Farming - Photo credit, Free Images - Pixabay
Welcome to the thirty-fifth edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
This week I take a look at how advances in carbon capture and utilization technologies are being exploited to convert carbon into urea fertiliser. I will also feature companies such as Opus 12, and Tandem Technical, and how they are utilising captured carbon in the fertiliser industry.
Urea is a compound CO(NH 2) 2, that occurs in urine and other bodily fluids following the metabolism of protein. Synthetic urea is a water-soluble powder form of the compound created following the reaction of liquid ammonia and liquid CO2. Synthetic versions of urea are used as fertiliser and animal feed.
Converting Carbon into Urea fertilizer
According to the Pembina Institute when CO2 is converted into urea fertiliser it boosts crop yield. This mature CCUS technology is already operating commercially and reduces emissions intensity in the fertiliser process. The main drawback of converting carbon into urea is CO2 will be remitted back into the atmosphere when it is broken down as fertiliser and spread over agricultural land.
Opus 12 are based out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calfornia. You might recall us featuring Opus 12 in week 32 of this blog and the company’s skills at producing a carbon negative plastic.
Opus 12 have designed and commercialised a reactor that can make 16 different carbon-based compounds out of CO2. The reactor is described as the equivalent of fitting 37,000 trees in a suitcase. One of the compounds that they are able to create from the reactor is CO(NH 2) 2 (urea).
Tandem Technical are headquartered in Ottawa Canada and are led by Jerry Flynn a chemical engineer. Tandem Technical’s patent process converts Co2 into by-products such calcium carbonate.
Calcium carbonate is most commonly found in rocks and is an active ingredient in agricultural lime. Agricultural lime is made from pulverised limestone and spread over the agricultural land. This has many benefits for the land including increasing the level of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) in plants grown on acidic soil.
The portion of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in a standard bag of agricultural fertiliser is 10%, 10%, and 20% respectively or better known as 10-10-20 to farmers. Spreading fertiliser close to aquatic systems such as rivers can have adverse impacts on the river as algae grow at an accelerated rate, dies and the decomposed algae remove oxygen from the water.
Advances in CCUS technologies mean that captured carbon can be converted into multiple carbon-based products. The conversion of carbon in urea has its benefits such as the reduction of carbon intensity in the fertiliser process. It is not without its limitations and when urea is broken down into fertiliser CO2 will be remitted but at much lower levels than say a coal-fired power plant.
Next week’s blog will profile Croatia and their efforts to meet their CO2 emissions reduction targets.
If you liked this article you might enjoy reading some recent articles in the series:
Week 34 Singapore: sticking with Paris and switching to natural gas.
Week 33 New Zealand: Cows and cars could cost Kiwi economy NZ$14.2b in carbon credits
Week 32 Polymers: creating plastic out of thin air