Cheshire company CF Fertilisers at the centre of the CO2 crisis

It was recently revealed that taxpayers could pay millions of pounds to subsidise a major fertiliser manufacturer to ensure the supply of CO2 for the food sector continues amid the energy crisis.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng brokered a deal which will see the UK Government provide ‘limited financial support’ towards CF Fertilisers’ running costs in a bid to prevent a food supply shortage in British supermarkets.

CF Fertilisers suspended production at its plants in Ince near Ellesmere Port and Teesside on September 15 due to rising energy costs as global gas prices spiked.

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The new deal will be in place for three weeks while the ‘CO2 market adapts’ and will see the Teesside plant reopen for three weeks, while the Ince site will remain closed.

The situation has prompted responses from Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders, with the Ince plant being situated in his constituency, along with Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary George Eustice.

This is everything we know about the company at the centre of the crisis.

CF Fertilisers is an indirect subsidiary of CF Industries Holdings Inc who are based in Deerfield, Illinois, in the United States.

Their website claims that they make in excess of 1.5 million tonnes of fertiliser per year, which equates to around 40 per cent of the UK’s fertiliser needs.

CF Fertilisers produces around 60 per cent of the UK’s CO2 supply.

It is made as a by-product of the fertilisation process, which is then used by the food sector but also in the health and nuclear industries.

The company has two primary sites, Ince near Ellesmere Port and Billingham in Stockton-on-Tees.

The 124 acre Ince site, which is set to remain closed, acts as both a fertiliser production plant and the company’s head office, employing around 400 people.

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According to the website, the site consists of one Ammonia, three nitric acid plants with a further Nitrogen fertiliser plant and three compound lines.

The site produces one million tonnes of fertiliser per annum and supplies the key market sectors for grass and arable farming, the company states.

The Billingham site has a workforce of 190 people and an integrated production and storage facility, manufacturing chemicals, utilities and Ammonium Nitrate fertiliser.

There is pressure on the government to get CF to restart operations at Ince. The British Retail Consortium’s director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie, said it was ‘vital’ that work at the second site was ‘restarted as soon as possible, and distributed quickly to food manufacturers in need of it’.

Following the news of the deal, Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said: “CF Fertilisers, based in my constituency, is one of the plants that has had to close down in the light of cost pressures.

“There are obviously many impacts on consumers as a result of this decision, but the employment prospects of my constituents are at the forefront of my mind at the moment.

“I am pleased to hear the Secretary of State met the company yesterday (Sunday). I wrote to the Department over a month ago pointing out the need for urgent action on the cost pressures the company was facing, not just in terms of global gas prices but a number of other factors. I hope that discussions prove fruitful, and not just for my constituents’ jobs.

“We do not want to get into a situation where we are relying on importing carbon dioxide from other sources, because that will not help us to reach net zero and will put us risk of other fluctuations in world prices.”

Cheshire Live – Cheshire