Charters Towers fertiliser plant starts exporting
Agripower director Peter Prentice said the company was seeing a strong growth in interest in the company’s product, which is based on amorphous silica mined at Greenvale.
Two shipments of 300 and 200 tonnes are due to leave Townsville for Indonesia within the next week, while two further shipments of about 2000 tonnes each are due to leave for India in late August/early September.
“In the middle of all that we also have about 1000 tonnes going to Turkey, in addition to local deliveries (Queensland and New South Wales),” Mr Prentice said.
The Charters Towers plant has the capacity to produce 240,000 tonnes of amorphous silica granules per annum.
One example of the surge in interest comes from Turkey, a major horticultural player, where Agripower supplied about 500 tonnes of its product to a distributor for field trials with potato and tomato growers.
“They have just harvested in the past few weeks and the yield and quality is amazing, so they have just hit us yesterday with a 2000-tonne order for the potatoes. More of their growers are asking for it and now other distributors have found out about it as well,” Mr Prentice said.
“Where I was projecting in the next few months demand in Turkey of a couple of thousand tonnes, I think we are now looking at nearly 10,000.”
The company anticipated fertiliser orders being well below plant capacity in its first six months of operation, then picking up in the first half of 2020, Mr Prentice said.
Agripower has plans in train for a $663 million Fertiliser Expansion Project, which would involve building a processing facility near Yabulu and opening the rail line from Greenvale.
But it also has the option in the interim of expanding its Charters Towers plant, which has a modular design which would allow the company to double output by replicating the existing circuit.
“My gut feeling is that by the time we get into October/November next year we’ll be thinking about expansion again,” Mr Prentice said.
The question would be whether to expand the Charters Towers plant or wait until the new plant at Yabulu could be brought online, he said.