Sulphate of potash (SOP) is a premium form of potash fertilizer which contains two of the six macro-nutrients that are essential to plant growth, being Potassium and Sulphur.
Estimated global potash consumption in 2015 was 67 million tonnes, predominantly comprising of 60 million tonnes of muriate of potash (MOP) and 5 million tonnes of SOP. MOP contains 46% Chloride. The major potash deposits around the world – such as those in Canada, Russia and Belarus – produce MOP. This product is most appropriate for the commercial cultivation of the carbohydrate crops including wheat, oats, barley and palm oil.
SOP contains 18% Sulphur and has almost no Chloride. It is a premium value product which is used principally for specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. SOP is superior to MOP because of its low level Chloride, which has a toxic impact on many food plants, especially leafy plants. SOP improves the yield, taste, colour and shelf life of crops. SOP is also most suitable for agricultural areas affected by high salinity soils.
As the world’s population expands and the middle class in China continues to emerge, it is anticipated that increasing consumption of specialty crops will drive demand growth for SOP.
SOP can be produced from primary and secondary sources, with approximately 75% of global production controlled by the top five producers. Primary production comes from five salt lake (brine) deposits – located in China, India, USA and Chile. The balance of the world’s supply is made up of more costly and inefficient secondary production, including underground mines in Germany and those produced through the Mannheim Process, a process that involves the addition of sulphuric acid to MOP in a Mannheim furnace to produce SOP and a hydrochloric acid by-product.
Agrimin is aiming to take advantage of strong market fundamentals which are supportive of new SOP production. In particular, the last decade has seen a clear trend towards environmentally friendly SOP production from salt lake deposits. Given that existing salt lake producers are unable to meet current SOP demand, Agrimin expects that Western Australia will emerge as an important SOP producing region. In contrast to other major undeveloped SOP regions, Australia benefits from low geopolitical risk and is strategically located for supplying the growing markets of south-east Asia.