Green ammonia and low-carbon fertilizers
Current ammonia and fertilizer production
Today’s production of nitrogen fertilizers is energy intensive. In Europe, ammonia production is mainly based on natural gas as a raw material and steam methane reforming (SMR) as the main technology.
The first step involves splitting the natural gas molecules with the help of steam and high temperatures, to obtain hydrogen and CO₂.
In a second step, this hydrogen is then combined with nitrogen from air to produce ammonia. Although it is the least carbon intensive of the technologies available today, SMR nevertheless generates large quantities of CO₂.
Fertilizer industry reaching technical limit in decreasing emissions
Fertilizer industry’s excellent record in decreasing GHG emissions
The European fertilizer industry has overall made tremendous improvements in the energy efficiency of ammonia production.
The physico-chemical limitation of the present technology means that future investments are likely to improve efficiency only marginally. Newly build plants are generally very efficient, but on average, Europe’s ammonia plants despite their average age are still the most energy efficient in the world and have the lowest CO₂ emissions.
As the only region in the world, European fertilizers producers have drastically reduced the emission of N₂O from its production.
Going beyond current production technology requires major developments in energy infrastructure, price competitiveness of green energy, scientific breakthroughs and markets for low carbon products.
Emerging low carbon technologies
GREEN AMMONIA AND LOW-CARBON FERTILIZER PRODUCTION IN 2050
Ammonia as the most cost-effective energy carrier
Beyond fertilizers – creation of the market for green ammonia
Priorities to advance the transition
By 2050 – under the right conditions –
ammonia production could be based on
decarbonised sources of energy.
As the European Commission moves ahead with its decarbonisation plans for the EU economy, it is essential that the policies proposed include the potential role ammonia could play in the decarbonisation effort. Support for research and pilot projects and the implementation of necessary standards for energy infrastructure and transportation are needed.
1. Low-carbon and competitively priced energy and feedstock
2. Infrastructure to transport low-carbon resources
3. Infrastructure for CO₂ management and avoidance
4. Funds to finance the transition
Ensuring level-playing field
Fertilizers Europe calls for a level playing field between EU producers who are subject to EU ETS carbon costs and importers who are not.
The proposed model is based on continuation of the present principle of EU ETS including free allowances:
• The adjustment should be based on the difference between the product benchmark set in EU ETS and the carbon intensity of imported products, thus giving foreign exporters an incentive to
improve their production.
• Planned carbon border adjustment mechanism needs to include equivalent measures to ensure competitiveness of
EU hydrogen strategy: Low-carbon, abundant and affordable hydrogen essential for future low carbon fertilizer prodution
“We welcome the EU Hydrogen strategy as it lays foundation for deployment of relevant policies that are expected to create a sustainable and competitive business environment for strategic technologies such as low-carbon hydrogen and green ammonia.
As one of the key producers and users of hydrogen, our sector is best placed to help upscale new technology in the most cost-effective way.
Balancing EU’s climate ambitions with industrial competitiveness will be key to a successful implementation of this strategy”