Vaca Muerta feed the illusion of a second urea plant in Argentina

Buenos Aires, July 23rd. The fast evolution of gas production from Vaca Muerta (Neuquen Province), the largest shale field of the country, has triggered the interest for new investments that use the gas in an industrial way. Some local media mentions that Profertil has ordered a pre-feasibility study to mount a second urea plant production in Bahía Blanca, where Profertil’s plant is housed.

According to, the Danish Haldor Topsoe and the Italian Saipem companies are in charge to run the study, that must be concluded at the end of the year. The initial target is to double the current urea capacity production, i.e., 1.3 million metric tons per year.

Profertil’s Bahía Blanca facility is the only urea plant in Argentina since Bunge closed its Campana (Buenos Aires Province) old plant. Last year, Profertil produced 1.25 million metric tons of urea, massively oriented to meet local consumption, but this production cannot satisfy local demand. The weekly report from RIA Consultores explains that during 2017 Argentina imported 290,000 tons of urea and 418,000 tons of UAN (urea ammonium nitrate), while only exported 44,000 tons of urea.

Since the Argentine Government removed export tax to cereals and other crops (except soybean), in latest 2015, farmers planted more corn and wheat, increasing the demand for nitrogen fertilizers. The next chart illustrates how imports of urea and UAN increased in the last three years, while exports of urea declined.

Chart: Argentine imports and exports of urea and UAN

Source: RIA Consultores based on INDEC statistics


Contacted by, Marketing and Commercial Planning Chief from Profertil, Cristian Hanel, declined to comment about investment in a new plant, but he said that they are expecting a growing demand for nitrogen this year. “Although sales are delayed this campaign, a larger wheat acreage, and the good relationship between wheat/urea prices, finally will push the demand. Also, as it’s expected a “Niño Year”, this could anticipate corn planting, boosting the acreage. With a better weather and more area of corn and wheat, we expect demand growing 10% over last year”, explain Mr. Hanel.

For this reason, it’s expected more urea arriving at the Argentine ports this year. “Surely, during this second half of the year, August and September, to meet corn demand”, says Mr. Hanel.

During 2017 largest urea foreign supplier was Russia, with 108,841 tons or 38% of the total. Other main suppliers were Kuwait (22%), Egypt (11%) and Bahrein (9%). “There are being occurred many changes in the global urea market”, adds Hanel. “China has declined as an exporter, while the US boosted its production and even exported urea. And Egypt, which supplied the European Union, has derived some of its exports to other markets. But South America still being a net urea importer, with Brazil demanding more than 4 MMT each year, and Argentina growing year by year”.

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