A new way to calculate the environmental impact of ammonia production

Scientists are evaluating how to make ammonia production tougher.

You are you ever wondered about the carbon impact of growing your dinner? Scientists have just found a new way to calculate some of it.

A major ingredient in the manufacture of fertilizer for global food production, ammonia also contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels. Recently, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory modeled how much it would cost to use more environmentally friendly, lower-carbon-emitting methods to produce ammonia.

Ammonia is primarily made by reforming natural gas, a process that contributes to atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. “The ultimate goal is to use renewable or nuclear energy and clean hydrogen to produce it for hire,” said Argonne Principal Scientist Amgad Elgowainy.

Elgowainy and colleagues used Argonne’s GREET® (Greenhouse gasoline, Controlled Emissions, and Electricity use in Technologies) model to estimate the environmental impact of ammonia creation from various energy sources . Next, they used a techno-economic model to examine the cost of two different ways to produce ammonia more sustainably.

The first way avoids some of the release of carbon by capturing a certain percentage of the carbon produced and then storing it in geological formations. This technology path can be implemented at relatively low cost, as the overall cost of manufacturing ammonia only increases by approximately 20%.

In the other nearly carbon-free pathway, water is electrolyzed to produce hydrogen, which is then combined with nitrogen to produce ammonia. “Using renewable or nuclear energy to separate water by electrolysis gives us a way to produce ammonia with almost no carbon influence,” Elgowainy said. “That said, the cost of doing it is currently higher than the carbon sixteen route.”

According to Elgowainy, there is significant scope for reducing the cost of electrolysis technology that could eventually make the water electrolysis route more competitive. “Research in this area could end up changing the market significantly, but it will take investment in the development and scale-up of production of electrolysis systems,” he said. “With cost reductions and efficiency improvements to meet the DOE’s goal of $1/kg of clean hydrogen, the path to electrolysis could enable a nearly carbon-free and affordable way to produce hydrogen. ammonia.”

An article based on the study, “Techno-economic performance and life-cycle GHG emissions of various ammonia production pathways, including the creation Conventional, Carbon Capture, Nuclear Power and Renewable Generation”, appeared in the May 13 issue of Inexperienced Chemistry.

In addition to Elgowainy, other authors include Kyuha Lee of Argonne, Xinyu Liu, Pradeep Vyawahare, Pingping Sunshine, and Michael Wang.

Works have been funded by the DOE’s State-of-the-art Investigation Initiatives Agency-Energy MARINER program.

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