One of the most interesting unanswered questions surrounding green ammonia is this: what about urea?
Last month, a major announcement by Stamicarbon ("the world market leader in design, licensing and development of urea plants") implies an answer: in the long-term context of climate change, urea as a fertilizer may simply need to be phased out.
Stamicarbon announced its new Innovation Agenda at the company's "Future Day" event in Utrecht in April. Its Innovation Agenda covers three areas: speciality fertilizers, digitalization, and "Renewable production of fertilizer (using wind or solar energy to produce fertilizer)."
SUMMARY STATUS: Planning
In December 2017, this proposed ammonia-urea plant was relaunched as Projet Bécancour: a methanol-urea production facility. IFFCO Canada is still the primary project sponsor, making good on its promise, when it put the plant on hold in October 2016, that "Le projet n'est pas mort." The brownfield plant was originally announced in 2012 for a 2017 start-up, but was put on hold repeatedly when construction costs ballooned from $1.2 to more than $2.0 billion, natural gas feedstock supply could not be secured, and the urea market tanked.
OWNER: Dakota Gasification Company (Basin Electric Power Cooperative)
PROJECT: Existing plant, urea brownfield
SUMMARY STATUS: Operational
Dakota Gasification Company's new urea plant started up early in 2018, when granular urea became the 11th product made at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant (DEF became the 12th). Fertilizers now represent more than 50% of the entire plant's expected revenues. Construction on the new urea plant began in Summer 2014, and would have been completed by mid-2017 but destructive storms flattened the new urea storage building in 2016, which had to be demolished and the foundations ripped out before construction could restart. A small ammonia expansion was completed during the project.
SUMMARY STATUS: Financing phase
In October 2018, Cronus announced that it had awarded an EPC contract, with revised project scope. Awaiting financial close, before construction can begin; no groundbreaking yet. In August 2017, Cronus had also announced a reconfigured project, with a reduced capacity, lower capex, and a more realistic schedule. Also in 2017, its original air permit expired, after many extensions, and Cronus must now apply for and receive a new air permit before construction can begin. This project has been repeatedly postponed over the years.
PROJECT: Nitrogen plant, restart, expansion and urea brownfield
SUMMARY STATUS: Operational, Planning Phase
The Geismar ammonia plant started up in 1967 but was idled in 2003, due to the high cost of natural gas feedstock. PotashCorp restarted the plant in February 2013 at a cost of $260 million. Air permit documents reveal plans for significant future expansions. In January 2018, Nutrien was formed through a "merger of equals" between Agrium and PotashCorp that was originally announced in September 2016.
SUMMARY STATUS: Planning phase
Major setbacks in 2016, when the EPC contract was awarded and then fell apart following a corruption scandal and a failure to secure equity financing. Major setbacks predicted in 2017 and confirmed in 2018, related to debt financing. Air permits were extended in 2017 but any progress now depends on winning a legal argument with the IRS.