Fertilizer production and use are essential to feeding the world’s growing population, which surpassed 8 billion people on November 15. In fact, over half of all food grown around the world today, for both people and animals, is made possible only through the responsible use of fertilizer. As the world population continues to grow, the need for sustainability produced fertilizer will only increase.
Sustainability and innovation are top priorities of the fertilizer industry, including energy efficiency, wastewater reuse, land reclamation, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). As reported in The Fertilizer Institute’s 2021 Sustainability Report, 31% of GHG emissions were captured per nutrient ton in 2020, a 368% increase over GHG emissions captured in 2013. As the industry continues to capture more process GHG emissions it is imperative that the United States have robust carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) infrastructure, including sequestration facilities and transportation.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has concluded that “reaching net zero will be virtually impossible” without the use of CCS, while the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that the cost of reaching climate goals will be significantly higher without utilizing CCS. The agreement between the two bodies makes clear the pivotal role that CCS can play in significantly reducing carbon emissions, particularly in hard-to-decarbonize industrial sectors with no viable alternatives to fossil fuels, such as fertilizer production.
According to the IEA, power and industrial facilities around the world captured 40 million metric tons of CO2 in 2021. In the U.S., there are currently 12 commercial scale facilities capturing and safely storing CO2 with nearly 90 more publicly announced carbon capture, removal, transport, and storage projects in various stages of development. Overall, the U.S. has more than 50 years of experience safely transporting and storing CO2.
CCS projects and CO2 storage are heavily regulated and require both state and federal permitting after extensive review and analysis. As part of the permitting process, storage providers must demonstrate they have a plan to monitor and report on the CO2 storage throughout operation and beyond completion of injections into the facility. Congress has also bolstered the adoption of the technology through legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, both of which provide strong support for carbon capture projects.
As more facilities harness carbon capture technologies and more storage facilities come online, the need for additional infrastructure, including CO2 pipelines, has become a focal point. There are currently over 5,000 miles of CO2 pipelines in the U.S., but a substantial buildout is needed as geological formations suitable for carbon sequestration are limited and can be located hundreds of miles from production facilities, especially fertilizer plants as they are often located in remote areas.
CO2 pipelines are regulated by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration (PHMSA) and have a strong safety record over the past 50 years. In fact, since 1985 CO2 pipelines have accounted for 1% of hazardous liquid pipeline incidents. Of specific interest to the fertilizer industry are three pipeline projects currently in development in Iowa, an area dotted with fertilizer and ammonia plants that could immediately benefit from CO2 infrastructure.
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The production of ammonia, the basic building block for all nitrogen-based fertilizers, is a highly energy intensive process. In the U.S., natural gas is used as both feedstock and fuel source in the production of ammonia. In other parts of the world, notably China, ammonia is produced through coal gasification, which results in much higher GHG emissions. According to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), "U.S. ammonia production, the third largest in the world behind China and Russia, is dominated by less carbon intensive natural gas-fed ammonia plants, which account for 92% of all U.S. ammonia production.” While CCS opponents decry carbon capture as a way for industry to continue burning fossil fuels, CCS is the best decarbonization opportunity to significantly reduce emissions for industries that have no viable economic alternatives to fossil fuels and is an essential piece to reaching both U.S. and global emissions reduction targets.
Corey Rosenbusch is the president and CEO of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI). Prior to TFI, Rosenbusch led the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) and lived in Indonesia implementing a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded development project for The Borlaug Institute. Rosenbusch holds a degree in International Development from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Education from Texas A&M University.For more ag news and opinions, visit www.Agri-Pulse.com.