The company behind the Texas Clean Energy Project (TCEP) filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2017, ending any hope that it would build its proposed million-ton-per-year "clean coal" urea plant.
This means that every one of the "clean coal" ammonia synthesis projects I've been tracking since 2012 has failed: in California, in Mississippi, and now in Texas. That's three strikes; if hydrogen sources were like baseball, coal would be out.
These projects all shared jaw-dropping cost escalations and multi-year delays that forced financing partners to withdraw.
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.
Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) has withdrawn its application for certification from the California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission - essentially shelving the project indefinitely.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.
OWNER: Texas Clean Energy Project (Summit Power Group LLC)
PROJECT: Greenfield plant, urea
SUMMARY STATUS: Bankrupt
The Texas Clean Energy Project was going to be a major "clean coal" power plant with significant urea byproduct but DOE effectively killed the project when it suspended funding. Initiated in 2010 and originally scheduled to be completed by 2014, the project continually failed to raise financing for such a long time that the DOE finally withdrew its support in mid-2016. In December 2016, the developers announced one last idea, ditching power generation altogether to focus on urea production but soon after, in October 2017, the company went bankrupt.