Britain’s last fertiliser plant is to temporarily stop ammonia production, risking a major shortage of carbon dioxide across the country.
US manufacturing giant CF Industries said supplies of the carbon dioxide will be curtailed as it winds down operations at Billingham over the coming weeks. CO2 is manufactured as a by-product of ammonia production.
CF Industries said in June it would permanently close Billingham’s sister plant near Chester, leaving Britain with just one carbon dioxide-producing fertiliser plant. At the time, the US company gave assurances that the Billingham facility had a “foundation for profitable operations” and had “sufficient capacity to meet all forecasted domestic demand” for fertiliser.
The company has now warned the production of ammonia itself is “uneconomical” due to spiralling gas prices. It has said the shutdown is temporary but also warned gas prices “will continue to rise in the months ahead”. CF industries will import ammonia from the US so it can continue producing fertiliser on the site for the time being.
Billingham is the only factory in Britain that produces the carbon dioxide required for surgical operations, meat processing and drinks production.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, said the temporary shutdown was “extremely worrying”.