European ammonia production remains uncompetitive

  • Market: Fertilizers, Natural gas
  • 12/05/23

Domestic ammonia production remains uncompetitive with imports into Europe, even as European gas prices have fallen to their lowest since July 2021.

The front-month contract at the Dutch TTF — Europe's most traded gas hub — closed below €35/MWh on Wednesday for the first time since July 2021. It has fallen by around 50pc since the start of the year, and is almost 90pc below its all-time high of €319/MWh in August last year (see TTF graph).

Gas accounts for the majority of European ammonia production costs, meaning that the dramatic fall in gas prices has dragged down domestic production costs. But import prices have fallen even further, meaning it is still more economical to import ammonia than to produce it domestically.

Domestic ammonia production briefly became competitive with imports again early this year, having been uneconomical for the second half of last year. But imports have again become cheaper than domestic production since 16 March, although the gap has narrowed in recent weeks (see production vs import graph).

This has led to production curtailments in Europe in favour of imports. As of the end of April, Europe's largest ammonia producer Yara had curtailed 2.8mn t/yr — or 58pc — of its European capacity. It took its 600,000 t/yr Ferrara plant off line in late April, just three weeks after bringing it back on line following a nine-month shutdown, and is planning maintenance at its 383,000 t/yr Tertre plant in Belgium in the second quarter.

German chemicals giant BASF similarly reduced its first-quarter ammonia production, and plans to permanently close one of its ammonia plants.

Instead of trading its own output, Yara has said it will "use its global sourcing and production system to import ammonia to Europe and supply global customers where possible". Its European production facilities are located near ports, "enabling imports of raw materials like ammonia to limit production costs when European gas prices are high", Yara said.

Yara's EU plants — excluding its UK facility in Immingham — consume roughly 36mn Btu of gas per ton of ammonia produced according to Argus consulting services. This suggests that 2.8mn t/yr of idled capacity as of the end of April equates to an annual loss of just under 2.5bn m³/yr of gas consumption. And if the 42pc production rate at Yara's plants were mirrored across the entire EU's 19.6mn t/yr of production capacity, this would translate into a gas demand cut of just over 10bn m³/yr.

Weak chance of 3Q demand revival

The significant reduction in ammonia production costs is yet to stimulate much greater downstream demand for fertilisers, and seasonally low third-quarter demand makes it unlikely that there will be an uptick later this summer.

The significant fall in ammonia production costs in recent months has only spurred a small amount of additional demand in Europe, India and China.

And global fertiliser demand is normally at its lowest in the third quarter, while the US' 1.3mn t/yr Gulf Coast ammonia plant in Texas is due to come on line in July, suggesting an oversupplied market, according to Argus' latest ammonia outlook.

Ammonia demand may only pick up from around September, which is when buyers typically begin accumulating fertiliser stock for the autumn application season.

Ammonia production vs import cost $/t

TTF month 1 Jun 2021-present €/MWh

Sharelinkedin-sharetwitter-sharefacebook-shareemail-share

Related news posts

Argus illuminates the markets by putting a lens on the areas that matter most to you. The market news and commentary we publish reveals vital insights that enable you to make stronger, well-informed decisions. Explore a selection of news stories related to this one.

News
21/06/24

Urea paper markets rise on India tender rumours

Urea paper markets rise on India tender rumours

Amsterdam, 21 June (Argus) — Urea derivatives have reversed their downwards trajectory and moved back in line with physical prices today, driven by rumours that the Indian government may float a purchase tender next week. Middle East urea swaps rose to $340-350/t fob basis bids and offers for July-August contracts, up from $325-335/t fob at the start of the week. Chinese domestic urea futures also jumped later in the day, with the July contract up by as much as 1.82pc on the 20 June close, before settling up by 0.79pc at Yn2,160/t. The August contract was up by 2.19pc late in the afternoon trading session, before falling sharply to close up by 0.95pc at Yn2,130/t. Rumours of a potential tender to buy in India, the largest global urea importer and second-largest consumption market, appear to be the key driver of the bullish sentiment in the paper markets, reversing the downwards trend throughout most of this week. The tender's timing, if confirmed, would be contrary to most expectations, given that there is plenty of urea availability in India, with inventories climbing to more than 11mn t at the end of May, buoyed by strong domestic production. And the monsoon rains so far this season have lagged the long-term average by 17pc. But a tender issuance would imply that the government expects a potential surge in demand in July-September. Urea prices at major fob origins jumped by 27-28pc from early May to mid-June, but the resumption of production in key supply-market Egypt, following a gas shortage, weighed on physical prices this week to 20 June, pressuring levels by $5-10/t in most markets. By Harry Minihan Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Find out more
News

