Petrobras weighs plan to restart fertilizer plant based on synergy with REPAR refinery

Aug. 15, 2023
Petrobras is in the final phase of completing studies designed to evaluate the potential restart of subsidiary Araucária Nitrogenados SA’s mothballed fertilizer plant near the Refinaria Presidente Getulio Vargas refinery in southern Brazil.

Petróleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) is in the final phase of completing studies designed to evaluate the potential restart of subsidiary Araucária Nitrogenados SA’s (ANSA) mothballed fertilizer plant near the 208,000-b/d Refinaria Presidente Getulio Vargas (REPAR) refinery in Araucária, Paraná, in southern Brazil.

Following completion of technical and economic feasibility studies for the ANSA restart plan, Petrobras will submit results to its executive board and board of directors for the project’s approval, the operator said on Aug. 14.

Petrobras undertook studies to investigate potentially restarting the plant given the fertilizer sector’s strategic importance to both the company and Brazil, according to Jean Paul Prates, Petrobras’ chief executive officer.

While the global fertilizer market has recently faced many challenges, the plant’s proposed restart would enable Brazil—a major producer of agricultural commodities—to reduce its current dependence on imports of fertilizers from abroad, as well as generate employment opportunities for the regional economy lost since the plant’s idling in early 2020, according to Prates.

The planned restart, however, also would capitalize on Petrobras’ renewed focus on maximizing value of its existing operations showing economic viability, which—under the company’s 2023-27 strategic plan revealed in December 2022—includes ongoing investment in the REPAR refinery following the site’s delayed sale under Petrobras’ broader downstream divestment plan (OGJ Online, June 29, 2023; Aug. 22, 2022).

“Petrobras is interested in investing in the reactivation of ANSA because of [the plant’s] synergy with REPAR,” Prates said.

Equipped to produce about 1,900 tonnes/day of urea and 1,300 tonnes/day of ammonia for production of agricultural fertilizers, ANSA’s plant would receive its feedstock of asphalt residue from REPAR, the company said.

If approved for restart, ANSA’s fertilizer plant could resume operation as early as first-half 2024.

Petrobras’ decision to idle ANSA in early 2020 in part stemmed from the fact that the asphalt residue required to feed the plant—Brazil’s only based on such a feedstock—was, at the time, more expensive than its final products of ammonia and urea, the company said in a Jan. 14, 2020, release.

In a Dec. 19, 2022, release, Petrobras confirmed terminating a plan to divest its ownership interest in the ANSA plant in late 2022 as part of a competitive sale process that, at the time, was already in the binding phase.