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Ian Walcott

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Six petrochemical plants have now been shut down at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate in the last six months.

The country’s largest ammonia producer Nutrien has closed its Number One plant and will decide in two weeks whether it is going to remain shut or if it will be reopened.

The company’s managing director Ian Walcott said yesterday that the challenge remains low demand, soft international prices and the cost of natural gas in T&T. In an interview with Guardian Media, Walcott said a decision will be made in two weeks.

“In two weeks we’ll look at it. If we think that the situation warrants something like that then we would make that decision.”

He said the closure of the latest plant was linked to the “continued deterioration of the economics.”

“So, two things, one is that we’ve seen continued decline in demand and we have also seen a continued decline in the commodity price. So ammonia, the price is actually continuing to fall.”

Walcott said initially, the plant was shut down due to a mechanical problem but the company took the opportunity to stop its operations as the market remained soft.

“So in this second instance, the first plant that we closed, the number two plant, was closed for three months at a minimum. This second plant, initially we did not shut it down for market reasons, it came offline because of a mechanical problem and given what we were seeing in the market, we felt it was a good time for us to reduce the output for this site.

“But in this instance, it is actually to a lesser extent so we’re projecting to be offline for 14 days at a minimum and so, the shorter period of time is simply because we really anticipate that we will be restarting the plant sooner, rather than later,” Walcott told GML.

He said the projection is for prices to improve in the third quarter, as typically, that’s what Nutrien has seen in ammonia’s cyclical behaviour and the company also expects to see demand improve.

Walcott said unlike the closure of the Number Two plant, all employees and contractors at the Number One plant remain unaffected at this time.

The closure of the plants take 1.2 million tonnes per annum out of production. The plants are essentially carbon copies of each other with an annual capacity of 600,000 tonnes each per year.

Nutrien said the major challenge to the business in Trinidad remains the high price of natural gas.