The Fertilizer Boom

On April 17, 2013, a fertilizer company storage facility in the small town of West, Texas, holding more than 500,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, caught fire and exploded, flattening more than 120 buildings, injuring 260 people, and killing 15.

Ten years later, the U.S. is experiencing a boom in the nitrogen fertilizer industry itself, including the production of ammonium nitrate, in part because of the war in Ukraine (which hiked the price of Russian natural gas, a central ingredient in nitrogen fertilizer) and hydraulic fracturing in the U.S., which has made American natural gas cheaper.

Companies are planning 12 ammonia nitrogen fertilizer projects (nine new plants and three expansions) that together could boost the capacity of the U.S. nitrogen fertilizer industry by 55 percent, from 20 million metric tons annually to about 31 million metric tons, according to this report by the Environmental Integrity Project.