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Since 2021 the global muriate of potash (MOP) fertilizer market has endured a wave of change not seen since the collapse of the Russia/Belarus trading cartel in 2013. Sanctions imposed by Western nations on Belarus’ vast potash export industry and companies supporting Russia’s MOP mining firms has led to an extended period of unrest, all-time-high prices, and a dramatic shift in supply/demand dynamics.

ICIS’ global MOP report offers valuable insights into the “new normal” of global potash trading, as nations move to secure tonnage from new sources, producers attempt new trade routes, and upstart companies such as Anglo American and Brazil Potash angle in on a share of the 98m tonne/year trade.

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Highfield Resources to receive funds for Spain potash project, acquire Canada greenfield

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Spanish fertilizer firm Highfield Resources has entered a non-binding letter of intent for cooperation with Yankuang Energy Group and other investors which would give the company funding for its Muga Potash project and acquisition of a greenfield development in Saskatchewan, Canada. Yankuang Energy Group would become the largest shareholder under the deal, which would see the company and other investors, collectively referred to as the Cornerstone Placement. provide $220 million in funding for Muga phase one, which Highfield confirms is construction ready. The producer said Yankuang Energy intends to provide up to $90 million to support the Cornerstone Placement with the other strategic investors providing the remaining balance in exchange Highfield will issue the investors new ordinary shares. Beyond allowing it to advance the Spanish project, this agreement would also pave the way company officials said for the transformation of Highfield into a globally diversified potash company as they would receive the Southey Potash project in Saskatchewan. This would be completed by the acquisition of the shares in Yancoal Canada, a subsidiary of Yankuang Energy, who currently has this development, which is described as a greenfield potash mine project. Southey is located approximately 60km north of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada and is being designed as a solution mining operation with environmental approval in place and a feasibility study completed. Highfield added that there is a high confidence reserve estimate at the project with significant resource potential and that it is forecasted to have a mine life of more than 65 years. The planned annual production is estimated at 2.8 million tonnes/year of muriate of potash (MOP). The producer said the combination of Southey and Muga is expected to turn Highfield into a more significant potash market participant as it could eventually have a total production capacity potential of 3.8 million tonnes/year of MOP.


Silver Valley Metals selling Idaho project to refocus on Mexico lithium and SOP project

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Brownfield exploration company Silver Valley Metals announced it has signed an asset purchase agreement for the Ranger-Page project in Idaho which will allow it to refocus efforts at its lithium and potash project in central Mexico. The firm said the decision came after careful consideration of its options about how to move forward in the most effective and least capital dilutive way. With two significant projects and a share structure that remains intact, the company said entering a sale with Silver Dollar Resources Incorporated was considered to be the most strategic option. Part of the decision was based on them having continued participation in the Ranger-Page project through its 12% equity stake in Silver Dollar. Silver Valley Metals CEO Brandon Rook said selling the Ranger-Page project will help relieve the company from having to undergo substantial capital dilution in order to meet the financial obligations it has over the next 15 months. “We believe there is strong upside to Silver Dollar’s share value because of its tier one assets in their portfolio today. With this transaction, Silver Valley avoids diluting its shares on a 2X plus multiple and adds dollars to the treasury at the same time,” said Rook. Following the transaction, the company said it will be in a good position to refocus efforts at its lithium and sulphate of potash (SOP) project located in the states of Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi. Comprised of 4,056 hectares over three mineral concessions, the project’s inferred mineral resource has demonstrated that the area contains 12.3 million tonnes of SOP and 243,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent.


Australia BCI Minerals signs long-term transhipment agreement for Mardie project

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Australian BCI Minerals announced it has signed a 21-year transhipment services agreement with CSL Australia for its Mardie salt and potash project in Western Australia. The producer said undertaking transhipment operations at Mardie provides a cost-effective alternative to a deep-water port as it eliminates the need for towage and pilots and is expected to perform well in the local weather conditions. As planned, the transhipper will travel 12-15 nautical miles from a jetty loadout facility to fill ocean-going vessels with a deadweight of up to 207,000 tonnes, which BCI said gives a significant strategic advantage over regional competitors, which cannot load vessels of this size. This agreement, valued at Australian dollars (A$) 598 million ($398.7 million) will be delivered in two phases, with the first portion done under a 12-month time charter agreement using an existing transhipment vessel. At the same time, CSL will construct a new vessel to use at Mardie, which is targeting output of 5 million tonnes/year of salt and 140,000 tonnes/year of sulphate of potash (SOP). It is anticipated this new transhipment vessel will be constructed in approximately 36 months. BCI said phase two will begin upon commissioning of their vessel and completion of a 20-year services agreement which will contain two five-year extension options. “BCI Minerals is very pleased to sign this major contract with CSL for a vessel specifically designed for the Mardie salt and potash project, which will provide us with a secure and cost-effective shipping solution providing real benefits to our operations and our customers,” said David Boshoff, BCI Minerals managing director. “CSL’s market leading reputation for delivering transhipment solutions and their commitment to safety and reliability make them an ideal long-term partner for BCI Minerals.” $1 = A$1.50


