Rentech to install new sulphuric acid converter at Texas plant

11 March 2014 13:37 Source:ICIS News

LONDON (ICIS)--Fertilizer manufacturer Rentech Nitrogen Partners said on Tuesday it is upbeat about the remaining nine months of 2014 now its two production facilities in Illinois and Texas are performing "exceptionally well" after lengthy plant outages impacted its fourth quarter performance.

The company, which produces a range of fertilizers including ammonia, urea, ammonium nitrate (AN) and ammonium sulphate (AS), also revealed it will install a new converter at its sulphuric acid plant in Pasadena in mid-July that will mean the unit is offline for around 20 days.

Rentech added it does not expect the three-week outage at the Texas unit, which will also enable work to take place on a co-generation power project, to impact AS production and the firm plans to purchase sulphuric acid in the open market during the shutdown.

According to the company, the Pasadena plant is expected to produce 555,000 short tons of sulphuric acid in 2014, along with 660,000 short tons of AS and 60,000 short tons of ammonium thiosuplhate.

Describing 2013 as a "challenging year" due to a delay in the spring season, falling prices and plant outages – one of which was caused by a fire at an ammonia converter –Rentech CEO, D. Hunt Ramsbottom, said scheduled and unscheduled plant downtime in the fourth quarter meant its East Dubuque facility was offline for 60 days and its Pasadena plant offline for 37 days.

"As we enter 2014, both facilities are operating exceptionally well, and we expect normal on-stream factors this year," he commented. "We completed our expansion, improvement and repair projects, so both plants are producing at significantly higher rates than last year.

"In addition, we continue to see higher prices for nitrogen products compared to the lows we witnessed during the second half of last year, and we remain encouraged that we will deliver improved financial and operating results in 2014."

While admitting recent cold weather in its key US corn-growing markets will impact its first quarter results, the firm expects a "substantial" improvement for the second quarter due to higher seasonal demand and improved product margins.

Rentech also updated its delivery guidance for the year ahead, saying it now expects the East Dubuque facility to deliver 315,000 short tons of urea ammonium nitrate (UAN), 190,000 short tons of ammonia, 55,000 short tons of urea and 15,000 short tons of nitric acid.

Further south and the company now expects its Pasadena facility to deliver 670,000 short tons of AS in 2014, 100,000 short tons of sulphuric acid and 60,000 short tons of ammonium thiosulphate.

Rentech posted a net loss of $17.4m for the three months ended 31 December 2013, versus a net profit of $17.6m in the year-ago period. Revenues fell to $54.6m from $92.4m in the same 13-week period of 2013.

By Richard Ewing