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January 21, 2019

Ammonia and Urea: Global overcapacity to continue to subdue global operating rates in the medium term

Ammonia is a key intermediate for fertilizers such as urea, ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphate and NPK compounds as well as a variety of industrial applications such as synthetic resins (urea-based), synthetic fibers (acrylics and nylons), polyurethanes, explosives (ammonium nitrate-based) and refrigeration.  Globally, more than half of ammonia is used for urea production. Ammonia production is predominantly gas based globally, with coal used as feedstock in China.

Urea is used as the primary source of nitrogen for crop nutrition.  It has a high nitrogen content (46 percent), is an easily transportable solid at room temperature, and is traded widely on international markets. Global urea consumption is estimated to have totaled about 173 million tons in 2018, with about 80 percent for fertilizer use, and most of this applied directly for food production.  Around four percent is blended with other nutrients to form NPK blends and another four percent was consumed for biofuels production. About 12 percent of urea is used for various industrial applications, mainly for the synthesis of amino resins and melamine. 

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