Canadian Nutrien temporarily suspends Saskatchewan mine following fatality

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Canadian fertilizer major Nutrien temporarily suspended operations at its Rocanville, Saskatchewan, mine after a fatality at the railcar loading facility this past weekend. The producer is investigating the 19 May incident and cooperating with the review being undertaken by Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety. It expects to recommence the potash mine facility, located approximately 250 kilometres east of Regina, on 22 May. “Following the tragic fatality of one of our colleagues at our Rocanville mine on Sunday, 19 May, authorities have conducted investigations at the site. Nutrien is carrying out its own investigations. We continue to provide support to all those affected by this tragic event,” said Nutrien spokesperson. The United Steelworkers union (USW) did announce that it was one of their members who was involved but the name has not been released. “Our community is in mourning over this tragic incident at our mine site and our thoughts go out to the family, friends and our union family who are deeply impacted,” said Derek Palmer, USW Local 7916 president.


India’s Epigral commissions 45,000 tonne/year chlorinated PVC resin line

MUMBAI (ICIS)–India’s Epigral Ltd has commissioned its 45,000 tonne/year chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) resin line at its facility in Dahej in the western Gujarat state. “Epigral now has a total CPVC resin capacity of 75,000 tonnes/year, positioning it as the largest CPVC resin facility in the world at a single location,” it said in a disclosure to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) on 3 April. Epigral, formerly known as Meghmani Finechem Ltd, is a leading integrated manufacturer of chemicals in India, producing caustic soda, chlorine, caustic potash, chloromethanes, CPVC and hydrogen peroxide at its Dahej facility. “With this [CPVC] expansion, we are advancing towards our goal of becoming a multi-product company, geared up to enhance contribution from the derivatives and specialty chemicals segments,” Epigral chairman & managing director Maulik Patel said. The increased capacity will help the company meet rising global and domestic demand for CPVC resins, it said, adding that the increased capacity will also help reduce India’s reliance on imports of the material. Domestic demand for CPVC currently stands at around 250,000 tonnes/year and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 10-13%, a company source said. Separately, the company expects to commission its 35,000 tonne/year CPVC compound facility before June 2024. India currently imports its CPVC resin and CPVC compound requirements, and the new plant will help Epigral cater to domestic demand for both products. Meanwhile, the company also expects to commission its chlorotoluene and downstream value chain facility in the current calendar year, the company source said. Once operational, the chlorotoluene facility will produce intermediates for manufacturing pharmaceutical and agrochemical active ingredients. “Right now, India imports its chlorotoluene requirement completely from China, Japan, and Europe. We expect to cater to custom manufacturing companies that are currently importing this raw material,” the company source added.


