The decision comes 10 months after the facility on Teesside was taken off-line due to high gas prices.
In a statement, the company said it would continue to produce AN fertiliser and nitric acid at Billingham using imported ammonia.
UK costs blamed
It said its forecasting had found that producing ammonia at Billingham would not be ‘cost-competitive for the long-term’ compared to using imports ‘due primarily to projected high natural gas prices in the United Kingdom relative to other regions and the impact of carbon costs’.
It added: ‘The company believes that ample global availability of ammonia for import, including from CF Industries’ North American production network, will enable more cost-competitive and efficient production and sales of ammonium nitrate fertiliser and nitric acid for its UK agriculture and chemicals customers moving forward.’
“This decision is a concerning one and exposes our fertiliser market further to global volatility.”
NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw
Domestic food security at risk
NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said the decision was “concerning”.
He added: “Availability of fertiliser is a crucial element of domestic food security and relying on importing ammonia from global markets exposes British fertiliser production to possible long-term risks.
“Fertiliser is a vital tool that helps British farmers and growers produce food for the nation. It’s important that the government now look closely at how this shift to a reliance of imported ammonia could impact our domestic food production and highlights the need to maintain access to all nitrogen fertiliser products, including urea.”
In June 2022, the company announced that its other plant in Cheshire would close permanently as part of a restructure to make operations at Billingham ‘viable for the long term’.
The closure of CF Fertilisers’ UK sites in 2021 due to high production costs led to the government supporting its operations for three weeks. That followed significant disruption in sectors reliant on CO² by-product, including pig and poultry, meat processing, glasshouse cropping and food packaging.