A group of international companies have thrown their weight behind an ambitious plan to beat Perdaman Industries’ long-running fertilisers project into production through a $4 billion development at Derby. The Derby Fertilizers and Petrochemical Complex, led by an expatriate who helped maintain Pankaj Oswal’s Burrup Fertilisers plant in Karratha, is running a parallel planning and approvals process with the aim of turning out its first ammonia and methane for export markets by the last quarter of 2024. Vikas Rambal’s Perdaman plans to begin construction of its own $4.5b fertiliser plant in Karratha this year, having appointing local engineering firm Clough as the lead contractor on the project and targeting 2025 for first production. DFPC today announced the sale of a majority stake in the project to Dubai’s ARJ Holding Group, a diversified investment group which will take the project’s entire production and on-sell it to Japanese customers. Simultaneously, the project has signed preliminary agreements with Danish group Haldor Topsoe to design the processing plant and China’s Shanghai Electric to deliver a 100 megawatts solar power plant. The gas will be sourced from a privately-owned fracking company, Theia Energy, which has an agreement with the Karajarri people to explore the onshore Canning Basin, south-east of Broome. The Derby venture is the latest in a number of new proposals aiming to tap WA’s abundance of gas to produce fertilisers for domestic and offshore markets. “Everything is aligning to make this flagship project a success,” DFPC managing director Alfred Benedict said. The project would be developed in two stages, with ammonia, methanol and urea produced in the first stage and the second stage tapping potash and rock phosphate to turn out fertilisers. The plan, which would generate 500 direct and indirect jobs in Derby once production is under way, is supported by the Shire of Derby-West Kimberley. Prior to ARJ’s buy-in, DFPC was controlled by Mr Benedict, a Pakistani-born West Australian whose Project Support Services Asia business was once contracted to run the maintenance shutdowns on Burrup Fertilisers’ plant. His two fellow directors, Amiz Aziz and Ramalingam Arumugam also spent time working at Burrup Fertilisers. Mr Benedict said he had since worked on other fertiliser and energy projects overseas. DFPC, he said, had initially planned to site its plant in Darwin, only to be thwarted by an inability to secure a gas feed. The group is in talks with a syndicate of overseas banks over debt funding of 80 per cent of the cost of the project. Mr Benedict said he was hoping to win approvals and begin construction by the end of the year.