TOPIC PAGE: Sustainability in the fertilizers industry

On this topic page, we gather the latest news, analysis and resources, to help you to keep track of developments in the area of sustainability in the fertilizers industry. LATEST NEWS HEADLINES New urea application rules to be implemented in England from 1 April By Deepika Thapliyal 27-Mar-24 LONDON (ICIS)–In England, famers will only be able to apply solid or liquid urea that is treated with an inhibitor from 1 April, according to new regulations from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) that come into force next month. UPM Biochemicals launches new range of bio-based plant stimulants By Sylvia Traganida 27-Mar-24 LONDON (ICIS)–UPM Biochemicals has launched a new range of bio-based plant stimulants which is an alternative to fossil raw materials-based products, the Finnish paper and renewable chemicals firm said on Tuesday. Mabanaft signs letter of intent for supply of green ammonia from Canada By Sylvia Traganida 19-Mar-24 LONDON (ICIS)–Germany-headquartered energy firm Mabanaft has signed a letter of intent (LOI) with US-based Pattern Energy for the supply of green ammonia to Mabanaft. Yara Growth Ventures invests in electrolysis technology for low-cost renewable hydrogen By Sylvia Traganida 08-Mar-24 LONDON (ICIS)–Norwegian fertilizer major Yara has invested in Danish electrolysis technology company Dynelectro through its corporate venture capital team Yara Growth Ventures. Yara signs agreement with Acme Cleantech subsidiary on green ammonia By Sylvia Traganida 01-Mar-24 LONDON (ICIS)–Norwegian fertilizer major Yara has signed an agreement with GHC SAOC for supply of ammonia with reduced carbon emissions from Acme to Yara on a long-term basis. Idemitsu to join US clean ammonia project By Stefan Baumgarten 27-Feb-24 LONDON (ICIS)–Idemitsu Kosan has agreed to join a 1.2 million tonne/year clean ammonia project that Mitsubishi Corp and Proman plan to develop at Lake Charles, Louisiana, US, it said on Tuesday. Germany’s Heraeus invests in Japanese ammonia tech company By Stefan Baumgarten 22-Feb-24 LONDON (ICIS)–German technology group Heraeus has invested an undisclosed amount in Tsubame BHB, a Japanese company that has developed a precious metal-based technology for decentralized ammonia production. Malaysia’s PCG, Sarawak Petchem agree to study low-carbon ammonia and urea plant By Nurluqman Suratman 21-Feb-24 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Malaysia’s PETRONAS Chemicals Group (PCG) and methanol producer Sarawak Petchem on Wednesday signed an agreement for a joint feasibility study aimed at establishing a low-carbon ammonia and urea production facility in Bintulu, Sarawak. Egypt’s Helwan signs agreement to produce black urea By Deepika Thapliyal 20-Feb-24 LONDON (ICIS)–In Egypt, Helwan has signed an agreement with SML-INNO UK Ltd to set up the world's first vertical integrated unit to produce black urea, with a capacity of 130,000 tonnes annually, the company said today. EU eases climate proposals after widespread farmer protests By Chris Vlachopoulos 07-Feb-24 LONDON (ICIS)–European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Tuesday that the EU has agreed to ease key demands in its climate proposal plans, following intense protests from farmers. Tecnimont awarded engineering contract for Portugal green hydrogen, ammonia plant By Graeme Paterson 05-Feb-24 LONDON (ICIS)–Tecnimont has been awarded an engineering contract to develop an integrated green hydrogen and green ammonia plant at Sines, Portugal, its parent company Maire said. EU CARBON BORDER ADJUSTMENT MECHANISM (CBAM) EXPLAINED What is it? The risk of carbon leakage frustrates the EU’s efforts to meet climate objectives. It occurs when companies transfer production to countries that are less strict on emissions, or when EU products are replaced by more carbon-intensive imports. This new mechanism would counteract this risk by putting a carbon price on imports of certain goods from outside of the EU. How will it work? EU importers will buy carbon certificates corresponding to the carbon price that would have been paid, had the goods been produced under the EU's carbon pricing rules. Conversely, once a non-EU producer can show that they have already paid a price for the carbon used in the production of the imported goods, the corresponding cost can be fully deducted for the EU importer. This will help reduce the risk of carbon leakage by encouraging producers in non-EU countries to make their production processes greener. A reporting system will apply from 2023 with the objective of facilitating a smooth roll out and to facilitate dialogue with non-EU countries. Importers will start paying a financial adjustment in 2026. How is the fertilizer industry affected? The fertilizer industry is one