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Publication > Issue > Articles

Mixed signals

Summary

FAO and USDA have published revised forecasts for cereal production in 2012/13, suggesting a tighter overall market. But prices remain volatile and much bearish sentiment remains, making the immediate outlook for fertilizer demand uncertain.

Abstract

Prices of most agricultural commodities have softened in recent weeks, even though supply remains tight. The falls were particularly marked for wheat and palm oil, the latter market suffering from a high overhang of stocks. Contrasting assessments by FAO and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided mixed signals: while FAO forecasts a significant drop in global cereal stocks during 2013, USDA has revised upwards its forecasts of US corn and soybean availability. (Fertilizer Industry News, 8 October) Keywords: FAO, USDA, Crop forecasts, Yields, Cereal production, Inventories, Closing stocks, Planting intentions, Monsoon

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Russia spreads its wings

Summary

Boosted by fresh injections of capital, companies such as Acron and EuroChem are investing in projects and operations overseas. We outline some of the most notable recent developments.

Abstract

On 2 July, EuroChem completed the acquisition of K+S Nitrogen for EUR 140 million ($182.3 million). The German potash producer had been seeking to divest its nitrogen fertilizer business for more than a year as its strategy was directed to focusing its financial and managerial resources on the core areas of potash, magnesium and salt. The deal between EuroChem and K+S for K+S Nitrogen had been widely expected by industry analysts after EuroChem agreed with BASF to buy the latter’s fertilizer assets in Antwerp, Belgium in September 2010. This deal was concluded with the understanding that K+S Nitrogen would retain the marketing rights to the fertilizer products produced at Antwerp (and at BASF’s operations in Ludwigshafen, Germany). Also included in the deal, which was completed on 31 March 2012, was BASF’s 50% stake in the PEC-Rhin joint venture with GPN in Ottmarsheim, France. The BASF acquisition brought EuroChem additional production capacity comprising approximately 2.5 million t/a of fertilizers. These include CAN/AN, Nitrophoska fertilizers, nitrophosphoric acid and three related nitric acid plants in Antwerp. (Table 1) BASF’s ammonia plant was not included in the sale. This agreement caught some industry analysts by surprise: they had viewed Yara International as the front-runner, while OCI of Egypt had also been seen as a serious contender. (Fertilizer Week, 30 September 2011.) Keywords: Acron, Uralchem, Uralkali, EuroChem, PhosAgro, Silvibit, Urea, Potash, Phosphates, JVs, Joint venture

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Double celebrations for AUMUND

Summary

We reported on the 90th anniversary of AUMUND Group in the last issue of Fertilizer International. The group is now celebrating an important order from the fast-expanding Russian potash industry. One of its subsidiaries has a birthday to celebrate too.

Abstract

No sooner had AUMUND Fördertechnik celebrated the 90th anniversary of its founding on 3 August when the German bulk material handling specialist had further cause to crack open the champagne. On 16 October, AUMUND announced that it had received an order from the leading Russian fertilizer producer EuroChem Volgakaliy LLC for the supply of central chain bucket elevators and twin-strand trough chain conveyors. These will be installed at the Gremyachinskoye potash project in the Perm region near Volgograd. EuroChem is Russia’s leading fertilizer producer and ranks third in Europe in terms of production capacity and is one of the top ten worldwide. The company seeks to raise its global profile and is consolidating its position by investing in the potash sector. In addition to the Gremyachinskoye project, EuroChem is developing a potash mine at Verkhnekamskoye, also in the region. Shaft sinking at both sites is currently under way, and EuroChem hopes to begin initial production at Gremyachinskoye in 2014. Keywords:

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Enhancing India's competitiveness

Summary

A programme of new projects and plant revamps is gathering momentum, after many years of stagnation. We look at the background to these developments and assess the progress being made towards India's goals of self-sufficiency.

