BHP scours for ways to accelerate giant fertilizer project

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BHP Group is looking at ways to speed up development of a $5.7 billion potash project in Canada at a time when creaking supply chains are pushing up crop nutrient prices.

BHP Group President Minerals Americas Ragnar Udd was in Saskatchewan, Canada, last week evaluating acceleration options, although he said those efforts reflect solid long-term prospects and that any savings would be months not years.

“If there are options to bring it forward — there may be a month or two in it one way or the other — we’ll take a look at that,” he said in an interview Tuesday. BHP isn’t building Jansen “for what may play out in the next six months,” but rather for its long-term value, he said.

BHP approved the first stage of construction of Jansen in August after years of wavering over the huge price tag. The operation, expected to start production in 2027, will make it one of the world’s top producers of the crop nutrient. Since then, fertilizer prices have surged amid supply chain frictions that have been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While extremely tight current market conditions have little bearing on investment decisions, the long-term outlook for potash remains favorable, Udd said. In addition, Jansen has plenty of scope for expansion and BHP has solid relationships with communities and other stakeholders in Saskatchewan.     

“The pathway starts to become — well, what future investments could we bring forward in potash if that’s what the market looks for and we think there’s value sitting there as well,” he said.

BHP intends to sell the potash directly to customers rather than going through the Canpotex marketing venture, Udd said.

(By James Attwood)


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