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Fertilizer energy crisis: the risk of shortage is real, warns Yara

  • Post category:Economy News
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Delphine Jeanne

Terre-net Media

If the French factories of Yara, the world leader in nitrogenous mineral fertilizers, are running at full capacity, the risk of a shortage exists, explains the group, since the French market imports 60% of its needs, in a context where the soaring price of gas forced a number of European factories to close. This situation makes it all the more urgent for the support of the public authorities to enable manufacturers in the sector to make the investments necessary for decarbonization.

Nicolas Broutin, president of Yara France, and Delphine Guey, director of communication, public affairs and societal commitment, on September 20 in Paris. (© Terre-net Media)

HASith an increase in energy costs of the order of + 500% for electricity and + 341% for gas between 2021 and 2022, the production of ammonia in Europe no longer makes it possible to manufacture fertilizers competitively, explains Nicolas Broutin, president of Yara France, who held a press conference on September 20. Today, the cost of producing a tonne of ammonia is between 2,500 and 3,000 dollars, “while this same tonne is worth 1,300 euros on the international market”, he continues. Consequently, 65% of the productions of the Norwegian group are stopped in Europe, “for an indefinite period”.

In France, the factories are running at full capacity

Importing ammonia, mainly from Trinidad, North America or Australia, allows Yara’s three plants to operate in France. Nevertheless, “France imports 60% of its fertilizers “recalls Nicolas Broutin. “Scarcity is possible”, he explains, because if production continues in France, it stops elsewhere, for example in Belgium, where the Tertre factory will stop its activities in the coming days. However, it supplies 20 to 25% of Yara’s fertilizers on the French market, Yara representing a total of 45% of the French mineral fertilizer market. Not to mention that logistical problems are added, with significant difficulties in finding trucks For transport.

A call to support the sector

After the boom in the market in 2021, following a loss of production capacity linked to the health crisis, and a well-oriented grain market, the war in Ukraine therefore caused prices to start rising again, “and the prospect remains firm “, adds the president of Yara. “What could correct it would be the destruction of demand”, he explains, for example in livestock areas where producers, weakened by drought, would no longer have the means to buy water. ‘nitrogen. A drop in demand that would be around – 15%, according to Yara. However, “it is food production that is disappearing”, warns Nicolas Broutin, who calls on the public authorities to support weakened segments agricultural production, but also the fertilizer industry in the long term. “Let’s build support over time for this sector, we must at all costs prevent it from collapsing in the months to come,” he warns.

Supporting industry to accelerate decarbonization

Because the increase in imports has consequences on the carbon footprint and food sovereignty. It is indeed urea which represents three quarters of imported fertilizers, yet its agronomic efficiency is lower than that of ammonium nitrate, and the production of these imported fertilizers is less virtuous than in France.

“Our activities are considered problematic, but we say that there are a lot of solutions, some of which have already been put in place, for the decarbonization, for 20 years. The industry can go further, if it can continue to invest,” insists the president of Yara France.

Accelerating decarbonization

The energy crisis also reinforces this need to accelerate the alternatives. Yara is implementing several solutions to produce 100% carbon-free fertilizers by 2030. At the Montoir-en-Bretagne (Loire-Atlantique) site, emissions have been reduced by almost 100% thanks to catalytic cleaning technologies preventing the emission of nitrous oxide.

The production green hydrogenfrom the electrolysis of water and via the use of renewable energies, is also expected to increase, especially since current energy prices have considerably reduces the competitiveness differential of this technology. The deployment is planned in Norway as early as 2023.

However, these new techniques must go hand in hand with a reduction in use. “We must save”, be more efficient, believes Nicolas Broutin, for whom precision tools must become widespread. Today, “85% of wheat is fertilized without this control, which makes it possible to constantly check that the nutrients provided correspond to the needs of the plant”, he regrets. Yara thus offers several solutions for improve efficiency the use of nutrients with regard to economic profitability but also the carbon footprint (AtFarm, Yara N-Tester, Yara N-Sensor, in particular).

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