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Nutrien expects strong nitrogen demand for 1Q

06 Feb 2018 19:01 GMT
Nutrien expects strong nitrogen demand for 1Q

Houston, 6 February (Argus) — Canada-based fertilizer producer Nutrien expects nitrogen demand to remain strong during the first quarter on low Indian urea inventories and reduced output from China.

In North America, Nutrien expects US imports for the first half of 2018 to rebound to levels seen at the same time last year, offsetting a 1mn t decline in imports between July and December 2017 that has outpaced new US production.

In the fourth quarter, planned and unplanned outages at Nutrien nitrogen facilities reduced product availability, resulting in lower sales volumes and higher prices for some products.

Prolonged turnarounds during the second half of 2017 reduced supply from former Agrium plants, while a turnaround at an Augusta, Georgia, plant limited then-PotashCorp's availability. Agrium and PotashCorp merged in January 2018 to form Nutrien.

Total nitrogen production from PotashCorp fell by 3pc from the prior year to 765,000t during the fourth quarter. Agrium's gross urea and ammonia production declined by 24pc and 22pc to 372,000t and 557,000t, respectively.

The skid in production limited product availability during the fourth quarter, resulting in lower sales volumes for both companies.

Combined fourth quarter nitrogen sales volumes for the two companies totaled 2.33mn t, down by 10pc from the prior year.

PotashCorp results

PotashCorp's nitrogen sales declined during the fourth quarter as a result of a turnaround at Augusta, but average sales prices rose on lower Chinese urea exports and curtailments at key ammonia supply regions, Nutrien said.

Nitrogen sales volumes fell by 3pc from the prior year to 1.6mn t on lower urea and solutions production. Urea and nitrogen solutions sales volumes declined by 7pc from the prior year to 283,000t and 795,000t, respectively, during the three-month period. Full-year urea sales volumes were flat with 2016 at 1.16mn t, while solutions sales declined by 2pc year-over-year to 2.9mn t.

Ammonia sales volumes climbed by 6pc year-over-year to 505,000t during the fourth quarter and full-year sales were flat at 2.2mn t.

Average nitrogen prices increased by $25/t from the prior year to $207/t on higher ammonia and urea prices. Average ammonia sales prices increased by $57/t year-over-year to $270/t, while urea increased by $43/t from the prior year to $288/t. Nitrogen solutions prices slid by $4/t to $138/t.

Agrium results

Agrium's fourth quarter nitrogen sales volumes fell by 21pc year-over-year to 752,000t. Urea volumes slid by 32pc from the prior year to 300,000t, while ammonia declined by 22pc year-over-year to 261,000t.

Agrium's average nitrogen sales price fell by $5/t from the prior year to $293/t. Average urea sales prices rose by $13/t from the prior year to $287/t ($260/st) on reduced product availability, while nitrogen solutions jumped by $12/t year-over-year to $234/t ($212/st). Ammonia prices averaged $342/t ($310/st) during the fourth quarter, down by $29/t from the prior year.

The extended outage at the Redwater, Alberta, plant limited ammonium sulfate availability during the quarter, resulting in lower sales volumes and a higher sales price. Agrium sold 61,000t of amsul during the three-month period, a 38pc decline from the prior year. But the average sales price jumped by $21/t from the prior year to $261/t ($237/st).

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