• Grid Brief
  • Posts
  • UK's Largest Fertilizer Producer Shuts Down Plant // US Nat Gas Prices Drop After Freeport Fire // BWXT to Build First Microreactor in America //

UK's Largest Fertilizer Producer Shuts Down Plant // US Nat Gas Prices Drop After Freeport Fire // BWXT to Build First Microreactor in America //

UK's Largest Fertilizer Producer Shuts Down Plant

The UK's largest fertilizer and carbon dioxide producer, CF Industries, shut down one of its plants this week due to high natural gas prices. "US fertilizer group CF Industries said it would permanently shut its Ince plant in Cheshire and restructure its UK operations, leading to the loss of about 350 jobs," reports The Financial Times.

The company is a vital part of the UK's food supply chain. Its business feeds into farming, slaughterhouses, and packaging for food and drink.

According to Tony Will, CF’s chief executive, they looked at every alternative including different business models and getting buyers for the plant but ultimately the only way to make sure "we could maintain operations and provide critical products to the local market” was to shut the facility down. "The move would make CF’s Billingham plant in Teesside 'viable for the long term,'" he told FT.

CF's Ince plant has been offline since last fall, though the company has restarted some of its other plants. Still, reports FT, "CF’s move comes as profitability for nitrogen fertilizer producers in the UK and Europe remains under pressure due to the elevated cost of natural gas, the key raw ingredient."

The FT continues, "The expected prices of natural gas in the future suggest that nitrogen fertilizer facilities in the UK and Europe will be “the world’s high-cost marginal producers for the foreseeable future, presenting a constant challenge to the sustainability of current operations.'"

Some silver lining: new nitrogen fertilizer projects should be coming on line in Nigeria, Egypt, and India.

US Nat Gas Prices Drop After Freeport Fire

An explosion at an LNG terminal in Texas exploded yesterday, exacerbating the global supply crunch. "There were no injuries at the Freeport LNG terminal less than 70 miles from Houston, but a nearby beach was evacuated and ship traffic was restricted in the area for hours," E&E reports. But the terminal will be shut down for three weeks.

The Freeport terminal produces about 2 billion cubic feet per day of LNG.

"Henry Hub natural gas was trading down more than 6% at the time of writing, in the aftermath of news of the explosion," reports Oilprice.com. "At 2:23 p.m. EST, Henry Hub natural gas prices were at $8.698, down 6.40%." Earlier that day, natural gas prices hit a fourteen-year high.

"Environmentalists and local opponents who fought the plant for years said the explosion is a stark demonstration of the dangers of the terminal and the hazards of fossil fuels," reports E&E.

“This is terrifying. We’ve been afraid of a disaster happening ever since Freeport LNG started exporting gas,” said Melanie Oldham of Freeport, Texas, of the Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Water in Brazoria County.

Again, no one was hurt. Still, this is very bad news.

"This is a significant production outage at a major U.S facility," Alex Munton, director of global gas and LNG at research firm Rapidan Energy told Reuters. "It's going to mean one thing: shortages. The competition for spot LNG is going to drive global LNG prices higher."

BWXT to Build First Microreactor in America

A big moment for small modular nuclear reactors happened this week. "The US Department of Defense (DOD) Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) announced in April its decision to proceed with the project to build and demonstrate a TRISO-fuelled prototype mobile microreactor," reports World Nuclear News. BWXT has won the contract.

According to Business Wire, "The Project Pele full-scale transportable microreactor prototype will be completed and delivered in 2024 for testing at the Idaho National Laboratory." The price tag should be around $300 million.

“We are on a mission to design, build and test new nuclear technology to protect the environment while providing power, and we are thrilled with this competitively bid award after years of hard work by our design and engineering team,” said Joe Miller, BWXT's president. “The entire nuclear industry recognizes that advanced reactors are an important step forward to support growing power needs and significant carbon reduction imperatives.”

The high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) will operate at between 1 and 5 MWe. It will be small enough to fit in commercially available shipping containers according to BWXT. "It will be powered by TRISO (TRIstructural-ISOtropic) high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel that can withstand extreme heat and has very low environmental risks," WNN reports.

Like what you're reading? Click the button below to get Grid Brief right in your inbox!

Conversation Starters

  • The EIA predicts that natural gas prices will remain high through the rest of the year. "We expect U.S. natural gas prices to remain relatively high in 2022 because of lower-than-average natural gas inventories resulting from factors affecting both supply and demand," they write.

  • Courts have banned fracking off the California coast. "The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal government violated the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Coastal Zone Management Act when it allowed fracking in offshore oil and gas wells in all leased federal waters off California," reports Rigzone.

  • Canada's oil sands are seeing a boost during the energy crisis. The Financial Times has published a deep dive on it. Canada now supplies more than half of America's oil imports.

Word of the Day

Site-specific information DSM program assistance 

ADSM (demand-side management) assistance program that provides guidance on energy efficiency and load management options tailored to a particular customer's facility; it often involves an on-site inspection of the customer facility to identify cost-effective DSM actions that could be taken. They include audits, engineering design calculations on information provided about the building, and technical assistance to architects and engineers who design new facilities. (source)

Crom's Blessing

The town of Palmanova, Italy, was built as a star fort by the Venetian Republic in 1593.