CF Industries sees $2 billion price tag for U.S. low-carbon ammonia plant

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the CF Industries plant in Billingham

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) -Fertilizer maker CF Industries Holdings expects a roughly $2 billion price tag for a U.S. plant it plans to build with Mitsui & Co to produce low-carbon ammonia for fuel, Chief Executive Tony Will said on Thursday.

The project, announced this week, aims to meet rising global demand for clean energy.

The companies will share the cost, with CF Industries owning 52% of the intended joint venture and Mitsui owning the rest.

CF Industries has cash on hand thanks to booming prices for fertilizer and on Wednesday reported quarterly record earnings. Sanctions against exporters Russia and Belarus over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine have tightened global fertilizer supplies and boosted prices.

“Given the fact that we generated $2.8 billion of free cash flow in the last 12 months, it’s imminently affordable and not a crazy amount,” Will told analysts about the plant’s cost.

CF Industries, the world’s largest ammonia producer, and Mitsui said they secured a site on the U.S. Gulf Coast for the “blue ammonia” plant that could begin production in 2027. Ammonia is deemed “blue” when made with fossil fuel and a subsequent carbon capture and storage process.

The plant is expected to produce about 1 million to 1.4 million tonnes a year and will be aimed toward exports, Will said on the call.

“The U.S. does not have a structured regulatory cost of carbon today, but much of the rest of the world does,” he said.

CF Industries plans to oversee plant operations, while Mitsui will handle marketing and distribution into Asia.

The companies are focused on selling the product as marine fuel and will be used to generate electricity with coal in nations like Japan and Korea, Will said. He estimated that global usage of blue ammonia as marine fuel could double because it has “zero carbon emissions.”

The consumption of oil for transportation is one of the top contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; editing by Diane Craft)