Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has today (25 August) met global representatives from CF Fertilisers to discuss what the pause in ammonia production at Billingham means for the site.
The Mayor pushed hard for assurances during talks with the firm’s global Vice President of Public Affairs, Linda Dempsey, and CF Fertilisers UK’s Managing Director, Brett Nightingale. He was told that the issue had been identified and prepared for over a number of months, so there would be no impact to jobs or terms and conditions of employment.
He was also assured that fertiliser and local chemical customers, such as Huntsman, would be unaffected by the move and continue to receive their orders as normal. One of the benefits of CF Fertilisers’ Billingham plant is its flexibility in being able to isolate different parts of the operation, so while ammonia production has been paused, the rest of the facility is operating as normal.
In the immediate term, the company intends to import ammonia from the US, where natural gas prices are around one tenth the cost of the UK. In the longer term it intends to restart ammonia production from Billingham once again.
As a by-product of the ammonia production process, the plant also produces around 30% of the UK’s CO2, however this is down significantly from a year ago when the firm was responsible for around 60% of UK supply. This reduction is down to more production streams for CO2 coming online on the UK.
CF Fertilisers’ industrial carbon capture project planned for Billingham was recently chosen by the UK Government to be included on its low-carbon CCUS Cluster sequencing shortlist. The Mayor is now pushing for the final list to be revealed as soon as possible to get the project off the ground quickly.
Mayor Houchen said: “This afternoon I spoke directly with the Managing Director of CF Fertilisers UK operation to get a detailed update on what is happening at their Billingham plant. First and foremost, I am pleased that there will be no job losses following the latest news for the company and none are planned.
“Having pushed the firm’s management hard I have been reassured that no customers, with the exception of those requiring CO2, will see any change in orders or deliveries.
“CF’s decision to switch to importing ammonia rather than making their own is a short-term measure driven by the exceptionally high cost of manufacturing this vital compound in the UK, because of the sky-high gas prices we are currently seeing.
“This shows how much more needs to be done to halt rising gas prices both for households and industrial uses across Teesside.
“Speaking to the team at CF they were clear that this is not the end of ammonia production at Billingham and the plant will still play a key part in the company’s net zero and low carbon strategy following their success in winning government backing.”