Paving the way to 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

 

By 2050 – under the right conditions – ammonia production could be based on decarbonised sources of energy. A combination of policy solutions is needed to enable the transition to a climate-neutral economy by 2050 while keeping fertilizer industry competitive.

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-based exporters.

  

 

EU hydrogen strategy: Low-carbon, abundant and affordable hydrogen essential for future low carbon fertilizer prodution

Jacob Hansen 

Director General, 
Fertilizers Europe

 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”