Dr Bert Quin, who has brought both SustaiN® and now its far superior son ONEsystem® to the NZ market to reduce farmers’ N costs and reduce impacts on the environment, says Ballance and Ravensdown need to be thinking very hard about the future of granular urea in NZ. Ballance have mentioned recently that they are looking at decommissioning the old Kapuni granular urea plant (which produces just 265,000 tonnes urea per year), and replacing it with a million tpa plant. This step would probably require Ravensdown to commit to purchasing its urea from Ballance; meaning an indirect takeover of Ravensdown, unless the plant was to be owned by an independent entity. The two companies currently use about 800,000 tpa. The excess could be sold at much reduced margin to Australia.
Regardless of the ownership, it will be a massive decision to make. This decision just got a whole lot bigger with the introduction of ONEsystem(R). ONEsystem® uses prilled urea, which is made by a different (and slightly cheaper process). “At the very, very least, Ballance should be hedging their bets on this one” says Dr Quin. “They also need to contemplate the fact that ONEsystem® reduces N requirements by over 50% on average, so we won’t be needing a plant anything like one million-tonne pa capacity if they get brave and build a prilled urea plant instead”. Dr Quin says Ballance have his phone number if they want to talk. “Given they have never even acknowledged that I and Summit-Quinphos developed SustaiN®, I am not holding my breath!” says Quin.