Agrium Inc. announced the start of construction for its production expansion project at Agrium Advanced Technologies' ("AAT") ESN ("ESN") facility in New Madrid, Mo.

The expansion is expected to more than double existing annual production capacity, adding an additional 136,000 tonnes (150,000 tons) in ESN production and bringing total annual capacity to 246,000 tonnes (270,000 tons) at the New Madrid facility. Total ESN capacity for AAT will be 464,000 tonnes (512,000 tons) after the New Madrid expansion. Capital expenditure for the project is expected to be approximately $28-million. The construction is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2012 with full operational capability expected at that time.

"We are very excited about this expansion. Not only will it increase our production capacity so that we can continue to meet current ESN demand in North America, it will also prepare us for continued growth for this unique product going forward," said Andrew Mittag, President, Agrium Advanced Technologies.

ESN is a urea granule covered by a flexible, micro-thin polymer coating. Soil moisture moves into the granule, dissolves the urea inside, and the urea solution moves out into the soil at a rate determined by soil temperature. As the soil warms and crop growth increases, the granules release nitrogen more quickly to keep up with greater crop demand. As a result, the controlled-release technology of ESN delivers the right amount of nitrogen to crops throughout the growing season, resulting in better crop quality and higher yield while also protecting nitrogen from loss to leaching, volatilization and denitrification.