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UK project to demonstrate fertiliser production using renewable energy

The UK’s Technology Strategy Board is funding a consortium that includes the Waitrose supermarket chain and ITM Power, to demonstrate de-carbonisation of fertiliser production, which is responsible for a significant proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy storage and clean fuel specialist ITM Power is leading the consortium, which – subject to final contract – has been awarded £1.37 million (US$2.3 million) in co-funding from TSB, the UK’s innovation agency, under its Agri-Tech Catalyst programme.

The project is to design and build a system for the production of renewable fertiliser. The integrated electrolyser-based, pilot-scale system will be trialed at Waitrose’s Leckford Farm in Hampshire. ITM Power will receive approximately £0.6 million ($1 million) of the project funding.

‘ITM Power is delighted to be working with Waitrose to produce renewable fertiliser at its UK farm,’ says Dr Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power. ‘The widespread deployment of our technology has the potential to dramatically reduce the material greenhouse gas emissions associated with fertiliser production globally. This is a new and exciting market for us.’

One of the ways in which Waitrose strives to minimise its impact on the environment is by supporting sustainable agriculture. The involvement of the retailer’s own farm in this pilot could support this aim by helping to develop a process that could greatly reduce the environmental footprint where fertiliser is used.

Half of current global food production relies on the use of ammonia (NH3) based fertilisers, and is key to increasing yields. The challenge addressed by this project is the need to drastically reduce the emissions associated with the production of NH3-based fertilisers.

Commercial production of NH3 is a large-scale industrial process which converts natural gas (or other fossil fuels) into gaseous hydrogen, which is catalytically reacted with nitrogen to form anhydrous liquid NH3.

Hydrogen can be produced more simply and more sustainably by electrolysis of water using renewable electricity – thus decoupling NH3 production from fossil fuels, substantially decarbonising the process, and providing a means of utilising waste CO2 in urea production in line with EU climate action objectives.

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Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Policy, investment and markets