Bulgaria's Devnya-based Agropolychim will double its output of nitrogen fertilizers within five years. The company will invest 250 million euro in a new nitric acid plant and related projects, which are already under way. The technology allows enhancing local green energy production and - combined with the company's plans to use blue ammonia (with carbon emissions captured) - the plant will be able to put net-zero products on the market.
Agropolychim recently announced it had signed an agreement with Switzerland-based Casale, which will license and engineer a new state-of-the-art dual pressure nitric acid plant and commission it by the end of 2027. The operation will expand the existing facility based on the same technology, which Agropolychim has been operating since 1973 and which Casale has upgraded in the past few years. "The achieved results were more than impressive from the viewpoint of technology and efficiency. That weighed in favor of our choice, despite the higher price," CEO Krasimir Berbenkov told the Capital Weekly.
The new installation will allow the company to double its annual nitrogen fertilizer output capacity to 1.5 million tons of ammonium nitrate, calcium ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate and urea ammonium nitrate combined. Agropolychim also produces combined and phosphorus fertilizers. The additional quantities will target the company's traditional markets: predominantly the Balkan region, but also countries in North and South America, as well as in Asia.
Green projectsCasale's technology allows for maximum utilization of the heat generated during production. "By using green or blue ammonium, we will practically generate more than 35 megawatt hours of green heat," Berbenkov explained.
Agropolychim's investment also includes projects related to logistics and energy efficiency, as well as new production facilities. The program is financed with own funds and partly with investment loans.
Improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse emissions are crucial for keeping Agropolychim's products competitive. That is the reason why in the past few years the company has focused on such projects. By building an ammonia terminal five years ago, it practically reduced its natural gas consumption by 98%. It also produces steam for process needs only from biomass and utilizes a huge part of the excess heat.
"We already have contracts for delivery of blue ammonia and we will soon be launching on the market fertilizers that are carbon-neutral or almost carbon-neutral," Berbenkov said. The company aims to become the benchmark for the green/blue fertilizer and ammonia platform in Southeastern Europe.
Agropolychim's expansion comes at a time when many fertilizer plants in Europe have stopped production after natural gas prices surged with the start of the war in Ukraine. "We believe the map of fertilizer producers in Europe will change substantially in the next few years and only the most efficient and environmentally-friendly ones will remain active," said Berbenkov. In his words, more than 4 million tons of ammonia production capacity is expected to be shut down in the next five years.
Agropolychim's advantage is that it does not use natural gas but directly ammonia, which can be bought from anywhere in the world. "That allows us to take advantage of ammonia price fluctuations and buy it from regions where the prices of natural gas - which is the raw material for ammonia - is much lower than in Europe," Berbenkov explained.
That resulted in record sales last year. "We sold more than 900,000 tons of fertilizers in 2022," Bervenkov said. The company's latest annual financial report shows revenue topped 730 million levs (365 million euro) in 2021.