Ammonia is one of the most commonly produced industrial chemicals worldwide. More than 100 million tonnes of ammonia is produced each year and the bulk of this is used in the agricultural fertilizer industry. Anhydrous ammonia liquid is direct drilled into the soil in many areas around the world. This method is said to be a cost effective delivery of nitrogen to the subsoil which encourages crop growth. In other situations the fertilizer is delivered to the plants as an aqueous-ammonia solution typically 25% ammonia in water. Ammonia is also widely used in the manufacture of a range of granular fertilizers.
In the US Midwest there is a network of more than 40 ammonia storage terminals interconnected with over 5000 km of piping to facilitate the distribution of anhydrous ammonia for use as a fertilizer. This network spans from Louisiana in the south to Minnesota in the north and from Indiana to Texas. Large quantities of ammonia are also transported by sea, rail and road. The US uses around 15 Million tonnes of ammonia per year in the fertilizer industry.
China is currently the largest producer of ammonia. Most ammonia is at present produced using natural gas or coal. It is possible to manufacture ammonia using renewable energy like solar, wind, hydroelectricity etc. rather than using hydrocarbons.
At present, ammonia is a massive contributor and essential to efficient world food production.
In the next session we will discuss the potential for ammonia as a carbon free, zero emission fuel. This is where ammonia has the most to offer in preserving the future of our planet.