Court ruling allows Nutrien to stay on at Kwinana

Emma Alsop, May 1, 2024

Kwinana Bulk Jetty. Photo: Fremantle Ports

GLOBAL fertiliser company Nutrien Ag Solutions has narrowly avoided being evicted from its Kwinana facility following a last-minute win in the Western Australian Supreme Court.

Nutrien’s lease at the Kwinana Bulk Jetty site, owned and managed by Fremantle Port Authority, was due to expire on April 30.

Despite months of talks, a new lease agreement was never finalised, with FPA ordering Nutrien to leave the site on Tuesday.

The company filed an urgent injunction application in the Supreme Court last week.

Justice Larissa Strk ruled on Tuesday that Nutrien could continue operating at the facility pending the result of a hearing penciled in for July 15.

Nutrien claims the breakdown in negotiations with FPA stemmed from a fire which damaged the fertiliser shed, import system conveyor and associated transfer towers on February 9.

In a statement, Nutrien managing director Kelly Freeman said the company was focused on settling the matter with FPA.

“We welcome the decision by the Supreme Court [on Tuesday] and will continue to work on achieving a resolution to the tenancy dispute to minimise any impact on our customers and farmers across WA,” Ms Freeman said.

FPA was contacted for comment.

FPA is a government trading enterprise and owns all the infrastructure damaged by the fire.

Five days after the fire, the organisation announced that berth operations recommenced at Kwinana Bulk Jetty, but has yet to advise if the conveyor system or transfer towers are operational.

Nutrien confirmed on February 29 that it had reached an agreement with CSBP Fertilisers, which also operates a distribution centre at Kwinana, to use its facilities to receive and dispatch imported product from two vessels.

Nutrien Ag Solutions regional director west Andrew Duperouzel said in a statement that the company was working to increase capacity at other sites.

“We are progressing discussions with all relevant government stakeholders as we look to increase tonnage at our other regional WA sites and confirm additional off-site storage and blending facilities,” Mr Duperouzel said.

Nutrien’s Kwinana operations

Up until the fire, Nutrien used the facility to store granular fertiliser products.

The company also operates a liquid fertiliser Bulk N (Urea Ammonium Nitrate) storage facility, opened in October 2021, and located at Coogee Chemicals’ existing site about 1km inland from its granular storage shed.

In total Nutrien has 200,000 tonnes of granular fertiliser storage capacity in WA.

Alongside Kwinana, it owns fertiliser operations at depots in Geraldton, Albany, Esperance and Bunbury.

It is believed Kwinana served as Nutrien’s primary storage and import hub in the state.

Nutrien has had an almost 20-year connection to the site via its former subsidiary, Landmark.

Landmark, which became Nutrien Ag Solutions following the merger with RuralCo in 2019, purchased fertiliser and inputs-distribution business Macrofertil Australia from Louis Dreyfus Company in 2018.

Incorporated in 2013, Macrofertil operated the six storage and distribution assets that are now part of the Nutrien network.

Macrofertil took over the facilities after purchasing the now defunct cooperative, Ravensdown WA in 2014, which bought the sites from United Farmers’ Cooperative.

United Farmers’ alongside FPA spearheaded the construction of the facility which opened in 2003.

Competition concerns

It is estimated that Nutrien serves about 20 percent of the fertiliser market in WA.

Other players include CSBP, Summit Fertilisers, and CBH Group.

WAFarmers Grain Council president Mark Fowler said losing Nutrien from Kwinana would have a negative impact on grain growers.

“It would be bad for users of fertiliser to have less competition in the market,” Mr Fowler said.

“We want as much competition in the market as possible and the loss of Nutrien from that market, unless it is replaced by someone that will be equally competitive, will be a detrimental outcome for grain growers.

“Nutrien has been a good addition to the market, and they have been quite a vigorous competitor which has been good for grain growers.”

He said if Nutrien is required to vacate the site in July, it would have a limited immediate impact on growers.

“By July, most granular fertiliser should be out-turned.”

However, Mr Fowler said growers would be impacted when making fertiliser purchasing decisions for the 2025 crop.

Competitor movements

Nutrien’s Kwinana site is bookended by a CBH Fertiliser site on its southern side and CSBP to the north.

Summit Fertilisers also operates a depot about 2km inland from the Kwinana Bulk Jetty.

CBH has been slowly developing its fertiliser infrastructure since entering the market in 2015 to reach its target of holding a 15pc market share by 2033.

The cooperative opened its Kwinana Fertiliser Terminal, south of Nutrien’s site and adjacent to the existing grain facility, in March last year.

The new facility has the capacity to store 32,000t of Urea Ammonium Nitrate and 55,000t of bulk granular fertiliser.

Between its Geraldton, Esperance and Kwinana sites, CBH reported that a record 232,000t of fertiliser was out-turned in 2023.

Located just north of Nutrien, CSBP has also heavily invested in its Kwinana facilities.

Last month the company announced the completion of a $11 million refurbishment of its direct import conveyor system which runs from the Kwinana Bulk Jetty directly to CSBP’s storage facilities.

This work is alongside also recently announced Federal Government funding which will go towards installing technology at Kwinana to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


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