Citing much-improved margins, fertilizer giant PotashCorp said Feb. 1 it will launch an 18-month, US$158 million startup process for its idled anhydrous- processing operations in southern Louisiana.
The Saskatoon firm in 2003 suspended ammonia processing at Geismar, south of Baton Rouge, citing prohibitively high prices for the natural gas used to make anhydrous. It kept making fertilizers such as urea, UAN and nitric acid at Geismar with imported ammonia.
The Geismar plant, with ammonia production capacity of 1,500 short tonnes per day, will restart in the midst of an upswing for PotashCorp’s margins on nitrogen.
For its fourth quarter in 2010, PotashCorp reported a gross margin of $151.9 million on all nitrogen products, triple that of the year-earlier period.
PotashCorp’s total average cost for natural gas over that time, meanwhile, rose to $5.62 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in its 2010 Q4, up 24 per cent.
Billiton mine moves to next phase
One of the world’s biggest mining firms is taking its proposals for a potash mine in eastern Saskatchewan from “pre-feasibility” to the “feasibility” study stage. BHP Billiton on Feb. 2 described its move as “an advanced stage of the (company’s) project approvals process.”
Market observers consider Billiton a potential game changer in a sector dominated by a small clutch of players such as PotashCorp and Mosaic.
Billiton now expects its project at Jansen, Sask. to start producing “saleable potash” in 2015 and draw about eight million tonnes of potash per year over about 70 years.