Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer requires a lot of energy, which translates to a lot of oil. Pivot Bio has discovered a means to give nitrogen to plants without leaving a carbon footprint.
Each year, around 140 million tons of ammonia are produced, with 75% of that being utilized to make synthetic nitrogen fertilizer for crops. Every synthetic nitrogen fertilizer product is built on ammonia, and available nitrogen is the bedrock of a productive global agricultural economy. However, did you realize that chemically producing one ton of ammonia consumes the same amount of natural gas as a year’s worth of electricity? A fertilizer plant utilizes enough natural gas to produce one ton of ammonia every two minutes, which is comparable to a year’s worth of residential energy.
Why does it require so much effort? To put it another way, making synthetic nitrogen fertilizer necessitates circumstances similar to those seen on the surface of Venus: temperatures exceeding 400C and pressures exceeding 100 times those found at sea level on Earth. Each year, 1 percent of global energy resources are used to create those temperatures and pressures at a manufacturing facility.
The majority of nitrogen on the planet is present in the form of dinitrogen gas (N2). Nitrogen atoms like each other’s company, and their chemical connection as N2 is one of the strongest on the planet. To generate the tremendous heat and pressure required to separate the nitrogen atoms in N2 and mix them with hydrogen from natural gas to produce ammonia, fertilizer factories employ an industrial process known as Haber-Bosch. This chemical process, however, is inefficient without a catalyst. An iron catalyst that facilitates the Haber-Bosch reaction must be aided with extra energy in the Haber-Bosch process. That energy comes mostly from fossil fuels, just as the energy that powers our houses and electronics.
The Haber-Bosch process is one of the most energy-intensive processes on the globe. It consumes three to five percent of the world’s natural gas resources each year to produce 140 million metric tons of ammonia. The Haber-Bosch process releases approximately three tons of carbon dioxide into the environment for every ton of ammonia produced. Other energy sources, such as coal, can raise a person’s carbon footprint by 40%. In total, the production of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, which supports world agriculture, emits over 500 million tons of CO2 each year, accounting for 1% of global GHG emissions.
What if we could produce all of the nitrogen we needed while emitting a fraction of the greenhouse gases? For decades, providing nitrogen with a low carbon footprint has been a “holy grail” of agriculture. Pivot Bio has discovered the answer and is now making nitrogen-fixing bacteria available to maize growers in the United States. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria can be thought of as small, natural ammonia manufacturers. Farmers who use Pivot Bio PROVEN, a microbial nitrogen fertilizer, minimize the amount of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer they need because microbes provide the same nutrient right at the crop’s root. These bacteria are far gentler on the environment than the typical Haber-Bosch operation.
To begin with, bacteria produce ammonia using renewable energy. Microbes are fed by sugars produced by photosynthesis and excreted by the plant, rather than massive volumes of natural gas. Second, germs have more sophisticated machinery. They have their own specific catalyst, nitrogenase, which is a protein. Nitrogenase absorbs individual N2 molecules and separates the two nitrogen atoms before combining them with hydrogen to make ammonia, which is a biological form of Haber-Bosch chemistry. There is no need for additional heat or pressure, unlike Haber-Bosch. Ammonia is produced spontaneously by microbes. Third, these bacteria are in a convenient location where nutrients are easily accessible. They manufacture and administer ammonia immediately adjacent to the root, eliminating the need for enormous storage and possibly harmful logistics associated with synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.
Pivot Bio PROVEN’s nitrogen-fixing microorganisms produce ammonia without leaving a large carbon impact. In fact, nitrogen-fixing microorganisms may create one ton of nitrogen with 98.8% fewer GHG emissions than the Haber-Bosch process. For nearly a century, synthetic nitrogen fertilizer has aided in the feeding of an expanding population. A better, cleaner instrument for supplying nitrogen to crops is now available, without the pollutants associated with the Haber-Bosch process. It’s a watershed moment for nitrogen, ushering in a cleaner, greener future.
What role does natural gas play in fertilizer production?
Spreadability, precision application, little environmental impact, and a high return on investment are all dependent on the mechanical quality of fertilizer. Taking a handful of fertilizer may often give you a sense of its quality: dust and broken granules suggest low quality, whereas homogeneous size and smooth surface indicate good spreadability.
Mineral fertilizers must also be pure nutrients that are devoid of contaminants and additions. Their environmental imprint, both during production and use, must be as small as feasible.
Continuous investments in people, technology, and organization are required to maintain high quality. Europe has the highest production standards in the world, addressing our society’s social, environmental, and health needs – today and tomorrow.
Nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas in modern plants. Natural gas, which is primarily methane, is improved by combining it with nitrogen from the air to generate nitrogen fertilizer through a series of transformation stages. Eighty percent of the gas is used as fertilizer feedstock, while the remaining twenty percent is used to heat the process and generate energy.
Different fertilizer kinds are made from the two primary end products, ammonium nitrate and urea, by mixing them with other materials as phosphorus and potassium to make NPKs, dolomite to make CAN, or urea and ammonium nitrate solution to make UAN.
Acidulating phosphate rock produces phosphorus fertilizers. Because phosphate rock is insoluble, it cannot give phosphorus in a form that plants can utilise.
which were later raised by tectonic upheavals These deposits may also contain toxic substances.
lava is a type of lava that comes from volcanoes. In general, there are extremely few pollutants in this granite. This sort of phopate rock is mined by Yara in Finland.
The rock is processed with acid, either sulfuric, phosphoric, or nitric, to make phosphorus fertilizer. Each method has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. The sulfuric acid approach creates a half-gypsum, low-phosphorus fertilizer called single superphosphate. The use of phosphoric acid results in a phosphorus fertilizer with a higher concentration.
The rock phosphate is acidulated with nitric acid in the third manufacturing phase. This is a more environmentally friendly approach that creates two fertilizers:
- Nitrophosphates are used to make complex NPK fertilizers like YaraMila by combining them with potassium.
- Calcium nitrate, as found in the YaraLiva range (due to nitric acid reacting with calcium in rock phosphate).
The phosphate content of the fertilizer cannot surpass the nitrogen content of the fertilizer, which is a constraint of this method.
The majority of potassium utilized in fertilizer production comes from natural potassium chloride deposits. By removing rock particles and salt from the mined material, it is crushed and cleaned. Potassium sulfate and potassium nitrate deposits are less common, but when they do occur, they are handled similarly.
Potassium chloride deposits are also recovered from concentrated salts found in places like the Dead Sea.
For the farmer to succeed in his spreading of the product in an even and regulated manner, the fertilizer must have the desired physical attributes. The following are the most important characteristics:
Yara fertilizer factories can be found all over Europe, near seaports and rivers to facilitate transportation: Montoir, Ambs, and Le Havre in France, Brunsbttel and Rostock in Germany, Tertre in Belgium, Sluiskil in the Netherlands, Ravenna in Italy, Porsgrunn and Glomfjord in Norway, to mention a few.
Yara’s fertilizer plants are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They only halt for maintenance and installation upgrades every now and then. Large storage spaces carry enough inventory to assure continuous deliveries and account for demand fluctuations.
What effect does natural gas have on fertilizer?
Increased agricultural drying and irrigation expenses will be a direct result of rising natural gas prices. However, the most significant consequences would be felt indirectly through price rises in nitrogenous fertilizer; natural gas accounts for 60 to 70% of fertilizer manufacturing expenses (Lutton and Andrilenas 1983).
What is the purpose of natural gas in agriculture?
The great majority of natural gas used in American agriculture today is for the manufacturing of farm inputs such as pesticides, polymers, and fertilizers, with nitrogen fertilizer production accounting for the majority of that. Furthermore, synthetic fertilizer is becoming more widely used in the United States, increasing our reliance on gas from foreign and unconventional (i.e., shale gas) sources. These limits highlight the importance of a bigger push toward organic agriculture and other fossil-free food system solutions.
Despite popular belief, natural gas will only play a minor role in future transportation. And the most efficient use of this scarce resource is to generate electricity (while also producing heat in efficient cogeneration arrangements) to power a 21st-century electrified transportation system.
With so many existing and planned shale gas wells expected to remain in operation for years, leaving a legacy of contaminated air, soil, and water, the long-term and cumulative effects over geography and time have converged to bring public health concerns to an all-time high. To avoid another legacy like coal hurting the health and well-being of millions of people for years, the EPA and public health specialists must better assess the hazards and determine how best to manage shale gas development.
What is the process of making fertilizer?
Phosphate, ammonia, urea, ammonium nitrate, and nitric acid are the five basic fertilizer chemicals produced by the industry. Only one nutrient is present in “straight” fertilizers. Fertilizers labeled “mixed” include two or more major nutrients. Mixed fertilizers can be made by chemically reacting diverse materials and using the chemical reaction as the binding force, or by simply mixing straight fertilizers together mechanically.
Is it possible to make fertilizer without using natural gas?
