press release

Unocal opens largest CAN 17 plant in North America

Kennewick, Wash., June 17, 1996 -- Today's unveiling of Unocal Agriproducts' new state-of-the-art CAN 17 manufacturing plant ensures the West Coast manufacturer will remain a consistent, high-volume supplier of this fertilizer for years to come, company officials said during the plant's opening ceremonies.

With a daily manufacturing capacity of 450 tons, the facility is North America's largest CAN 17 manufacturing plant, said Mark Havens, Unocal's lead engineer on the project.

CAN 17 is a versatile fertilizer that contains 8.8% calcium and 17% nitrogen. The nitrogen is one-third ammonic form and two-thirds nitrate form. CAN 17's largest market currently is among California and Arizona vegetable growers, although that is changing as growers in the Pacific Northwest discover the advantages of offering both an available and a reserve form of nitrogen in addition to soluble calcium, said Ernie Fontana, sales manager for the company's Pacific Northwest market.

Unocal's CAN 17 had been manufactured for Unocal by Chevron Corp. at Chevron's facility in Richmond, Calif. The new facility allows Unocal to more closely monitor production to ensure customers an even higher quality product, said Havens.

The facility allows production in a continuous mode, rather than by batch, Havens added. That helps maintain consistency.The entire process is computerized, and includes a rotary vacuum filter to help rid the product of impurities.

"From a retailer and grower point of view, quality is critical," explained Fontana. "A poor quality product can foul application equipment, sprayer nozzles,and irrigation systems, and be hard to handle. We want our customers to know that we plan to manufacture and reliably offer the highest-quality CAN 17 product on the market."

Among the major solution fertilizers available, CAN 17 has the highest percentage of nitrate nitrogen, said Fontana. The nitrate form of nitrogen is available immediately to plants, which makes it an excellent early-season fertilizer. The ammonic form must be converted by soil bacteria into the nitrate. The rate of conversion is quite slow at soil temperatures below 45 degrees (F), but proceeds rapidly when soil temperature is above 70, explained Dr. Steven Petrie, Unocal's Supervisor of Agronomic Services.

Hence, the nitrate in CAN 17 is available immediately to crops as they grow in cool soils, while the ammonic form is held in reserve until soil temperatures rise and a plant's nitrogen requirements are greater, he said.

At the same time, calcium is a required nutrient for normal plant growth and development, and is especially critical to proper cell wall and cell membrane development, Petrie said. The calcium in CAN 17 is water soluble and readily available to plants. That gives a crop its best chance at proper early-season cell wall development as well as avoiding late-season internal disorders such as blossom end rot of tomatoes, bitter pit of apples, and internal brown spot of potatoes, Petrie explained.

Fontana said the market for CAN 17 is really two different markets. "The California/Arizona market is a mature one," he said. "Growers there are familiar with the product, they know when to use it and how to use it. In the Pacific Northwest, growers are just becoming aware of the several ways a single product like CAN 17 can help them."

Fontana said that CAN 17 is being used in Pacific Northwest tree crops, potatoes, onions, sweet corn, and other cool-season vegetables. "Giving crops an easily available nitrate form of nitrogen is important to growers here as we frequently are planting into cool soils," Fontana said. "Plus we're very excited about recent Washington State University research that shows a direct correlation between increased levels of calcium and reduced internal brown spot in potatoes."

"Three years of our own field research shows consistent potato yield increases and quality improvement," added Petrie.

Unocal Agriproducts is the only major fertilizer manufacturer west of the Mississippi River. In addition to CAN 17, Unocal Agriproducts produces Di-AN, UAN 32, AN 20%, and granular ammonium nitrate, which are other formulations of ammonic and nitrate forms of nitrogen; N-pHURIC, which is an acid-based fertilizer containing urea and sulfuric acid; and bulk anhydrous ammonia and urea.

Updated: June 1996