of the sectors to fall under the CBAM. The more energy-intensive nitrogen fertilizers will be affected most in the sector by the mechanism. NEW UREA APPLICATION NORMS IN ENGLAND The UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has imposed new regulations on urea application in England. Famers will only be able to apply solid or liquid urea that is treated with an inhibitor from 1 April. The move is aimed to reduce ammonia emissions, and would increase costs for farmers by an estimated £40/tonne. The new rules apply to any fertilizer that contains 1% or more of urea nitrogen, with applications of solid urea or liquid (urea ammonium nitrate) fertilizer from 1 April having to include a urease inhibitor Untreated solid urea or liquid UAN fertilizer can be applied between 15 January to 31 March each year. Untreated liquid UAN fertiliser can be applied after 1 April if agronomic justification is provided by a certified fertilizers advisor, mentioning ammonia losses will be at or below the level of when a urease inhibitor is included. Foliar urea applications targeting the crop, using normal spray nozzles do not require a urease inhibitor. The implementation of the Defra regulations was delayed by two years due to higher fertilizer prices and lack of supply following the covid pandemic and the Ukraine war. PREVIOUS  NEWS HEADLINES EU proposes relaxation in policy following farmer protests Biden Administration invests $207m in domestic fertilizer and clean energy endeavours Brazil’s state of Ceara, Bp sign MoU for green hydrogen site  Atome Energy in talks with buyers for green fertilizer from Paraguay unit Sweden's Cinis targets Asia potash market with Itochu partnership Helwan selects Eurotecnica's Euromel G5 technology for new melamine facility in Egypt India’s Adani Group plans $24bn green energy park; RIL to commission giga complex INPEX and LSB pick technology for US ammonia project Bayer partners with energy firms on hydrogen cluster in Germany S Korean group picks KBR tech for Malaysian green ammonia project Abu Qir signs MoU for green ammonia project in Egypt Yara aims to launch first container ship to run off clean ammonia India’s Odisha state approves green hydrogen, ammonia, methanol projects ADM announces launch of regenerative agriculture program in Brazil Fertiglobe completes first renewable ammonia shipment with carbon certification Allied Green Ammonia picks Topsoe’s tech for Australia project Germany’s VNG looks to secure offtake from Norwegian low carbon ammonia plant Gentari enters into agreement with AM Green to invest into a green ammonia delivery platform ITOCHU Corporation, Orascom Construction sign MOU for development of ammonia bunkering in Suez Canal India developing port infrastructure for green hydrogen exports S Korea, Saudi Arabia firms sign 46 pacts, includes blue ammonia project INSIGHT: CBAM reporting begins, fertilizer exporters to EU challenged to account for carbon KBR to supply green ammonia tech to Madoqua Power2X site in Portugal Germany’s SOM to build green hydrogen, ammonia facility in Brazil’s Piaui state US ADM and Syngenta sign MoU to collaborate on low carbon oilseeds to meet biofuel demand Tecnicas Reunidas, Allied Green Ammonia to build green hydrogen and green ammonia plant in Australia Australian fertilizer producer Orica accelerates climate change targets Nestle, Cargill and CCm Technologies launch joint UK trial on sustainable fertilizer EnBW acquires stake in planned Norwegian ammonia plant  Yara Germany signs agreement for decarbonisation of cereal cultivation using green fertilizers Hyphen, ITOCHU ink MoU to explore potential Namibia hydrogen collaboration  INSIGHT: BASF grapples with demand trough, slow road back SABIC AN ships low-carbon urea to New Zealand US Cargill and John Deere collaborate to enable revenue for farmers adopting sustainability Canada’s Lucent Bio announces approval of biodegradable nutrient delivery patent Aker, Statkraft’s 10-year PPA to spur European renewable ammonia push further BASF, Yara Clean Ammonia to evaluate low-carbon blue ammonia production facility in US Gulf Coast Yara Clean Ammonia, Cepsa to launch clean hydrogen maritime corridor EU details CBAM reporting obligations Saudi Arabia’s Ma’aden exports its first low-carbon blue ammonia shipments to China US Bunge and Nutrien Ag announce alliance to support sustainable farming practices Maire subsidiary Stamicarbon wins US green ammonia engineering contract India’s IFFCO launches liquid nano-DAP fertilizer EU Parliament backs CBAM, emissions trading measures OCP granted €100m green loan to build solar plants at Morocco facilities EU unveils plans to tackle greenwashing India’s IFFCO and CIL to manufacture nano DAP for three years USDA awards Ostara funds to boost sustainable phosphate fertilizer output Canadian