2021 Brouwer UreaKnowHow What is the Future of Urea
The Paris Agreement will push renewable energy to grow worldwide leading to more renewable power, renewable hydrogen and also renewable ammonia. And renewable ammonia will impact the fertiliser industry: Existing ammonia producers will expand; the first ones (i.e. Yara, Fertiberia, CF Industries) are already have completed feasibility and are expanding their business towards renewable ammonia production. Further existing and new energy producers will and are already announcing plans to produce also renewable ammonia (i.e. Neom in Saudi Arabia).
Based on this renewable ammonia, we expect new nitrogen fertiliser producers will arise on new locations worldwide close to wherever demand for nitrogen fertiliser is present. Typically these new nitrogen fertiliser plants will be at a much smaller scale compared to the modern nitrogen fertiliser plants of today. Currently the first feasibility studies are prepared already. Note that for the energy market large scale renewable ammonia plants are expected.
Fertilisers have a significant contribution towards the provision of sufficient and high quality food. However the associated environmental impact urges for increasing nutrient use efficiency. This is depending on a combination of innovating technologies, new regulations made by politicians, improved daily practices by the farmers and the behaviour of the consumers. These kind of transformation processes take time and although the first steps are taken, much more needs to be done to respect Earth’s boundaries. Instead of producing standard bulk products, the fertilizer industry will need to move to specialty fertilizer products supporting the farmer to increase yields and at the same time avoid environmental impacts.
We believe urea will remain an important nitrogen fertiliser in the foreseeable future although more attention must be paid to reduce its related Greenhouse Gas emissions and Nutrient Use Efficiency.
Many thanks to Mr. Prem S. Bindraban, Director of European-Netherlands Office IFDC & Program Leader FERARI at International Fertilizer Development Center and Mr. Trevor Brown, Executive Director, Ammonia Energy Association for their most valuable support in reviewing and re-editing this paper.