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Title: Towards sustainable agriculture: Fossil-free ammonia

We report that about 40% of our food would not exist without synthetic ammonia (NH 3) for fertilization. Yet, NH 3 production is energy intensive. About 2% of the world's commercial energy is consumed as fossil fuels for NH 3 synthesis based on the century-old Haber-Bosch (H.-B.) process. The state of the art and the opportunities for reducing the fossil energy footprint of industrial H.-B. NH 3 synthesis are discussed. It is shown that even a hypothetical utterly revolutionary H.-B. catalyst could not significantly reduce the energy demand of H.-B. NH 3 as this is governed by hydrogen production. Renewable energy-enabled, fossil-free NH 3 synthesis is then evaluated based on the exceptional and continuing cost decline of renewable electricity. H.-B. syngas (H 2, N 2) is assumed to be produced by electrolysis and cryogenic air separation and then supplied to an existing H.-B. synthesis loop. Fossil-free NH 3 could be produced for energy costs of about $232 per tonne NH 3 without claiming any economic benefits for the avoidance of about 1.5 tonnes of CO 2 released per tonne NH 3 compared to the most efficient H.-B. implementations. Research into alternatives to the H.-B. process might be best targeted atmore » emerging markets with currently little NH 3 synthesis capacity but significant future population growth in markets such as Africa. Reduced capital intensity, good scale-down economics, tolerance for process upsets and contamination, and intermittent operability are some desirable characteristics of NH 3 synthesis in less developed markets and for stranded resources. Lastly, processes that are fundamentally different from H.-B. may come to the fore under these specific boundary conditions.« less
Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Kansas State Univ., Manhattan, KS (United States). Department of Chemical Engineering
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
SC0016453
Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 9; Journal Issue: 3; Journal ID: ISSN 1941-7012
Publisher:
American Institute of Physics (AIP)
Research Org:
Kansas State Univ., Manhattan, KS (United States). Department of Chemical Engineering
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
03 NATURAL GAS; 32 ENERGY CONSERVATION, CONSUMPTION, AND UTILIZATION; 37 INORGANIC, ORGANIC, PHYSICAL, AND ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY
OSTI Identifier:
1466751
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1364182

Pfromm, Peter H. Towards sustainable agriculture: Fossil-free ammonia. United States: N. p., Web. doi:10.1063/1.4985090.
Pfromm, Peter H. Towards sustainable agriculture: Fossil-free ammonia. United States. doi:10.1063/1.4985090.
Pfromm, Peter H. 2017. "Towards sustainable agriculture: Fossil-free ammonia". United States. doi:10.1063/1.4985090. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1466751.
@article{osti_1466751,
title = {Towards sustainable agriculture: Fossil-free ammonia},
author = {Pfromm, Peter H.},
abstractNote = {We report that about 40% of our food would not exist without synthetic ammonia (NH3) for fertilization. Yet, NH3 production is energy intensive. About 2% of the world's commercial energy is consumed as fossil fuels for NH3 synthesis based on the century-old Haber-Bosch (H.-B.) process. The state of the art and the opportunities for reducing the fossil energy footprint of industrial H.-B. NH3 synthesis are discussed. It is shown that even a hypothetical utterly revolutionary H.-B. catalyst could not significantly reduce the energy demand of H.-B. NH3 as this is governed by hydrogen production. Renewable energy-enabled, fossil-free NH3 synthesis is then evaluated based on the exceptional and continuing cost decline of renewable electricity. H.-B. syngas (H2, N2) is assumed to be produced by electrolysis and cryogenic air separation and then supplied to an existing H.-B. synthesis loop. Fossil-free NH3 could be produced for energy costs of about $232 per tonne NH3 without claiming any economic benefits for the avoidance of about 1.5 tonnes of CO2 released per tonne NH3 compared to the most efficient H.-B. implementations. Research into alternatives to the H.-B. process might be best targeted at emerging markets with currently little NH3 synthesis capacity but significant future population growth in markets such as Africa. Reduced capital intensity, good scale-down economics, tolerance for process upsets and contamination, and intermittent operability are some desirable characteristics of NH3 synthesis in less developed markets and for stranded resources. Lastly, processes that are fundamentally different from H.-B. may come to the fore under these specific boundary conditions.},
doi = {10.1063/1.4985090},
journal = {Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy},
number = 3,
volume = 9,
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {6}
}

Works referenced in this record:

Solar thermochemical production of hydrogen��a review
journal, May 2005