prime minister confirms fertilizer emission goal is voluntary US fertilizers industry increases carbon capture in 2021 – TFI Indian president calls for reduction in chemical fertilizer use IFFCO plans to export nano urea to 25 countries Amman selects Elessent Clean Technologies for Indonesia sulphuric acid plant Lotte Chemical forms clean ammonia consultative body with RWE and Mitsubishi Corporation Global 2020-2021 specialty fertilizer demand growth led by north America, Asia BASF and Cargill extend enzymes business and distribution to US Saudi Aramco awards sulphur facilities overhaul contract to Technip India sets green hydrogen targets for shipping, oil & gas, fertilizer sectors Germany misses climate target despite lower energy consumption TFI reacts to US Congress passing the Water Resources Development ActHelm becomes a shareholder in UK bio-fertilizer company Unium Bioscience Yara inks deal to deliver fossil-free green fertilizers to Argentina Canadian firms plan fuel cell generator pilot using green ammonia Deepak Fertilizers awards contract to reduce emissions, increase productivity Saudi Aramco launches $1.5bn sustainability fund to support net zero ambition CF Industries and ExxonMobil plan CCS project in Louisiana Canada’s plan to cut fertilizer emissions is voluntary – minister Canada’s fertilizer emission goal raises food production concerns Uniper, Vesta to cooperate on renewable ammonia site in the Netherlands German Uniper to work with Japan’s JERA on US clean ammonia projects ADNOC ships first cargo of low-carbon ammonia to Germany US Mosaic and BioConsortia expand collaboration to microbial biostimulant IMO deems Mediterranean Sea area for sulphur oxides emissions control Canada's Soilgenic launches new enhanced efficiency fertilizers technology for retail Austria's Borealis aims to produce 1.8m tonnes/year of circular products by 2030 European Parliament rejects proposed carbon market reform IFA ’22: southern Africa looks to bio-fertilizer as cheaper, sustainable option IFA '22: Indian farmers will struggle to embrace specialty fertilizers – producer Canadian Nutrien plans to build world’s largest clean ammonia facility in Louisiana Japan's JGC Holdings awards green ammonia plant contract to KBR Bayer to partner with Ginkgo to produce sustainable fertilizers Australia Orica and H2U Group partner on Gladstone green ammonia project Canada sets tax credit of up to 60% for carbon capture projects UK delays urea restrictions to support farmers as fertilizer costs at record high EU states agree to back carbon border tax Yara to develop novel green fertilizer from recycled nutrients USDA announces plans for $250m grant programme to support American-made fertilizer Canada seeks guidance to achieve fertilizer emissions target Fertilizer titan Pupuk Indonesia develops hydrogen/blue ammonia business India launches green hydrogen/ammonia policy, targets exports Canada AmmPower to develop green hydrogen and ammonia facility in Louisiana US DOE awards grant to project to recover rare earth elements from phosphate production Fertiglobe, Masdar, Engie to develop green hydrogen for ammonia production Czech Republic’s Spolana enhances granular AS production India’s Reliance to invest $80bn in green energy projects Yara, Sweden’s Lantmannen aim to commercialise green ammonia by 2023 Novatek and Uniper target Russia to Germany blue-ammonia supply chain Fertz giant Yara goes green with electrification of Norwegian factoryCanada Arianne Phosphate exploring use of phosphate for hydrogen technology FAO and IFA renew MoU to promote sustainable fertilizer use Sumitomo Chemical, Yara to explore clean ammonia collaboration Sri Lanka revokes ban on imports Tokyo scientists convert bioplastic into nitrogen fertilizer Aramco plans Saudi green hydrogen, ammonia project China announces action plan for carbon peaking & neutrality Saudi Aramco targets net zero emissions from operations by 2050 Fertiglobe goes green with Red Sea zero-carbon ammonia pro Australian fertilizer major Incitec Pivot teams up for green ammonia study INTERVIEW: BASF to scale up new decarbonisation tech in second half of decade – CEO India asks fertilizer companies to speed up production of nano DAP Japan's Itochu set to receive first cargo of blue ammonia for fertilizer use Norway's Yara acquires recycled fertilizers maker Ecolan Bayer Funds US start-up aims to cut nitrogen fertilizer use by 30% BP: Green ammonia production in Australia feasible, but needs huge investment Origin and MOL explore shipping green ammonia from Australia India’s IFFCO seeks to export nano urea fertilizer Sri Lanka reinstates ban on import of chemical fertilizers Nutrien to cut greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030 RESOURCES IFA – Fertilizers and climate change  TFI – Sustainability report 


