AUSTRALIA'S fertiliser industry continues to rebound from a grim outlook just two years ago with a new phosphate operation sending its first shipment of phosphate rock to Asia.
Centrex recently sent 15,000 tonnes, derived from its mine in north-west Queensland, to Samsung C&T, a commercial fertiliser producer in South Korea.
The company has a goal of not only reducing Australia's heavy reliance on imported phosphate, much of it sourced from geopolitically sensitive regions such as north-western Africa, as well as create its own export footprint.
Incitec Pivot announced in its recent half year results briefing that it would look to implement a number of cost reduction strategies at its major phosphate facility at Phosphate Hill, also in Queensland.
In the ammonia space, Incitec Pivot this week announced it was co-partnering with Singaporean infrastructure heavyweight Keppel to investigate building a green ammonia production facility in Gladstone in central Queensland.
It is not just Queensland where there are developments.
Western Australian and South Australian projects are helping bring Australia's moribund nitrogen fertiliser sector to life.
When Incitec Pivot announced late in 2021 it would shut its Gibson Island urea manufacturing facility it was feared Australia would have to import all its nitrogen fertiliser.
Since then Leigh Creek, South Australia and Perdaman, Karratha in Western Australia have announced plans to set up urea manufacturing facilities, with Perdaman signing an exclusive off-take agreement with Incitec Pivot for up to 2.3 million tonnes a year of urea.
On the phosphate front Centrex officials are excited by the potential of their Ardmore mine, saying it could produce some of the highest quality phosphate in the world.
The deal with Samsung C&T will see the South Korean business a sole agent for exports to South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, India, Mexico and Taiwan, which Centrex estimates will represent 20 per cent of total production at Ardmore.
Centrex managing director Robert Mencel said that the shipment to Asia was remarkable given how recently the company had begun production, saying the quality of the Ardmore product had created opportunities.
"The quality of our product is not widely available on the Asian continent and this presents opportunities," he said.
"We have the utmost confidence that this shipment will open doors for us in the Asian market on account of the quality of the product. "Not only is it a very high grade of phosphate rock but it also very low in Cadmium, a toxic chemical which can be concentrated in crops and cause health problems."
But the company will also look at domestic opportunities, with over one million tonnes of high grade phosphate currently imported across Australia and New Zealand.
Centrex exported two large shipments of phosphate rock to New Zealand in the fourth quarter of 2022 and has clients in Australia, New Zealand and now South Korea.
Domestically it has signed an exclusive transport and logistics services agreement with Australia's largest rail freight operator Aurizon for the provision of transport, storage and stevedoring services for Ardmore's phosphate rock product.
Aurizon is providing a full logistic solution including the provision of containers, container loading, trucking utilising triple road trains to Mount Isa, rail to Townsville and stevedoring services to transport and load the rock phosphate to a bulk vessel.
The Ardmore project currently has capacity to produce 240,000 tonnes of product per annum, but is a precursor to a larger 800,000 tonnes per annum plant.
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