Turkmenistan launches fertiliser plant to diversify exports

GARABOGAZ, Turkmenistan, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Turkmenistan launched a $1.5 billion nitrogen fertiliser plant on its Caspian coast on Monday, seeking to diversify exports dominated by natural gas.

The plant, built by Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp and Turkey’s Gap Insaat in collaboration with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, will produce 1.1 million tonnes of urea annually using natural gas as feedstock, and export most of its output.

Export revenues in the Central Asian nation, which sits on the world’s fourth-biggest natural gas reserves, took a hit after global energy prices plunged and Russia, once the biggest buyer of Turkmen gas, halted all purchases in 2016.

The Ashgabat government is now trying to process more gas domestically into fuel, electric power and fertilisers which it can then export, and tap the country’s other mineral resources. Last year, it launched a $1 billion potash fertiliser plant.

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation provided most of the financing for the Garabogaz nitrogen fertiliser plant, while state firm Turkmenhimiya paid the remaining costs.

The former Soviet republic has maritime links with Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan through the Caspian Sea. (Reporting by Marat Gurt Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Dale Hudson)