Fertilizer industry deals with tropical storm impacts but bracing for stronger Hurricane Laura

Author: Mark Milam

2020/08/25

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Having faced the first blow of a double tropical storm pattern, the fertilizer industry is keeping a watchful eye on developments of Hurricane Laura as the system moves closer to a landfall along the Texas-Louisiana coastline.

The approaching second storm and the earlier rain and wind impacts from tropical storm Marco have left fertilizer activity muted but to this point plant operations continue to function and there has been no immediate reports of damage to facilities.

With an ammonia plant in Freeport that it shares with BASF, a source with producer Yara said that the operations were not affected by Marco but “the jury is still out if they will close in front of Laura”

As the forecast intensives for Laura’s landfall with the possibility it will be a category 3 storm, and with plants in the projected path once it strikes the US, fertilizer producer Nutrien said, “Our plants in the southern United States continue to operate normally.”

“We continue to monitor conditions closely. If conditions deteriorate, threatening the safety of our employees and facilities, we will cease operations and return to normal only when safe to do.”

Other producers with operations that have faced Marco and could see consequences from Laura are CF Industries and Mosaic but neither have responded to a request for comment.

While the nitrogen and phosphates markets have a watchful eye on the developments, the storm damage could also be felt within the sulphur segment given its proximity to the US Gulf coast.

For both the sulphur and sulphuric acid markets, logistics disruption is widely expected, including rail embargoes and truck availability. It is understood several plants in the Beaumont, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, vicinity will halt operations starting Wednesday, but specifics are unconfirmed.

Sulphur handler Savage Services indicated it will keep a small crew at its Galveston, Texas, facility and remain running unless strong flooding comes forth. The crew will take in trucks of product as long as they are arriving.

Sulphuric acid supplier Shrieve Chemical said it has seen some disruption east of Houston, but that its business west of Houston has continued to proceed as normal.

Sulphur burner and acid producer Eco Services is not reducing its run rates ahead of the hurricane, while sulphur consumer and remelter Mosaic indicated operations would depend on truck availability.

On Monday, acid producer Cornerstone Chemical said it had not shut its facilities due to Tropical Storm Marco. A decision regarding operations and Hurricane Laura was not heard.

Veolia has implemented hurricane preparedness efforts and plans to keep its operations running.

Additional reporting by Annalise Porter