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Standing Strong

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World Fertilizer,


Gordon Cope, Contributing Editor, explores how fertilizer producers in Europe are reacting to a host of changes – both good and bad.

Europe’s fertilizer sector is rapidly evolving. Regulations are tightening up on production and usage, farming subsidies are being reduced, and growers are gravitating towards organics. Consequently, producers are responding in a number of ways.

Nitrogen

Ammonia capacity in Europe stands at approximately 21 million tpy. Production plants are spread over 17 different countries, with Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and Romania accounting for over half.

In 2017, western and central Europe produced 14.5 million t of nitrogen fertilizers. EU consumption, mainly in the form of ammonium nitrate (AN), stood at approximately 11.4 million tpy. Until recently, European ammonia producers endured relatively high feedstock and energy costs, but the price of gas has plummeted in recent years, partly due to new supplies of LNG emanating from North America and Russia. The outlook for gas prices in Europe looks to remain low for the foreseeable future, as the imminent commissioning of Nord Stream 2 will add a further 50 billion m3/yr to the mix.

In May 2019, ANWIL began building three new units at its chemical complex in Wloclawek, Poland: a 1200 tpd nitric acid unit, an AN solution unit, and a drum granulation unit. The new modules will allow it to convert spare ammonia capacity into fertilizer products for the domestic market. When the new additions come onstream in 2022, total fertilizer capacity will rise from 966 000 tpy to 1.46 million tpy.

In June 2019, Swiss-based EuroChem Group opened a new ammonia plant in Kingisepp, Russia. The US$1 billion plant is designed to produce 1 million tpy. The output will be used in EuroChem’s European and Russian blending plants.

Phosphorus

EU agriculture consumes approximately 1.3 million tpy of phosphorus fertilizer. Except for small deposits in Finland, economic reserves of phosphate rock do not exist in Europe. The essential fertilizer ingredient must be imported from Morocco, Russia and other nations, and is then blended into nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) fertilizer.

Israel-based ICL Fertilizers, a major supplier of phosphate fertilizer to the EU, has stated that it intends to replace up to 15% of their phosphate rock usage with recovered phosphate from sewage, ashes and other sustainable sources.

In late 2018, the EU announced a cap on cadmium levels in fertilizers. The heavy metal (which is present in most phosphate deposits) is toxic, and exposure to it is known to cause cancer as well as adversely affect the body’s lung, heart and intestines. While medical research varies when defining levels of safe exposure, the cap sets a limit of 60 mg/kg of fertilizer.

Russia’s PhosAgro and Norway’s Yara have phosphate deposits with low levels of cadmium, while Morocco and Tunisia have deposits that exceed the limit. Fertilizers Europe, an EU mineral fertilizer lobby group, welcomed a cap, but said that the 60 mg/kg limit was too low. The European Parliament formally approved the cap in March 2019.


This article was originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of World Fertilizer. To read the full article, sign in or register for a free trial.

Read the article online at: https://www.worldfertilizer.com/special-reports/18022020/standing-strong/

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