The ICIS weekly Urea reports are covered in China, Europe and the US as well as globally in The Market report. For China, there is an extensive coverage of export, ex-works and ex-warehouse prices, and the Europe report concentrates on spot prilled and granular grades in Yuzhny, Baltic, Middle East and northwest Europe, while the US has spot quotes for the US Gulf and Arab Gulf. All these prices assessments are supported by an independent market commentary that includes details of production news, exports, regional updates, demand and supply and any other key influencing factors. This reliable market intelligence can help you to make informed commercial choices.
Updated to Q1 2021
Chinese supply was low for most of Q1 but production rates jumped to 75% in late February. In India, two new plants with a combined capacity of 2.6m tonnes/year were delayed and expected to come online only in Q2.
Domestic demand in China has been delayed because of cold weather. Indian demand only emerged for shipment in Q2 ahead of the monsoon season. The announcement of the Indian tender was delayed by around a month as they waited for prices to ease. Southeast Asian buyers were on the sidelines as they waited for prices to cool off.
The European urea market was balanced. Demand was much stronger than expected but the lack of buying from other parts of the world meant there was sufficient tonnes available. Favourable weather conditions also supported the market.
Demand was much stronger than expected but this was because buyers held off committing to tonnes during the latter part of 2021. Many came to the market at once which drove demand. The weather across Europe was also a supporting factor, leaving conditions extremely favourable for growers.
In the US, ahead of the spring plantings the domestic supply was decreased through Q1. The limitations in imports continued as the US values did not attract an uptick in cargoes over the period. There was also a severe winter storm that knocked domestic production offline with a disruption to natural gas feedstock a serious consequence.
Demand increased as the start of spring came closer with US farmers ramping up to plant significant amounts of crops, especially corn. Buying was also supported by crop prices remaining favourable through the period, especially compared with last year. Although urea values did climb, they were still favourable for consumption to be strong this spring.
Production in China has increased while domestic demand is delayed, leading to higher exports. China is expected to ship 1m tonnes of urea to India by end-April, in the first tender of the year. India’s domestic production will also go up as Ramagundam and Matix start up some time in Q2. The plants have a respective capacity of 1.3m tonnes/year of urea.
India is now expected to tender every 30-45 days as the monsoon season or kharif sowing starts in June. Southeast Asian buyers are likely to return when prices fall. Chinese domestic demand is likely to remain slow.
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Nitrogen (N) fertilizers are produced chemically using natural gas and hydrogen that is contained in the air. Ammonia is produced by mixing nitrogen and hydrogen gases in the presence of heat, pressure and a catalyst compound.
Urea is the most widely-produced and commonly-traded nitrogen fertilizer. Production amounts to more than 140m. tonnes a year, of which about 30m.
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.
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