DES MOINES, Iowa, April 20, 2017 – The small town of Wever in southeast Iowa is now home to the first start-from-scratch nitrogen fertilizer plant built in the U.S. in more than 25 years.
Iowa Fertilizer Co. (IFCO) officially began production at the plant Wednesday.
“Iowa Fertilizer Co. is now delivering a reliable high quality and domestic supply of nitrogen fertilizers that will help meet the needs of farmers in Iowa, the Midwest and around the country,” IFCO President Larry Holley said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the plant.
The nearly 14 million square-foot facility will produce around 1.5 million to 2 million metric tons of nitrogen fertilizer annually and has the daily capability to produce 4,740 tons of ammonium nitrate solutions, 1,320 tons of granular urea, 2,425 tons of ammonia, and 990 tons of diesel exhaust fluid. Workers can switch production between products at short notice depending on market demand.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey pointed out that Iowa is the biggest corn producer among the 50 U.S. states. “To maintain the fertility and productivity of our valuable soils, Iowa is largest consumer of fertilizer in America,” Northey said in a statement. “This new plant will provide another Iowa source for fertilizer and reduce the need for imported fertilizer in Iowa and across the nation. This plant is also another example of the wonderful agribusinesses we have in our state that create good jobs in our communities while providing vital products to our state’s farmers.”
Ahmed El-Hoshy is CEO of OCI Americas, IFCo’s parent company, also spoke at the ribbon-cutting. He said the plant also helped boost the local economy in Lee County, where Wever is situated.
“Iowa Fertilizer is the result of over $3 billion of investments … and has helped drive meaningful job creation throughout the state and broader region,” El-Hoshy said. The state of Iowa chipped in with $110 million in subsidies.
Lee County has had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. Since IFCO’s groundbreaking four years ago, unemployment dropped from 8 percent to 5.3 percent. Gov. Terry Branstad was glad the company picked Iowa for the plant’s location.
“By collaborating with the state and local economic development leaders, Democrat and Republican officials from here in southeast Iowa, the agriculture community, and the company itself, we were able to secure what has become one of the largest private sector projects in our state’s history,” Branstad said during the ceremony.
During peak construction, about 3,500 people worked on the plant. The facility is now operating with about 200 full-time workers. Annual payroll will be $25 million, with an estimated $25 million spent on maintenance.
The plant was built with the latest and most reliable safety shutdown systems and with a strong commitment to environmental stewardship, with advanced emission control equipment. It also maintains a truck loading facility can safely load 300 trucks per day.