INSIGHT: Altair Chemical drives for sustainability/performance with focus on renewables

GALLARATE, Italy (ICIS)–The global chlor-alkali market has faced significant change through recent years of economic underperformance, including fluctuations in demand, price volatility, supply chain disruptions, cost reduction measures, market consolidation, and a greater focus on efficiency and innovation. Adapting to these changes has been vitally important for producers to navigate the continued challenging economic environment and to sustain operations. A shift to renewable power for chlor-alkali production is gathering pace as producers seek a more environmentally friendly means of producing chlorine and caustic soda while keeping an eye on costs. Electricity is the main cost element for chlor-alkali producers and can be seen as the major feedstock for plants in which a salt solution is split electrochemically into its component elements. In Italy, Esseco Industrial completed a merger within its industrial group at the start of this year that consolidates its chlor-alkali, caustic potash and hydrochloric acid operations giving it the prospect of capitalising on production, management, logistics and storage synergies. It has merged the activities of Hydrochem, a chlor-alkali production facility in Pieve Vergonte, in the Piemonte region, with Altair Chimica, a caustic potash (KOH) production location in Tuscany. The Hydrochem venture now operates as part of a globally strengthened Esseco Industrial, Roberto Vagheggi, general director of Esseco Industrial and CEO of the company’s chlor-alkali division told ICIS in an interview. Esseco Industrial produces organic and inorganic chemicals and has a turnover of some €700m. It is part of the Esseco Group, a family-run holding with over a century of history, which offers products and services for the organic and inorganic chemistry industry, specializing in sulfur derivatives and chlor-alkali. The corporate merger represents a step in a process started some time ago within Esseco Industrial and an investment of more than €50m. The Pieve Vergonte plant was hit hard by an economic crisis that began in 2019 and has had to be re-launched onto the chlor-alkali market. It faced the significant challenge of moving to membrane production and the elimination of mercury. Previously, in 2011 Esseco Group purchased Saline di Volterra, in Tuscany, its main Italian customer for caustic potash (KOH), the acquisition being an important milestone for the company. The Pieve Vergonte and Saline di Volterra sites have chlorine capacities of 45,000 tonnes/year and 80,000 tonnes thousand tonnes/year respectively. Altair Chimica was one of the first European companies to move to membrane technology and abandon mercury cell production. It signed an agreement with Italy’s Ministry of the Environment and the EU for the redevelopment and modernisation of the Saline di Voltera plant, to eliminate mercury and to reduce electricity consumption and the use of water from a nearby river. A new caustic potash plant, the first of its type, was built from scratch at the site. Vagheggi said that the merger with Hyrdochem has made it possible to streamline all processes for Altair Chemical from production to sales and through to post-sales thanks to new synergies and a renewed dialogue between the two plants. “The objective is to maximize production capacity, strengthen industrial activity under a single organisation, strengthen synergies between plants by sharing both storage management and logistics planning so that processes can be made as efficient as possible sales, offering customers high quality standards,” Vagheggi said. Esseco Industrial is environmentally sustainable, as it mainly uses renewable energy. Two proprietary hydroelectric power plants are operational in the Pieve Vergonte plant, which has allowed the company to exceed 75% use of renewable energy in internal consumption, making the site among the few that can be considered environmentally sustainable of their kind. Esseco Industrial says that it strongly believes in the energy transition. Thanks to a mix that also includes photovoltaic and process steam, the division consumes over 50% green energy and more than 55% energy with zero CO2 emissions. Another significant energy element is the hydrogen produced in Esseco Industrial by electrolysis (using, as mentioned, 50% renewable energy). This in turn, contributes to the decarbonisation of the thermal energy necessary for chemical reactions. Hydrogen is combined with chlorine to produce hydrochloric acid. “Today the company is working on future projects for the production of renewable hydrogen which will complement the hydrogen already produced by the chlorine/soda and chlorine/potash plants” Vagheggi said. Insight by Valentina Cherubin


