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Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) has withdrawn its application for certification from the California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission - essentially shelving the project indefinitely.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: Financing phase
Originally scheduled to be completed by 2014, but severely delayed. New EPC contracts signed December 2015, when financial close was expected in "spring" 2016. This was going to be a major commercial "clean coal" power plant with significant urea byproduct, but DOE effectively killed the project when it suspended funding in mid-2016. The developers are now trying one last idea: ditching power generation and focusing only on urea production.