Boots on the ground: Stanford team puts decarbonized fertilizer to the test

The current fertilizer industry uses the hundred-year-old Haber-Bosch process to combine nitrogen in the air with hydrogen to make ammonia fertilizer. Since the process was developed, synthetic fertilizer has revolutionized agriculture, supported global population growth and become a massive industry. Ammonia fertilizer production is very energy intensive and relies on fossil fuels. It accounts for about one percent of total global energy use. Much of this energy use and resulting greenhouse gas emissions come from using natural gas as a feedstock to make ammonia. In addition, the process requires heat and extremely high pressure, and therefore production is limited to big facilities. The research and development team seeks to change this equation and aims to shift the focus from factories to the field. Their device consists of a solar array providing renewable energy, a reactor and two 55-gallon drums and it operates at ambient conditions making it more sustainable. If the technology is competitive, farmers would have powerful economic and environmental incentives to use this technology.