Emission Reduction

Key Facts

47% N20

Fertilisers Efficiency Enhancers can mitigate nitrous oxide emissions by 47%

33% CO2

Savings Potential of 33% reduction of the carbon footprint of current nitrogen fertiliser use

Urease inhibitors (UIs)

In the EU 27+UK, Nitrogen (N) fertilisers such as straight-nitrates (AN+CAN), Urea and N-containing compounds represent approximately 75% of the annual fertilizer consumption.

Readily available Urea it is an attractive fertiliser for farmers due to its high N content, low cost and good water solubility. Nevertheless, ammonia volatilisation potential after field application represents a challenge to the use of urea.

Furthermore, ammonia can be transported over long distances causing eutrophication and acidification in non-agricultural areas, e.g. rain forests. This can be mitigated to a large extent via urease inhibitor usage, as urea treated with UIs can contribute to a 42.5% and 9%[1] reduction of ammonia emissions and nitrous oxide emissions from mineral fertilisers, respectively.

[1] IFA data – average 2015-18 EU 27+UK and EMEP/EEA air pollution emission inventory guidebook 2019

Nitrification inhibitors (NIs)

On the other hand, NIs applied to urea and ammonium containing fertilisers like ammonium nitrate, calcium ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulphate and NPK compounds reduce nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching.

Research shows using UI and NIs with urea and ammonium containing fertilisers can mitigate nitrous oxide emissions by 47%[1], leading to significant carbon abatement of crop production systems.

Taking into account the effect of saving nitrogen losses of about 619 kT nitrogen and average CO2eq emissions of 3.5 t per ton of fertilisers nitrogen produced in Europe the overall potential impact of inhibitor technology on emissions from nitrogen fertilisers sums up to about 32 million tons of CO2 equivalents or about 33% reduction of the carbon footprint of current nitrogen fertiliser use. This is equivalent to removing 8.9 Million cars from the street!

Although Nitrogen is the most important nutrient, being the motor of growth, there are also some undesirable effects associated with its application, such as NH3 emission mainly from Urea containing fertilisers, N2O emission from all N-containing fertilisers and Nitrates Leaching from all N containing fertilisers.
Applying Urease inhibitors has the potential to reduce NH3 emissions by 70%.

Nitrification inhibitors can reduce N2O emissions by 38% as well as nitrates leaching by 18%.

Pathways of nitrogen lossesUrease inhibitor impact (UI)Nitrification inhibitor impact (NI)UI+NI
FertilizerAnnual Consumption*Ammonia emisison factor**AmmoniaNitrous oxideNitrate
Ammonia emissionNitrous oxide emissionNitrogen consumption Nitrous oxide emissionNitrate leaching Nitrogen consumption Nitrogen consumption
kt nitrogen% Nkt NH3-NkT N2O-Nkt Nkt NH3-Nkt N2O-Nkt Nkt N2O-NkT NO3-Nkt Nkt N
Ammonium nitrate20561.734.95220.56246.727.812844.409652.222452.2224
Ammonium phosphates3446.422.0163.4441.281.30727.43048.73768.7376
Ammonium sulfate38511.544.2753.8546.21.4638.3169.7799.779
Calcium ammonium nitrate25571.128.12725.57306.849.716655.231264.947864.9478
NK compounds532.21.1660.536.360.20141.14481.34621.3462
NP compounds2486.616.3682.4829.760.94245.35686.29926.2992
NPK compounds12146.680.12412.14145.684.613226.222430.835630.8356
Nitrogen solutions (UAN)15348.7133.45815.34184.0853.38323.83557.21825.829233.134438.963696.1818
other straight nitrogen6001.27.26722.2812.9615.2415.24
Grand total11581740.646115.811389.72314.455210.31324.765244.0078250.1496294.1574618.9226
CO2 equivalents (kt) 54182.86664823.63661519.4464647220589.4893081170.3499185628102.92229128
*IFAdata, average 2015-2018
** EMEP/EEA air pollutant emission inventory guidebook 2019 – technical guidance to prepare national emission inventories