec Pivot's seventh worldwide.