Abstract

Using around 26.5 million t/a, India is the second largest consumer of fertilizers in the world after China. As noted by V.P. Sharma and H. Thaker, average intensity of fertilizer use in India remains much lower than most countries, and the distribution remains highly skewed, with wide variations between regions, states and districts. (Demand for Fertiliser in India: Determinants and Outlook for 2020, Vijay Paul Sharma and Hrima Thaker, Indian Institute of Management [April 2011].) The authors forecast that fertilizer demand in India will rise to about 41.6 million tonnes by 2020. However, India faces a continuing challenge in ensuring the ready availability of fertilizer products that will fulfil the forecast demand, both from imports and supplies from indigenous producers. India is entirely reliant on imports for its potash requirements, while consumption has generally exceeded domestic production for both N and P fertilizers. Keywords: Subsidy, Projects, Revamps, Overseas investment, Joint ventures, Urea, Ammonia, Phosphates, Feedstock

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Adding value

Summary

We examine the plans of EuroChem and Sunkar Resources to develop downstream fertilizer production from the large tonnages of phosphate rock planned for the medium term.

Abstract

Kazakhstan ranks second only to Russia among the CIS countries in its quantity of mineral production and is endowed with large reserves of a wide range of metallic ores, industrial minerals and fuels. The country has significant reserves of phosphate rock. Kazakhstan is the world’s ninth largest country in terms of landmass, covering 2.71 million ha. It is rich in minerals, with world leading reserves of uranium, chromite, zinc, copper, gold and manganese. The potential for development is huge. (Mining Journal) Keywords: Kazakhstan, Phosphate rock, Phosphate fertilizers, Downstream, Resources, Kazphosphate, Sunkar, EuroChem

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The push to urea predominance

Summary

With access to significant reserves of offshore natural gas, Indonesia has developed a world-scale ammonia and urea fertilizer industry. Several projects are under way to enhance the country's nitrogen fertilizer capacity, meeting the needs of a growing domestic market as well as supplying other buyers in South East Asia. As part of its drive to promote more balanced nutrition in Indonesian agriculture, the government is also encouraging the development of additional NPK fertilizer capacity.

Abstract

Indonesia currently ranks third in the world as a urea producer, with a current nameplate capacity of 8 million t/a. (Table 1) Three urea projects are currently under construction, which are expected to raise Indonesia’s aggregate urea capacity to 10 million t/a by 2016. These will replace some obsolete units and expand capacity with modern and efficient technology. The Kaltim 1 plant, with a capacity of 700,000 t/a, is planned for closure in 2014. As a result of these developments, Indonesia is expected to become self-sufficient in urea supply and emerge as a predominant exporter in South East Asia. (Global Fertilizers and Raw Materials Supply and Supply/Demand Balances, 2012-16, Michel Prud’homme, IFA. Paper presented at 80th IFA Annual Conference, Doha [May 2012].) Indonesia took its first steps towards indigenous production of urea in 1959, when PT Pusri was established in Palembang. Further expansions at the site followed in 1974, 1976/77 and 1993. (Table 2) Additional major production came on stream in 1972, when PT Petrokimia Gresik was established, and in 1975, when PT Pupuk Kujang was established in Cikampek. PT Pupuk Kaltim commenced production in Bontang in 1977, while PT PIM launched production in Lhokseumawe in 1982. The Asean Aceh Fertilizer joint venture began production in 1983 but was liquidated in 2006. Keywords: Urea, Natural gas, LNG, PUSRI, Oil palm, JVs, Joint venture, Self-sufficiency, Ammonium nitrate

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Prills, granular or pastilles?

Summary

A look at alternative technologies for urea manufacture, and the latest advances.

Abstract

Prilled and granular urea are made using totally different finishing processes. The fertility value is the same, but the prilled urea manufacturing process creates a smaller particle that is softer, making it more susceptible to damage during handling and storage. Prills are also more prone to caking, making them hard to handle. However, a new granular urea plant involves a higher capital expenditure than its prilled counterpart, and the economics of granular urea production have depended on the product being able to secure a price premium in the marketplace. With the steady addition of considerable new granular urea capacity, this price premium is being eroded. Meanwhile, a third technical route is now available for urea production and has gained popularity, namely pastillisation: we examine the merits of each process. Keywords: Urea, Prills, Prilled, Granular, Pastilles, Caking, Dust, Handling, Vortex

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More capacity mooted

Summary

Forecasts of steady growth for these speciality potash products have encouraged plans to develop additional production capacity. We review some of the keynote projects.

