Belgium’s Aliphos aims to ‘take back’ prime position on DCP market with €75m plant - exec

Source: ICIS News

2017/12/06

Ecophos Dunkirk plant

LONDON (ICIS)--Aliphos is aiming to “take back” its past market position in the European di-calcium phosphate (DCP) market with the start-up of its new €75m plant in Dunkirk, France, according to the head of investor relations at the Belgium-headquartered producer.

John Gustin conceded the 220,000 tonne/year DCP plant will bring extra capacity and added that the company is confident they could export it to overseas markets.

The plant’s commission phase has begun and the ramp up period will follow; it is expected to reach its full capacity of 220,000 tonnes/year in mid-2018.

“On DCP, our objective is to take back our market position we had before the closure of the Belgian site previously owned by Tessenderlo, before Ecophos group acquired Aliphos business [in March 2014]”, said Gustin.

“The extra capacity will be exported outside Europe.”

The plant’s construction, announced in 2015 and completed in the third-quarter of 2017, would rank Aliphos as Europe’s largest producer of phosphates for animal feed, according to the company.

Aliphos has other two plants in the Netherlands and Bulgaria. The company has a total production capacity for DCP of 620,000/tonnes/year.

The site is currently producing di-hydrate DCP, for which Aliphos’ branded name is Aliphos Dical +.

“The current DCP is anhydrous and our Dical+ is 82% digestible while standard product is around 55% digestible. In addition, our product is a micro-crystal making [it] free flowing with no dust [and it] is the purest on the market [being] nearly cadmium free,” said Gustin, pictured right.

He said that Aliphos’ position on HCl is dependent on the product’s availability and pricing, adding that the DCP plant will be able to use as feedstocks both HCl or phosphoric acid, or a mixture of both.

Gustin said the company has flexibility in raw materials, adding that if the HCl price is too high, then it could use phosphoric acid instead.

Players in the HCl market initially had high expectations for the possible impact the new plant could have on the market, though mixed views were expressed last quarter when the construction was completed.

The structurally long European HCl market has been heavily oversupplied this year, with spot prices reaching record lows in parts of northwest Europe.

Along with its choice of acid, low grade rock phosphate will be used in production, after which calcium carbonate will be added to the process.

Aliphos is currently in the middle of contract negotiations for its raw materials for 2018, said Gustin. Though the producer can recycle HCl from the production process via the co-product calcium chloride, spot material may also be required.

“In the medium-term we will use the Ecophos technology to recycle the HCl, but fresh product may still be needed in smaller quantity”, Gustin said.

Though there is no fixed volume of HCl said to be used in the process, the plant is expected to absorb surplus volumes of HCl from the European market.

The annual HCl contract negotiations for 2018 have begun, and the prospect of additional demand from Aliphos has contributed to discussions.

Pictured: Aliphos plant during the construction phase. Picture sources: Aliphos, LinkedIn

Interview article by Eashani Chavda