Over 80% of the world’s demand for ammonia comes from agriculture, as ammonia is used as a fertilizer to add nitrogen, an element that is essential for plants, into soil that has been depleted by growing crops. Nitrogen (N) is essential to farming. Ammonia (NH3 – one molecule of nitrogen and three molecules of hydrogen) is an extremely efficient carrier of nitrogen.
We talk about the “ammonia paradox”. Ammonia is essential for global food security. But the traditional system used to produce ammonia creates massive carbon emissions which contribute to climate change. And in turn, climate change threatens global food security. It’s a vicious cycle.
Beyond climate change issues, disruptions to the ammonia supply chain are a common cause of stress for farmers. Russia’s war in Ukraine has heightened these concerns already raised by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, given the amount of fertilizer annually sourced from Ukraine and Russia. Today’s farmers are looking for alternatives to meaningfully contribute to a reduction in their carbon footprint along with simplifying their operations and improving the reliability of supply chains.
Agriculture is the first sector FuelPositive will be entering. FuelPositive’s containerized, onsite green ammonia production system is a perfect solution for decentralizing production and reducing reliance on foreign-controlled supply chains. Beyond decarbonizing the production of ammonia, our model liberates farmers and offers both energy and food security.
Farms of all sizes will use FuelPositive’s in-situ production systems where there is access to sustainable electricity to independently generate their own green ammonia. Where sustainable electricity isn’t already available, we will advise farmers how best to set themselves up with it – whether they use hydroelectric power or windmills or solar panels, etc. Our units are being built to produce up to 300 kg/day (500 litres/day or 100 tonnes/year), which is enough to provide fertilizer and fuel to farms that range in size from hundreds to thousands of acres.
FuelPositive’s green ammonia systems will give farmers energy independence. Each farm will house a FuelPositive production unit, scaled up or down according to the farm’s needs. Units fit onto 20- or 40-foot container-sized footprints. Farmers will produce sufficient green ammonia on-site to fertilize their crops and power their internal combustion engines, generators and other farm equipment. They can even convert their propane crop-drying systems to burn green ammonia to realize an exceptional environmental benefit. The green ammonia can be safely stored in existing pressurized propane tanks with little modification, thereby reusing the existing capital investment in propane storage. An additional system can be added to convert the anhydrous ammonia into UREA if desired.
To learn about our Letter of Intent with Manitoba farmers Tracy and Curtis Hiebert, look here:
Why not just use manure?
Ammonia must be handled with care to avoid damage to the environment. Farmers receive training in its safe handling.
However, many farmers misuse manure, which contains ammonia that is naturally produced. For mixed-use farms (those that have livestock and crops) manure (a natural by-product of all animals) is a “free” form of fertilizer (but its use as fertilizer is extremely environmentally costly down the road).
Farmers spray liquid manure on the ground, which releases gaseous ammonia into the atmosphere and creates a situation where rain and runoff move a tremendous amount of highly nitrogen-intense materials (nitrous oxide or NOx) into waterways and water tables, causing significant detrimental effect (pollution) to air and
Resting manure piles release gaseous ammonia into the atmosphere, which becomes a pollutant, particularly when the gaseous ammonia mixes with other airborne pollutants.
In comparison to using manure as fertilizer, deep injection of green ammonia reduces the emissions associated with manure. But we are doing more.
Our Next Challenge with Ammonia
At FuelPositive, we are well aware that there is more to do to reduce the greenhouse gases associated with ammonia. Once our carbon-free green ammonia is produced on the farm using a FuelPositive system, there is still the problem of nitrous oxide (NOx) and other nitrogen-related emissions. These are greenhouse gases emitted by all types of nitrogen fertilizers (organic or synthetic) – whether the nitrogen comes from animal manure or from manufactured ammonia produced using a carbon-free process or not.
Supporting best farming practices for emission reduction is critical to our ability to fulfil our cradle-to-cradle commitment. We are working with our agriculture sector advisors to identify how to use our fertilizer in the least polluting way. How can we make sure everything applied to the soil is used by the plants, with no excess chemicals leaching into the ground, the water system and the air? How do we arrive at that delicate balance? What else should we be doing?
The science around sustainable farming is still in its early days, but FuelPositive is actively taking on this issue as one of our next key challenges. We are looking for partnerships and acquisitions that will facilitate sustainable farming and we will be designing future pilot projects to work directly with scientists and farmers to continue this critical effort.
Being able to produce carbon-free green ammonia when and where it is needed is a major step forward. Giving control to farmers is a game-changer for them and will play a key role in food security, allowing farmers to continue to farm in a truly sustainable way
We’ve already tackled carbon dioxide. Now, we take on nitrogen emissions!