Ammonia is a critical component in fertilizer production, however its production necessitates the use of natural gas. The goal is for Yara to remove the natural gas and replace it with ammonia produced by solar electricity.
The plant would split water into oxygen and hydrogen using a solar-powered electrolyzer. The hydrogen will next react with nitrogen to form ammonia.
According to Chris Rijksen, Yara’s manager in the Land of Black Swans, “a molecule of renewable ammonia is exactly the same molecule as a conventional one.”
What is the composition of feces fertilizer?
Some waste treatment factories either burn it or send it to landfills, neither of which are the most cost-effective or environmentally good options. However, not all poop is consumed by fire or buried. Some human waste ends up in woods and farm fields as biosolids, a processed, feces-based fertilizer.
Do you find the notion of growing tomatoes in human feces revolting? It’s a frequent response, but one that Craig Cooger, a soil scientist at Washington State University, finds odd. “He explains that “we’re not as freaked out by animal excrement as we are by human waste.” “Despite the fact that biosolids are far distant from excrement, there is still a perception problem.”
“For thousands of years, humans have been repurposing their feces – some more safely than others.”
Some organizations, such as the Sierra Club, are concerned that utilizing human excrement as fertilizer is substantially riskier than using animal manure, thus skepticism about biosolids stems from more than just our aversion to discussing our poop. Almost half of all biosolids produced in the United States are applied to land, with agriculture accounting for the majority. Is putting human feces on our fields hurting our health?
For thousands of years, humans have been repurposing their waste some more safely than others. Often referred to by its euphemistic moniker “The most famous example of raw human waste application may be China, where human excrement has been used for centuries to close the nutrient cycle in their fields, something that agricultural scientist F.H. King cited in the early twentieth century as the reason for China’s seemingly perpetual fertility. While night soil may have helped China’s land retain vital nutrients, it has yet to earn any public health honors. Pathogens could easily be spread to persons and food since night soil was frequently untreated (so eating raw vegetation was seriously frowned upon).
What is the purpose of natural gas?
Natural gas is used in the electric power sector to generate electricity and usable thermal output. In 2021, the electric power sector consumed about 37% of total natural gas consumption in the United States, while natural gas provided about 32% of the primary energy consumed by the electric power sector. The majority of the electricity generated by the electric power sector is sold to and consumed by other consuming sectors in the United States, and this electricity consumption is factored into each sector’s overall energy consumption. (Natural gas is also used to create energy in the industrial and commercial sectors, and they consume practically all of it themselves.) In 2021, natural gas accounted for 38 percent of all utility-scale electrical generation in the United States.
Natural gas is used in the industrial sector as a process heating fuel, in combined heat and power systems, as a raw material (feedstock) for the production of chemicals, fertilizer, and hydrogen, and as a lease and plant fuel. In 2021, the industrial sector consumed around 33% of total natural gas consumption in the United States, and natural gas provided about 34% of the industrial sector’s total energy consumption. 2
Natural gas is used in the domestic sector to heat buildings and water, cook, and dry clothes. Natural gas is used to heat space and water in over half of all residences in the United States. In 2021, the residential sector consumed roughly 15% of total natural gas consumption in the United States, while natural gas accounted for about 23% of overall energy consumption in the residential sector.
Natural gas is used in the business sector to heat buildings and water, run refrigeration and cooling equipment, cook, dry clothing, and provide outdoor lighting. Natural gas is also used as a fuel in combined heat and power systems by some business customers. In 2021, the commercial sector consumed roughly 11% of total natural gas consumption in the United States, while natural gas accounted for about 19% of overall energy consumption in the commercial sector.
Natural gas is used in the transportation sector to power compressors that carry natural gas through pipelines, as well as as a vehicle fuel in the form of compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas. Government and private car fleets account for nearly all natural gas-powered vehicles. The transportation sector consumed roughly 3% of total natural gas consumption in the United States in 2021. Natural gas accounted for around 4% of total energy consumption in the US transportation sector in 2021, with natural gas pipeline and distribution activities accounting for 95% of that.
How much natural gas is used to fertilize crops?
In recent months, global fertilizer prices have risen to multi-year highs, owing to increases in the prices of essential feedstocks such as natural gas and coal, as well as export limitations imposed by providing countries.
Natural gas is utilized as a raw material and a source of energy for the production of nitrogen fertilizers all over the world. Coal is gasified into ammonia and used to make fertilizers in some countries, such as China.
Fertilizers containing nitrogen are the most widely used fertilizers on the planet. Other significant fertilizer components include ammonia, phosphate, and potash.