Abstract

Global consumption of potassium by all sources is estimated at around 58 million tonnes product or 33.9 million tonnes K2O. (Table 1) The main potassium fertilizer source is potassium chloride (KCl), followed by potassium sulphate (K2SO4) and potassium and magnesium double salts (K2SO4.MgSO4). Potassium nitrate (KNO3) accounts for only 2% of the total potassium fertilizer consumption. Potassium sulphate is perceived as a premium-quality fertilizer product. It is a dual-nutrient fertilizer, providing both potassium and sulphur in SO4 form. It is also a high K+ content fertilizer, providing low cost per unit and freight advantages. Its low chloride content makes potassium sulphate very safe for use on Cl-sensitive crops, while its low salt index ensures low leaf burn potential. Potassium sulphate also has low hygroscopicity, which ensures that it stores well with minimal caking. Keywords: Potassium sulphate, Potassium nitrate, Polyhalite, Sylvite, Potassium magnesium sulphate

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How to avoid phosphogypsum

Summary

We assess the nitric acid technology and Improved Hard Process routes that avoid the production of by-product phosphogypsum.

Abstract

Phosphoric acid can be produced by four principal routes: the thermal process, two wet processes (sulphuric acid and hydrochloric solubilisation) and the dry kiln process. The thermal process produces a very pure phosphoric acid by burning elemental phosphorus to produce phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5) and dissolving the product in dilute phosphoric acid. Most of the impurities present in the rock are removed when extracting the P from the rock in the furnace. The end result, P4 or yellow phosphorus, is used mainly as food-grade thermal phosphoric acid. For critical applications, additional processing to remove arsenic may be required. Elemental P is produced by an electric arc furnace. At a high temperature, a mixture of phosphate ore, silica and carbonaceous material (coke, coal, etc.) produces calcium silicate, phosphorus gas and carbon monoxide. The P and CO off-gases from this reaction are cooled under water to isolate solid phosphorus. Alternatively, the P and CO off-gases can be burned with air to produce P2O5. Keywords: phosphoric acid, superphosphoric acid, gypsum, phosphogypsum, phosphate rock, environment, energy, process technology, wet process, thermal process, kiln technology, nitrophosphate, Odda process

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New global resources

Summary

IFA forecasts an increase of 43 million t/a in global phosphate rock capacity between 2011 and 2016. Most of this additional rock tonnage is expected to come from expansions at existing mining operations, but several greenfield projects may also contribute to the aggregate total new output.

Abstract

Global consumption of phosphate rock amounts to around 185 million t/a, of which an estimated 146 million t/a are used in the production of wet process phosphoric acid, 30 million t/a for the production of single superphosphate, feed and food-grade phosphates, 4 million t/a for thermal phosphoric acid production, and 5 million t/a for direct application. (Phosphate Rock Market Outlook, Paul Burnside, Ken Nyiri, Juan von Gernet, CRU. Paper presented at Phosphates 2012, El-Jadida, Morocco.) Consumption of phosphate rock has grown by an average 2.6%/year since 2001, equivalent to an aggregate growth of 46 million tonnes over the ten-year period. Global trade in phosphate rock is estimated to have totalled 47.7 million tonnes in 2011. After many years when the traded price of phosphate rock was flat, averaging below $40/t f.o.b., prices began to rise in mid-2007, peaking at $250/t during the height of the commodities boom in mid-2008. Since then, phosphate rock prices have remained steady, paralleling the trend in DAP prices. The current early-October 2012 benchmark price is $180-190/t f.o.b. Morocco. Keywords: DAP, Phosphoric acid, Downstream, Mine, Greenfield project, Feasibility study, Resource, Junior mining company

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