SANTIAGO, June 2 (Reuters) - Chilean chemicals firm SQM said on Thursday it will increase its potassium nitrate production capacity 50 percent to approximately 1.5 million tonnes per year by building a new plant and improving operating efficiencies.
SQM said it plans to build a new plant with initial capacity of 300,000 tonnes annually, but added that it still has not determined how much it will cost to develop the new plant.
Production at the new plant is expected to begin in mid-2018.
Additionally, SQM said it has been introducing measures to increase operating efficiency at existing plants, which will allow it to boost production capacity by some 100,000 tonnes annually in 2016 and another 100,000 tonnes in 2017.
"We will maintain high levels of installed capacity for the production of water soluble potassium nitrate for applications in the specialty plant nutrition market, and at the same time we will consolidate our position as the leading providers of nitrates -potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate- that are used for thermal storage in concentrated solar power plants," said Patricio de Solminihac, SQM's chief executive. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by David Gregorio)