Natural gas, mainly methane, is enhanced in several of Yara Fertilizers’ transformation phases by combining it with nitrogen from the air to generate nitrogen fertilizer, according to the European crop nutrition firm.
According to Yara, “80 percent of the gas is used as fertilizer feedstock, while 20% is used to heat the process and produce energy.”
When natural gas costs increased, nitrogen fertilizer prices increased as well. In reality, over the last year, the prices of nitrogen (as anhydrous ammonia, urea, or liquid nitrogen), phosphorus (as diammonium phosphate, or DAP), and potassium (as potash) have all increased dramatically.
China’s ban on exporting phosphate fertilizer, which has been in effect since September 2021 to assure domestic supplies, has bolstered fertilizer prices. Soon after, Russia banned fertilizer shipments.
China, India, the United States, and Brazil are the world’s top fertilizer consumers and producers of major agricultural commodities.
China’s ban and fertilizers in India
China, the world’s largest fertilizer supplier, has banned fertilizer exports and asked coal and natural gas companies to honor fertilizer contracts with domestic manufacturers.
India imports over 60% of its annual DAP use of 10 million to 12 million mt. According to a Reuters story from early December, China accounts for 40% of this.
In November, India’s winter or Rabi cropping season began, and demand for fertilizers is expected to rise. According to the Reuters article, Indian farmers have already experienced delays or disruptions in fertilizer deliveries.
India grows all of its wheat, as well as some oilseeds, pulses, and corn, during the winter sowing season.
India is also a fertilizer producer, and the country’s fertilizer business relies on LNG imports for 60 percent to 73 percent of its natural gas feedstocks between January and October 2021.
According to S&P Global Platts Analytics, India’s contracted LNG supply of 24.3 mt/year covers slightly over half of the country’s annual regasification capacity, indicating that the country is exposed to spot LNG imports.
India’s LNG importers told S&P Global Platts that spot LNG prices have risen over the $11-$12/MMBtu range considered affordable for end-users.
Indian importers may have used long-term LNG contracts to serve the fertilizer industry. However, these futures are frequently benchmarked against Brent crude, whose price has nearly doubled year over year. Platts-assessed Since October, the date-adjusted Brent benchmark has been moving above $70/b, up from the mid-$30s to mid-$40s range seen in early October to early December 2020.
In early October, Platts-adjusted JKM spot LNG prices and Europe TTF both surpassed $56/MMBtu and Eur 100/MWh, respectively. Since peaking in October, these costs have dropped to roughly $33/MMBtu this week.
Global fertilizer scenario
Various fertilizer plants in Europe have closed as a result of increasing natural gas prices, causing supply worries.
Yara Fertilizers reported that Europe’s record high natural gas costs are impacting ammonia production margins, and that as a result, production at some of its units has been reduced.
Farmers’ input costs have increased in the United States, with fertilizer prices skyrocketing. Corn is the world’s most fertile crop, and the United States produces the most of it.
If corn prices remain stable, farmers in the United States have discussed switching to other crops such as soybeans or lowering fertilizer use in the forthcoming planting season.
Fertilizer prices are expected to rise, affecting Brazil’s largest corn crop, which will be planted this month.
The end date for rising fertilizer prices is unknown, according to economists from the American Farm Bureau Federation, who spoke at their annual meeting on Jan. 8.
“Regardless of the variables driving the increase in costs, the reality on the ground is that farmers are facing the likelihood of a substantial increase in expenses moving into the 2022 Spring planting season,” according to a paper released by Texas A&M University in January.
Food inflation worries
This comes at a time when global food inflation has already reached multi-year highs. The high cost of fertilizer may eventually be reflected in the cost of food produced.
“High natural gas prices, if sustained until early 2022, will transfer into higher food costs, reinforcing an inflationary trend already fueled by supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and rising demand from the biofuels industry,” according to an IHS Markit update from October.
The Food Price Index of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization averaged 125.7 points in 2021, up 281.1 percent year over year and the highest in the prior ten years.
In addition to rising prices, there are concerns about fertilizer supply, which would certainly affect planting. Due to a scarcity of fertilizers, farmers may reduce their fertilizer use, putting pressure on yield and production.
According to IHS’ assessment, history shows that farmers are not willing to buy “average” volumes of fertilizer at current prices. “The last time global yearly demand was nearly halved when potash prices were at current levels for a sustained period,” it noted.
If natural gas prices remain stable or rise, agricultural prices, particularly maize prices, will need to remain high to maintain needed acres, which, in turn, will feed into higher food prices, according to the report.