US urges EU to delay deforestation regulation: Update


21/06/24
News
21/06/24

US urges EU to delay deforestation regulation: Update

Adds comment from an EU official in paragraph six London, 21 June (Argus) — The US government has urged the European Commission to delay the implementation of the EU's deforestation regulation (EUDR), which is due to come into force from 30 December. "We are deeply concerned with the remaining uncertainty and the short time frame to address the significant challenges for US producers to comply with the regulation," US authorities said in a 30 May letter seen by Argus that was signed by agriculture secretary Thomas Vilsack, commerce secretary Gina Raimondo and US trade representative Katherine Tai, and addressed to the commission's vice-president, Maros Sefcovic. The US authorities have together with "several stakeholders" identified four "critical challenges" for US producers to understand and comply with the EUDR: no final version of the EUDR information system for producers to submit the mandatory due diligence documentation has been established yet; no implementation guidance has been provided — with the traceability system expected to launch in November; many EU member states have not designated a competent authority to enforce the regulation; and finally, the EU has an interim decision to classify all countries as standard risk, regardless of forestry practices. Should these issues not be addressed before the EUDR starts being enforced, it "could have significant negative economic effects on both producers and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic", the letter said. "We therefore urge the EU Commission to delay the implementation of this regulation and subsequent enforcement of penalties" until the challenges have been addressed, it added. An EU official confirmed receipt of the US letter to Argus and said the commission would reply in due course. A number of EU member states had also urged the EU to revise the EUDR in March, although the EU environment commissioner said at the time that the EU was ready for implementation and that they did "not see any issues". The EUDR requires mandatory due diligence from operators and traders selling and importing cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soya, rubber and wood into the EU. Derivative products that contain, have been fed with or made using cattle, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, soya, rubber and wood — such as leather, chocolate and furniture as well as charcoal, printed paper products and certain palm oil derivatives — are also subject to the regulation. Firms must ensure that products sold in the EU have not caused deforestation or forest degradation. The law sets penalties for non-compliance, with a maximum fine of at least 4pc of the total annual EU turnover of the non-compliant operator or trader. The regulation requires geolocation data for proof of traceability, and does not accept the widely used mass-balance approach, which has often been cited by industries as one major challenge for implementation. The EUDR will establish a system to assess the risk for individual countries, but the US Department of Agriculture has previously said that even if the US were classified as a low-risk country, compliance would still be costly and challenging, and at least $8bn/yr of US agricultural exports to the EU would be affected. By Erisa Senerdem and Dafydd ab Iago Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

US urges EU to delay deforestation regulation


21/06/24
News
21/06/24

US urges EU to delay deforestation regulation

London, 21 June (Argus) — The US government has urged the European Commission to delay the implementation of the EU's deforestation regulation (EUDR), which is due to come into force from 30 December. "We are deeply concerned with the remaining uncertainty and the short time frame to address the significant challenges for US producers to comply with the regulation," US authorities said in a 30 May letter seen by Argus that was signed by agriculture secretary Thomas Vilsack, commerce secretary Gina Raimondo and US trade representative Katherine Tai, and addressed to the commission's vice-president, Maros Sefcovic. The US authorities have together with "several stakeholders" identified four "critical challenges" for US producers to understand and comply with the EUDR: no final version of the EUDR information system for producers to submit the mandatory due diligence documentation has been established yet; no implementation guidance has been provided — with the traceability system expected to launch in November; many EU member states have not designated a competent authority to enforce the regulation; and finally, the EU has an interim decision to classify all countries as standard risk, regardless of forestry practices. Should these issues not be addressed before the EUDR starts being enforced, it "could have significant negative economic effects on both producers and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic", the letter said. "We therefore urge the EU Commission to delay the implementation of this regulation and subsequent enforcement of penalties" until the challenges have been addressed, it added. The US authorities are understood to not have received a formal reply to the letter from the commission yet. A number of EU member states had also urged the EU to revise the EUDR in March, although the EU environment commissioner said at the time that the EU was ready for implementation and that they did "not see any issues". The EUDR requires mandatory due diligence from operators and traders selling and importing cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soya, rubber and wood into the EU. Derivative products that contain, have been fed with or made using cattle, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, soya, rubber and wood — such as leather, chocolate and furniture as well as charcoal, printed paper products and certain palm oil derivatives — are also subject to the regulation. Firms must ensure that products sold in the EU have not caused deforestation or forest degradation. The law sets penalties for non-compliance, with a maximum fine of at least 4pc of the total annual EU turnover of the non-compliant operator or trader. The regulation requires geolocation data for proof of traceability, and does not accept the widely used mass-balance approach, which has often been cited by industries as one major challenge for implementation. The EUDR will establish a system to assess the risk for individual countries, but the US Department of Agriculture has previously said that even if the US were classified as a low-risk country, compliance would still be costly and challenging, and at least $8bn/yr of US agricultural exports to the EU would be affected. By Erisa Senerdem Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

