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Published June 10, 2013, 09:57 AM

2 plants considered

Proposals are separate, but have similiarities

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Two organizations are proposing to build nitrogen fertilizer plants in North Dakota.

Northern Plains Nitrogen announced last month that it hopes to build a $1.5 billion facility near the northeast North Dakota city of Grand Forks.

Last summer, the North Dakota Corn Growers Association said it would like to build such a plant. The group is involved with the proposed Grand Forks plant.

In the other proposal, CHS, working with the North Dakota Farmers Union, hopes to build a $1.4 billion nitrogen fertilizer plant in the south-central North Dakota city of Spiritwood.

Although the two proposals are separate, they have some things in common.

Both plants would use flared gas from oil production in western North Dakota.

And both would make three types of fertilizer: anhydrous ammonia, urea and UAN liquid fertilizer. Following is a short description of each type.

Urea: A dry material with a relatively high percentage of nitrogen, about 45 to 46 percent. It is a relatively cheap per-unit source of nitrogen, and a relatively safe and easy-to-use source. It’s now the most commonly used type of nitrogen in the region.

Anhydrous ammonia: A liquid with the highest percentage of nitrogen (82 percent) of all nitrogen fertilizers. It is one of the cheapest per-unit sources of nitrogen. Safety and convenience issues, however, have reduced its popularity.

UAN (Urea ammonium nitrate): A combination, in liquid form, of urea and ammonium nitrate; 28 to 32 percent nitrogen. Benefits include ease of storage, handling and application. It is less common on the Northern Plains than urea and anhydrous, but its popularity is expected to grow, in part because of rising interest in “side-dressing” row crops. Side-dressing means applying fertilizer between rows.