Just as growers were hoping for a seasonal break in nitrogen prices, the creaky fertilizer supply chain broke down again on the western Plains with news CF Industries complex in Woodward, Okla., could be closed for six weeks.
The company said the plant went off line due to a problem in one of its boilers, the same blamed for closing the complex in April.
The plant has the capacity to produce 480,000 tons of ammonia, 820,000 tons of UAN and 25,000 tons of urea liquor, according to the company.
The shutdown is the latest in a series of disruptions this year that caused ammonia costs to rise despite the collapse of corn and wheat prices. Closure of a pipeline from plants in Oklahoma and Texas to Minnesota caused ammonia terminal costs in Oklahoma to jump $130 a ton in August and September. More problems on a pipeline serving Illinois and Indiana caused prices in the eastern Corn Belt to stay elevated even after prices in the west began to ease lower.
Ammonia prices on world markets stayed stubbornly strong in 2014, with the first surge higher coming in March after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, a major exporter of nitrogen. Ukraine's plants run on natural gas from Russia, which has cut off supplies to its neighbor, forcing it to halt production. The two countries are negotiating a restart of shipments ahead of winter, an issue complicated because Ukraine still owes Russia around $5 billion for gas purchased previously.
Other exporters from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean have also faced problems with natural gas supplies and production cutbacks.
For more fertilizer news, read Bryce Knorr's Weekly Fertilizer Review.