Agrium to dial up urea, ammonia production in Texas

The board of Canadian fertilizer and ag retail giant Agrium has greenlit plans to dial up production of urea and ammonia at its Texas nitrogen plant.

Calgary-based Agrium on Tuesday announced approval for a “debottleneck” expansion at its plant at Borger, Tex., about 70 km northeast of Amarillo.

Debottlenecking — that is, increasing a plant’s production capacity by changing or organizing equipment to improve throughput — would allow the Bloger plant to have a new urea production unit producing about 610,000 tonnes a year, and boost its ammonia production capacity to about 635,000 tonnes, up about 30 per cent.

About 100,000 tonnes of the plant’s additional urea output would be devoted to making diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), a urea composition used to reduce diesel engines’ nitrogen oxide emissions.

In selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, DEF — made up of 32.5 per cent urea and 67.5 per cent de-ionized water — vaporizes and decomposes to form ammonia, then reacts with nitrogen oxides, converting the emissions to nitrogen and water.

Devoting some of the added production to DEF — which the company has made at Borger since 2010 and sells to automotive supply companies — “will help diversify our end-markets,” Agrium said in a release.

The upgrade and expansion at Borger “will continue to grow our nitrogen footprint in this important agricultural region while providing a strong return on investment,” Agrium CEO Chuck Magro said in the same release.

The expansion, he added, “will also provide greater flexibility to meet changes in demand by product and region and reduce our reliance on existing ammonia distribution channels.”

Construction work on the project, which is expected to come in at a capital cost of about $720 million, is expected to start next month and wrap up in the second half of 2015. During that time, the Borger plant is “expected to operate at normal production rates.” — Network

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