INSIGHT: After boom and bust, global potash strives for stability

LONDON (ICIS)–Three of the world’s largest muriate of potash (MOP) fertilizer majors recorded considerable financial losses year-on-year in 2023, as a panic-driven price boom of 2022 led to a bust last year – although signs of stability have given rise to hopes for a more 'normal' year ahead. The global MOP market trades around 70 million tonnes annually – making it the largest-volume fertilizer sold on the planet – and has undergone complete upheaval in the past three years. Potash is an umbrella term for a number of potassium-based powdered or granulated fertilizers produced in only 13 nations worldwide; with a total yearly production above 90m tonnes. This limited number of sources explains why export sanctions first levelled in mid-2021 on Belarus – the world’s second-largest producer of MOP – quickly snowballed into an avalanche of change which has since swept across the traditionally sedate global potash trade. POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONSIn May 2021 Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko ordered the grounding of EasyJet flight 4978 as it passed over his territory – ostensibly because of a bomb threat – before removing dissident blogger Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega from the aircraft. Western powers were quick to condemn the move and in coming months imposed sanctions on the money-spinning Belarusian MOP export industry, as well as a wide variety of other export goods and named Belarusian executives profiting under Lukashenko’s regime. The largest issue thrown up by the sanctions was the dissolution of state-run MOP marketing arm Belarusian Potash Company’s (BPC) longstanding agreement with the port of Klaipeda, Lithuania – the MOP major’s primary export hub for global trading – and Lithuanian Railways, which handled trans-shipment. The sanctions therefore effectively cut off landlocked Belarus’ MOP from the global marketplace – including the key MOP-consuming nations of India, China and Brazil. With Belarus neutered in the global marketplace, that left Canada and Russia as the two largest producers of MOP – albeit briefly – as in February 2022 the opening shots of the invasion of Ukraine quickly drew global condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime. Initially potash exports were not targeted under the sanctions, although concerns continued to mount that sanctions placed on the nation by Western powers could make trading with Russia increasingly difficult, notably because of restrictions on bank transactions. Russian MOP exports declined steadily, and in October 2022 the European Commission's list of products sanctioned for export from Russia to the EU was extended to include phosphate fertilizers, alongside MOP, nitrates, and nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (NPK) blends. Although the sanctions stopped short of banning imports of Russian MOP into Europe entirely, the volume of tonnes declined rapidly. 2022: BOOMThe abrupt absence of much of Belarus’ MOP on the global market – and a decrease in Russian export volumes – led to a period of panic-buying in H1 2022, as importers and farmers rushed to secure tonnes ahead of their crops’ respective application period. Prices in the key Brazilian import market climbed to $1,250/tonne CFR (cost and freight) by April 2022 – the highest ever recorded by ICIS – and southeast Asia saw offers for both standard- and granular-grade MOP more than triple between June 2021 and June 2022 to $1,125/tonne and $1,200/tonne CFR, respectively. Other importers – shocked into inaction by the abrupt spike in offer prices and confident they were not sustainable – instead opted to skip that year’s application entirely; relying on the volume of potassium already in the ground to support their crops’ health without a fresh application. 2023: BUSTThroughout 2023 supply issues stemming from sanctions on Belarus MOP exports alongside businesses supporting Russia’s potash exports, were slowly side-stepped as new routes to market were unearthed. Belarusian MOP made its way to the global market via Russia’s ports and using rail networks into China and southeast Asia in vast volumes. Although the volume of Belarusian MOP exported to destinations other than China and southeast Asia was limited, Belarusian potash was shipped into Brazil in large volumes – which had an impact on landing prices for granular MOP. Russian MOP also started moving steadily after buyers found alternative routes to fund purchases outside of sanctioned banks and other financial institutions. The precise volumes both Russia and Belarus have managed to export is unclear, however, as the nations ceased reporting customs statistics shortly after the latter’s invasion of Ukraine. Combined with increased exports from other players keen to capitalise on Russia and Belarus’ absence, along with weak demand following the great panic of 2022 and buyers’ expectations of lower offers to come, major MOP players’ 2023 financial results were uniformly and unsurprisingly negative. BACK TO NORMALITY?Leading the 2023 results parade was the world’s largest MOP-exporting nation, Canada, where the largest supplier in the world, Nutrien, recorded an 83% slump in net earnings for 2023 year-on-year. US and Canadian major Mosaic followed, with a 72% year-on-year decline in operating earnings, and then Israel Chemicals (ICL), which logged a 68% fall in operating income. Nutrien 2023 consolidated results ($m) 2023 2022 Change (%) Sales 29,056 37,884 -23 Net earnings 1,282 7,687 -83 EBITDA 6,058 12,170 -50 ICL 2023 consolidated results ($m) Sales 7,536 10,015 -25 Operating income 1,141 3,516 -68 Adujsted EBITDA 1,754 4,007 -56 Mosaic sales and operating earnings 2023 ($m) Net sales 13,696.10 19,125.20 -28 Operating earnings 1,338.10 4,785.30 -72 *EBITDA: Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation However, all three firms remain upbeat on prospects for potash in the year ahead, despite the outwardly costly 2023 decline in earnings. Mosaic expects strong demand from North America, southeast Asia and Brazil, and increasing stability of supply globally. Nutrien estimates that full-year global shipments from all sources topped 67m-68m tonnes for 2023, supported by strong consumption in North America, China, and Brazil. For 2024, the Canadian major is projecting 68m-71m tonnes traded, with a gradual increase in availability from Russia, Belarus, and Laos – more than a return to the pre-sanctions 69m tonnes traded of 2020. Russia and Belarus continue to increase exports to nations which shun concerns for Western sanctions – notably China, which is receiving large-volume cross-border imports via rail; leaving some MOP players to ponder if Beijing will open talks for the traditional bellwether 2024 import contract at all. Meanwhile, Potash demand is expected to increase notably in southeast Asia across 2024 on low inventory levels, after buyers stepped back from the market in 2023 following 2022’s vast spike in offer prices. So far, in Q1 2024 offers at key bellwether destinations including southeast Asia and Brazil have been stable to weak – although the tide is turning as producers are confident a bottom has been reached and the market will move up as seasonal demand returns – albeit to a more 'normal. level than that seen in 2022’s boom year. “This is the year of trade flow change – and maybe of stability,” concluded one large-volume MOP trader. Insight by Andy Hemphill


US fertilizer market tepid amid severe winter conditions, but spring prospects stay positive

