Australia's transport and agricultural industries remain in the dark as to where a secure supply of AdBlue will come from when Incitec Pivot Limited closes its Gibson Island facility on December 31.
It's been six months since the warning bell was sounded that without intervention, the nation was perilously close to running out of the diesel exhaust fluid.
AdBlue is used to lower the concentration of nitrogen oxides in exhaust emissions from most of Australia's line haul truck fleet, newer models of agricultural machinery and diesel four-wheel drives.
Short-term plans, which centred around IPL filling the void and increasing its production of AdBlue by 800 per cent, saw the crisis avoided.
However, a long-term solution from manufacturers or the government remains to be found.
Australian Trucking Association chairman David Smith said the state of play hasn't changed a lot over the past six months.
"What worries me is Gibson Island are going offline in December, that's been out there for quite some time now and they have reinforced that decision, and you can't just click your fingers and create a technical grade urea plant, that's impossible," Mr Smith said.
"I'm still concerned about the state of play of technical grade urea and AdBlue."
A spokesperson for IPL said significant volumes of AdBlue continued to be manufactured and distributed at its Gibson Island plant, near Brisbane.
"Importantly, our AdBlue production has had no impact on the supply of fertilisers, relied on by Australian farmers," they said.
"Technical grade urea trials took place earlier in the year and continue to be assessed."
The change of government has not stopped the issue from being addressed and Mr Smith said the transport industry had discussed the AdBlue situation at a departmental level during the past month.
In terms of a solution, Mr Smith said the most viable option would be for a combined approach of importing product and some onshore production.
"There's five weeks supply in this country and there is no real solution at this stage," he said.
"The top end of the department are aware of it, we've been in discussions with them, but we are quietly hoping for a speedy resolve.
"While there's no solution, they are endeavoring to look for a fix."
A Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources spokesperson said Australia's DEF market was now well supplied and inventories had recovered to pre-supply crisis levels.
Any stock outs should be localised and temporary, they said.
The spokesperson said a lack of transparency on stock levels and market information contributed to the supply chain issues faced in December 2021 through to March 2022.
"The Australian government is continuing to engage actively with Australian DEF and TGU importers, producers and the fuel retailers and wholesalers on the status of the DEF market and the level of government involvement necessary for optimal market function," the spokesperson said.
"Preliminary data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that source country supply chain diversification has improved compared to this time last year.
"The Australian government is continuing to monitor the market situation and work actively with the sector to enhance market transparency arrangements to support more informed and better decision making by industry and government."
IPL remains resolute in its decision to cease production at Gibson Island on December 31.
An IPL spokesperson said the decision to end manufacturing was made reluctantly due to being unable to secure affordable feedstock gas supply from the east coast gas market.
There are plans afoot for other companies to produce urea onshore, however these facilities are several years away from being operational.
In South Australia, production is planned for the first quarter of 2025 at NeuRizer's proposed facility at Leigh Creek.
A Petroleum Production Licence has been approved for the gasification works and NeuRizer head of investor relations and corporate affairs Tony Lawry said they were well advanced in the planning approvals for the above ground facilities.
Mr Lawry said the focus of its production would be to make urea for farmers, not TGU for AdBlue.
"If AdBlue is in short supply, we would like to be part of resolving that supply chain issue in that sector as well," he said.
"We can either make it ourselves or have a joint venture with a manufacturer where we supply the urea and they provide the distribution."
A $3 billion facility is also in the development phase in Western Australia.
Strike Energy's Project Haber, located 100 kilometres south of Geraldton in the Three Springs shire, will produce urea primarily for use as fertiliser.
However, A Strike Energy spokesperson said it would have the capacity to produce the required quality of urea for use in diesel fuel additives.
"Project Haber is in the development phase, with front-end engineering design and energy, procurement and construction contracts out for tender," the spokesperson said.
"Strike is working with potential funding and equity partners, and undertaking the relevant assessment processes needed for the necessary approvals."
A construction period of about three years is expected once the project breaks ground.
Should these facilities produce TGU it would then be up to onshore AdBlue manufacturers such as AusBlue and BioBlue as to whether they purchase the product or source it from overseas.
For transport and machinery operators, the price of AdBlue is another input cost they must factor into their planning, as it hasn't returned to year-ago levels.
AdBlue prices at the bowser this week ranged from $1.99/L at Coomera, Qld, Alberton, Vic, and Willyung, WA, and up to $2.09/L in Toowoomba, Qld.
Mr Smith said November and December were the busiest months of the year for the transport industry.
"As the year rolls on closer to Christmas, and work ramps up, we need certainty of supply," he said.
"We aren't panicking but we are trying to get it moving."
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