Bolivia’s sole urea plant may restart in Q2 amid $250m loss

Richard Ewing

22-Mar-2021

LONDON (ICIS)–Bolivian energy chiefs on Saturday hit out at the poor state of the country’s only nitrogen fertilizer plant as they promised to bring it back online imminently and pursue legal claims for $250m of lost revenue.

During a weekend visit to the troubled ammonia and urea plant at Bulo Bulo, Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energies, Franklin Molina, pledged to reactivate the YPFB-run facility as soon as all repairs and tests have been completed.

Commissioned only a few years ago, the $900m facility has suffered from a series of technical and mechanical issues, depriving domestic farmers and foreign customers of crop nutrients and industrial products.

“The deliberate action of paralysing this petrochemical industrial complex has generated economic damage to the country of more than $250m,” said Minister Molina.

“I understand YPFB has initiated the corresponding legal actions and that all the corresponding actions are being taken so that this does not remain that way.”

No details about the individuals or entities who would receive the legal claims were disclosed in a pair of statements published on the YPFB website.

Situated amid rainforest, the state-owned facility has a nameplate capacity of 650,000 tonnes/year of urea, and 420,000 tonnes/year of ammonia, with most of the latter used as feedstock for the former.

In late 2020, officials from the new government confirmed damage to turbines and electronic equipment would take a long time to repair, with the plant having ceased activity in Q4 2019.

During the latest visit, YPFB president, Wilson Zelaya, noted his company is paying around $70,000 every five days to ensure the expensive catalysts are protected from damage.

“The plant is not built to be kept shut down, there is damage to equipment that occurred between November and December and this has generated considerable damage to the company’s economic performance,” he said.

“Fortunately, we have been able to obtain and temporarily import hired equipment until the plant can be put back into service.”

The senior executive added he was confident the plant could restart commercial production in May or June of this year, meaning exports to the lucrative Brazilian agricultural market may only be months away.

inspeccion-PAU.jpegBolivian officials pictured during their visit to the troubled plant over the weekend. Photo courtesy of YPFB

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