Urea Prices, markets & analysis
If you buy or sell Urea or related products, you need up-to-date global pricing data and the background information to help you understand it.
Our network of price reporters across Asia, Europe and the US enables us to deliver this. We publish their insights in our comprehensive daily and weekly price reports, plus we offer the news and analysis you need to put pricing information into context.
ICIS Urea overview
Urea is a key nitrogen fertilizer and a truly global product. Its price is extremely volatile and the product is highly traded and can see dramatic price swings on a regular basis, because of this, the accurate prices provided by ICIS are key to the market.
The key feedstock is natural gas via ammonia. Urea also has important relationships with crop prices such as wheat and corn.
Urea can also be used in the industrial sector to make UF resins, to make melamine; to make adhesives and paints. And for laminates, moulding compounds, paper and textiles.
Urea occurs as white crystals which absorb water. These are either odourless or have a slight smell of ammonia. Urea is not considered to be harmful at normal temperature, but the dust may irritate the skin, eyes and nose.
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Urea: Market overview
Updated to Q1 2015
The global urea market is firm moving into the first quarter of 2015 on limited availability for January and buyer interest starting to emerge ahead of the next season, but there are signs that prices could soften later in the quarter.
There is limited supply of urea left for January with producers already committed in advance and gas supply issues hampering production in Egypt. Ukrainian production remains cut back due to ongoing geopolitical issues in the country. Some Middle East producers say they are fully committed for the whole of the first quarter of the year with no spot availability.
At the same time, buying interest from the US and Europe in particular is starting to pick up ahead of the spring application seasons in the Northern hemisphere and this is helping to support prices. Major buyer India is covered for the time being, however, and not expected back to the market until March at the earliest.
While this supply/demand scenario is expected to keep prices firm in January/February, there are expectations that prices will drop back seasonally later in the first quarter as buyers finish making purchases and as extra supply is expected in the market.
Major supplier China is expected to export more urea this year due to a more lenient export tax policy for 2015. In a change from previous years, China has decided to scrap low and high export tax periods in favour of a flat rate of tax for the whole year, which has been set at CNY 80/tonne for urea.
Meanwhile, new capacity is due onstream in March/April. The 1.1m tonne/year Safco V plant in Saudi Arabia is expected to start commercial production in late March, while the two new 660,000-tonne/year MOPCO units in Egypt are expected to start up in late Q1/early Q2.
News & analysis
Urea news & analysis
ICIS launches Global Urea Markets General Methodology Consultation more >>
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Urea occurs as white hygroscopic crystals, which are either odourless or have a slight smell of ammonia. Urea is not considered to be harmful at normal temperature, but the dust may irritate the skin, eyes and nose.
The major outlet for urea, accounting for nearly 90% of total consumption, is as a fertilizer. Urea is also used in the manufacture of urea-formaldehyde resins, the synthesis of melamine, in adhesives and paints, and for laminates, moulding compounds, impregnating paper and textiles.
Urea is widely traded on international fertilizer markets. There are two main hubs in urea trade – the Black Sea and Arab Gulf. These flows are said to determine the global urea prices.
Urea production involves a two step process where the ammonia and carbon dioxide react to form ammonium carbamate which is then dehydrated to urea. In the process, ammonia and carbon dioxide are fed to the synthesis reactor which operates around 180-210oC and 150 bar pressure.