HOUSTON (ICIS)–In the US, the domestic fertilizer market is again showing tepid inclinations as barge and terminal demand is retreated, as there is renewed severe winter weather and corn prices have declined far enough to create more hesitancy from farmers on additional nutrient commitments. Within the New Orleans (Nola) urea market, participants are finding barge interests are again diminished to start this week’s trading with part of the lag due to the national holiday on Monday, but with little fresh interest emerging. There were a fair number of bids seen for January and February shipments, but sellers are seen as separately pulling back right now. The last barges concluded for shipping this month were done between $315-316/short ton FOB (free on board) on 12 January with the boost in values owing some of their lift to the recent India tender. For now, the market is awaiting spring demand to build further but that will have to likely wait a bit longer because after a mostly moderate winter, weather has turned difficult, with weather systems across the US having brought extreme cold as well as snow and ice across many states. This is keeping farmers halted on any activity for spring, which has caused additional demand to momentarily sag. For the urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) market, a slower pace of movement has unfolded to start the year, with it likely staying reduced until the start of plantings as most farming activities are paused for a few more weeks because of the ongoing weather. Currently, UAN values on barges and terminal volumes are not fluctuating like other nitrogen products have experienced, and there remains solid market expectations of a robust spring upcoming. The only fundamental change during January is that future crop prices have come under renewed pressure, which could impact upcoming nutrient buying, while at the same time prices for the forward months on other fertilizer products have lifted. There are some thoughts that UAN consumption could gain an advantage if those factors persist as supply is well-positioned, additional availability remains favorable and prices have shown stability. The possibility of lower crops prices could cause some growers to become more conservative on expenditures and look for lower-cost nutrient options with UAN a viable choice in many areas. With the weather pressures, most ammonia activity has stayed reduced for several weeks following a robust post-harvest application run, which to some is an early indicator that corn will gain a sizeable share of the plantings in the coming weeks. Despite the lag in fresh movement, overall ammonia values are holding stable against the backdrop of expectations of a good season ahead. If market conditions stay, it is possible ammonia could benefit from prices on other products climbing higher with supply well-positioned and offering growers a more positive crop ratio for the coming year. Looking at phosphates, the market is seeing that demand has recently been steady even after an active post-harvest period and there are some expectations that spring buying will initially be strong despite the significant restocking. Though for now, demand could dip over the rest of January until the cold temperatures and further snow leave, but overall values are showing solid strength ahead of the arrival of spring. Potash is another market that has been stable even during the winter downturn, with values steady amid projections that upcoming crop needs will be a tad stronger. This is based mostly on anticipations that there will be an uptick in acreage, especially for corn. Expectations are producers will run at rates like 2023 with producer Nutrien having recently unveiled its winter refill offerings at $385/short ton from Midwest terminals. The Canadian major is taking orders at the set price for Q1 delivery until 19 January, and at a $30/short ton increase for Q2 arrival. Nutrien said there has been a positive initial response as it is seeing customers optimistic about a strong spring application season. After seeing challenges for potash flow due to production and logistic impediments last year, it appears as if those issues have been resolved except for the low water levels on the US river system, especially the vital Mississippi river. Recent rainfall has been viewed as beneficial for lifting some of the river water levels and has been positive for upcoming sowings, especially within the states that have faced drought. Those areas need an adequate soil moisture recharge from either snow melting soon or the rain yet to come, as these two factors could both total plantings and subsequent fertilizer consumption. Moist ground will also lead to more runoff into the river systems in the coming weeks, which would help alleviate some of the issues with navigation including longer transit and reduced load size. For now, market participants are watching what is hoped to be the strongest hit of winter pass quickly with a relatively firm sentiment of a strong season left intact, and that as the US moves closer to the prime stretch of March-April that demand will be significant. Although the last corn crop production came in higher than projected at 15.3 billion bushels, there are strong views in both agriculture and fertilizer markets that sowings could climb even further this spring even with future prices having dropped below $5.00/bushel recently. Acreage decisions should begin to be finalized over the next few weeks which will help propel the market forward as further nutrient decisions will then follow.


Sage Potash receives approvals for exploration wells at Utah project

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Canadian potash developer Sage Potash Corporation announced it has received all required governmental approvals for two Class V exploration wells at its Sage Plain Potash project located in Utah’s Paradox Basin. The company said the Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining (UDOGM) and the Division of Water Quality (DWQ) have issued tentative approvals for both surface activities for drill pads and access roads and underground activities for wells. This clearance comes from an exploration injection permit application submitted in March 2023. Sage Potash said formal drill permits will be issued once bonding is approved and the company has received written acceptance from applicable agencies. Peter Hogendoorn, Sage Potash CEO, said this achievement was a significant event for the company as now the most consequential approvals have now been secured, pending bonding. “Sage’s successful drilling permit applications represent a pivotal milestone on the company’s path to achieving pilot-scale potash mining and processing activities,” said Hogendoorn. “The approved exploration wells will not only allow us to increase our understanding of the Sage Plain mineral resource, comprised in the upper and lower cycle 18 potash beds underlying the property, but these same wells will, in future, be transitioned to injection production and disposal wells.” Sage Potash said once well data is gathered it will apply to convert them into Class I and Class III wells which will allow for potash brine fluids recovery. Concurrently with the conversion, the company will submit the large mine operation permit for up to 150,000 tonnes/year. Sage is also advancing engineering and design for a 50,000 tonne/year pilot-scale potash solution mining operation, as part of its ongoing studies and production application. Data from this program will be included to complete the final large mine operation application. While acknowledging that capital market conditions for conventional project advancement are extremely difficult, Hogendoorn still expressed renewed upcoming confidence and said they have focused on permitting and engineering whereby value can be realized. “With the developments to date, together with the highly strategic land position of contiguous state and private mineral leases from which up to 70 mining units, each consisting of 320 acres, can be developed, management believes the project has now achieved significant milestones and, accordingly, eliminated substantial barriers to entry, which can be value realized in terms of time and capital for strategic interests,” Hogendoorn said. Sage Potash has retained ACP Capital Markets and said they have a proven history in financing under-valued projects in the agribusiness sector such as the Sage Plain project. It is now working with ACP in identifying and engaging with strategic industry partners and institutional investors.


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