Written February 2009
The only urea plant in Sub-Saharan Africa, the previously defunct National Fertilizer Company of Nigeria (NAFCON), reopened and resumed production as Notore Chemical Industries, Ltd., in January 2009. The plant, near the Niger Delta town of Onne on Nigeria’s southern coast, will manufacture two forms of nitrogen fertilizer – urea and anhydrous ammonia.
IFDC played a role in transforming NAFCON to Notore (which means “genesis” in local dialects). In 2004, Jorge Polo, IFDC senior technical specialist, served on a mission to study how Nigeria could better meet its need for nitrogen fertilizer. The mission was sponsored by USAID.
“We considered three possibilities – restoring and restarting the NAFCON facility, building a new plant or moving a used plant to Nigeria,” Polo recalls. “We concluded that the most efficient way to reestablish urea production in Nigeria was to privatize, rehabilitate and reopen NAFCON and then consider building new units to meet future needs.”
The government-owned NAFCON plant was one of the world’s largest urea production facilities when it was built in 1988. But NAFCON closed in 1996. It was purchased by Notore in 2005 and a multi-million dollar refurbishment program began. Notore is owned by a consortium of Nigerian private investors and both local and foreign institutional investors.
“Notore’s acquisition of NAFCON was a result of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo’s initiative to privatize government-owned businesses and focus on developing the nation’s agricultural sector,” says Onajite Okoloko, Notore Managing Director and CEO.
“The Niger Delta has abundant natural gas, but about 60 percent is ‘flared,’ or burned off and wasted,” Okoloko says. Natural gas, a byproduct of the oil drilling industry, is essential for manufacturing nitrogen fertilizer. Onne is near the Atlantic Ocean, which facilitates both the import of natural gas and other raw materials and the export of fertilizer to other African countries
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation signed a 20-year contract with Notore to supply natural gas to the new plant, according to Dr. Amit Roy, IFDC president and CEO.
“Notore’s current production capacity is 1,000 mt per day of ammonia and 1,500 mt per day of urea,” says Dr. Maria Wanzala, IFDC economist and representative to the Secretariat of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), based in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Estimates are that the plant may produce as much as 160,000 metric tons (mt) per year of urea and 500,000 mt per year of NPK.”
More than 60 percent of the annual urea (100,000 mt) and NPK (320,000 mt) production will be sold in Nigeria and the rest to fertilizer-deficient countries of West and Central Africa.
“To ensure effective distribution, Notore is initially establishing a network of 70 major dealers in 16 states in preparation for the current production season,” says Scott Wallace, IFDC Nigeria Country Representative. “In addition, Notore wants to partner with the Nigerian Government, IFDC and key states to roll out a targeted fertilizer voucher program this year,” Wallace says.
The distribution network includes more than 400 trucks dedicated to transporting fertilizer from the plant to dealers. Notore is developing similar networks in other countries that import its fertilizer. Within five years, Notore plans to install additional urea production capacity.
“The African Green Revolution has indeed begun,” Okoloko said in a January 8, 2009 Reuters article. “Nigeria has once again joined the elite league of industrialized nations that produce fertilizer.”