One of the main commodities in petrochemical industry is urea. The most common way of producing urea is Haber process which includes combining nitrogen in the air with hydrogen in the natural gas. Producing 1 ton of urea needs 0.58 ton ammonia and 0.78 ton carbon dioxide. Most urea produced in the world is solid and in the form of granola, crystal and prilled urea. Nitrogen-based fertilizers are about 60% of global fertilizer’s consumption. Given that the soil can’t hold nitrogen for a long time, farmers should order nitrogen-based fertilizers on annual basis. Therefore, increasing in global demand for food is one of the basic factor determined demand for urea. Development plans, change in population and consumption patterns and the price of feedstocks like natural gas and coal are among other effective factors on urea’s pricing.
Global urea capacity and historical trends of demand and supply are shown in the following:
Source: www.ihs.com/index.html (2016)
The main global players of urea industry are China, India, United States and Russia.
The biggest exporters are Russia and West Asian countries. Qatar, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia with shares of 4,341,000 tons, 3,567,000 tons and 6,062,000 tons respectively, provided about half of the world needs for urea in 2016, while Russia with export of 5,269,000 tons is on the top of urea exporting countries’ list around the world.
The main urea producers are mostly the biggest consumers at the same time. China, India, United States, Brazil, Pakistan and Indonesia can be as samples of this quote and that is mainly because of the countries’ strategies in the field of decreasing urea import and increasing their production capacities.
Top Ten Players in Urea Industry (2016)
It should be noted that natural gas is the major feedstock of nitrogen-based fertilizers. Rapid rise of shale gas production in United States on one hand and reduction of natural gas price in that country on the other hand, have impressive effects on chemical fertilizers pricing. Since China is the biggest urea producer and 80% of Chinese urea companies have coal-based production line, fluctuations of coal prices beside natural gas prices can influence urea as well. The trends of mentioned factors in a period of 10 years are shown in the chart below:
Iran is one of the biggest urea producers and exporters with capacity of 9,766,000 tons per year. According to the ministry of agriculture’s data, about 70% of production is being exported annually. Some information about main urea producers in Iran are shown in the table below:
*In nominal capacities it is assumed that all development projects will be launched successfully
To sum up, urea like the other commodities is faced with political and economic uncertainty. It is expected that urea industry will follow the trend of large Canadian companies such as PotashCorp and Agrium. Generally, urea market seems to keep its current level of price because of expecting increase in demand of European countries, Unites States and Latin America because of supply shortage in these regions on one hand and India’s returning back to the market as we are getting closer to planting season on the other hand. It should be noted that, Iran can become the biggest urea producer in the region in near future and can compete with other major players and it is mostly depends on completion of different development plants by the companies.