PetroVietnam, South Korea’s Mubo partner on gas


21/06/24
News
21/06/24

PetroVietnam, South Korea’s Mubo partner on gas

Singapore, 21 June (Argus) — Vietnam's state-owned PetroVietnam (PVN) today agreed an initial financing deal with the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation, also known as Mubo, to strengthen and streamline South Korean companies' participation in natural gas projects with PVN and its subsidiaries. The $1bn package has both mid- to long-term financial tranches available if South Korean companies secure PVN's natural gas projects. PVN has plans to expand its gas field development, pipeline construction and gas-fired power plants in projects valued at around $12bn. This is aligned with the government's plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 through increased reliance on gas-fired power generation. PVN manages at least four gas-fired power plants, two coal-fired power plants and two hydropower plants, with 5404MW of total capacity, according to the firm. State-owned PetroVietnam Gas (PV Gas) is at the forefront of the gas power sector projects. It operates the 1mn t/yr Thi Vai LNG terminal, commissioned in July 2023 and has started supplying gas-fired power generation to industrial customers since 15 March. Vietnam is expecting to import more LNG, in anticipation of the start-up of the 1.6GW Nhon Trach LNG thermal power plant in November this year. The plant is comprised of two units that could require as much as 775,000 t/yr of LNG each, assuming a generating efficiency of 60pc. It is also building the 3.6mn t/yr Son My LNG import terminal in Binh Thuan province in southcentral Vietnam. The first phase of commercial operations is scheduled for 2027. A second and third phase at Son My will lift's Vietnam's overall LNG import capacity to 10mn t/yr. PV Gas is to supply 70,000t of LNG to state-owned utility EVN for use at its 715MW Phu My 3 thermal power plant in April and May, marking the first LNG supplies to the county's power sector. Russia has also expressed interest to partner with Vietnam for oil and gas supplies, including LNG, following a state visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hanoi on 20 June. By Naomi Ong Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Indian regulator seeks oversight of LNG terminals


21/06/24
News
21/06/24

Indian regulator seeks oversight of LNG terminals

Mumbai, 21 June (Argus) — India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) has issued a draft proposal for enhanced regulatory control over the country's existing and planned LNG import terminals. The draft regulations released earlier this month has PNGRB taking significant control of India's existing terminals, which includes approval of a new terminal or expansion of capacity following feasibility reports, as well as setting up pipeline infrastructure for regasified LNG. Each project would require a certification of registration by PNGRB and may even face penalties if there are any start-up delays. Developers will also need to publicly disclose their regasification tariffs and other charges for transparency. The regulations are seen as an effort to reverse dwindling utilisation rates at India's existing LNG import facilities, according to traders. The proposed regulatory framework may hinder new investments across India's gas sector more broadly by introducing the additional layer of oversight. PNGRB board of directors typically being short of members results in delays in approvals for existing projects or new products. The Indian Gas Exchange (IGX) small-scale LNG contract was delayed to launch in April this year from the initial plan of late 2023. The contract was needed to help supply gas consumers located in areas not served by pipelines. Plans to introduce LNG contracts for over one-month delivery on the IGX are also being held up because the board does not have sufficient staff to accelerate the speed of decision making, sources with knowledge of the matter said. Utilisation rates at India's seven LNG import terminals ranged from 15pc to 95pc in the April 2023-March 2024 fiscal year, with six operating at 30pc or lower despite a 16pc increase in LNG imports over the same period, oil ministry data show. Indian state-controlled LNG importer Petronet's 17.5mn t/yr Dahej LNG terminal had a 95pc utilisation rate, while Petronet's5mn t/yrKochi, state-controlled firm Gujarat State Petroleum's 5mn t/yr Mundra and state-controlled refiner IOC's 5mn t/yr Ennore terminals operated at 20pc or lower. India plans to add at least 25mn t of LNG import capacity in the next few years on top of its existing 47.7mn t/yr import capacity. India imports around 45pc of its daily gas needs, equivalent to around 190mn m³/d as LNG. The country plans to increase the share of gas in its energy mix to 15pc by 2030, which would increase overall demand to 600mn m³/d. By Rituparna Ghosh Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Generic Hero Banner

Business intelligence reports

Get concise, trustworthy and unbiased analysis of the latest trends and developments in oil and energy markets. These reports are specially created for decision makers who don’t have time to track markets day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

Learn more