On Dec. 5 the last cargo ship left Agrium’s nitrogen facility in Nikiski, Alaska, for Korea, carrying 27,000 tons of fertilizer.
In September, Agrium USA’s parent company, Agrium Inc., based in Canada, said it was closing its Alaska facility because it was unable to find enough natural gas to purchase. Natural gas is necessary for the production of fertilizer. The company purchased 53 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2001, but this year could only purchase 10 billion cubic feet.
Agrium officials say 80 workers lost their jobs the week of Dec. 2. An additional 50 will be laid off in coming months as the plant is mothballed.
The company has set up a temporary job center to help displaced workers find employment.
Agrium said in September its remaining Alaska staff would continue to work on the “feasibility of a coal gasification project to use coal as a feedstock” instead of natural gas for the Kenai facility. A decision on whether to proceed with the next stage of the project is anticipated later this year. The earliest a gasification facility could be operational is 2012, the company said.
Agrium said it had “diligently attempted to encourage development of natural gas supply and to negotiate contracts for 2008 and beyond,” but “despite these efforts, and after offering what it believed to be competitive prices and incentives, Agrium was unable to secure gas supply.”