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Nitrous oxide Sources - Industry

Nitric acid production

nitrogen fertilizer pellets on soilNitric acid is a key ingredient in nitrogen based fertilizers. Nitric acid production involves the oxidation of ammonia (NH3) using a platinum catalyst. Nitrous oxide emissions arise from this process during the catalytic oxidation and it is estimated that around 5 grams of nitrous oxide are produced in this way for every kilogram of nitric acid which is manufactured.

Much recent progress has been made in reducing nitrous oxide emissions from this process by using more efficient ammonia oxidation conditions, with lower reaction temperatures preventing so much of the ammonia ending up as nitrous oxide emission.


Nylon production

nylon fabricNylon production is responsible for nitrous oxide emission through its requirement for adipic acid production. Adipic acid is a fine powder used in the manufacture of nylon fibers, as well as for some plastics, clothing, carpets and tyres. Adipic acid is also used in the production of dyes and insecticides.

Nitrous oxide arises from adipic acid production during the oxidation of a ketone-alcohol mixture with nitric acid. It is estimated that for each kilogram of adipic acid made, around 30 grams of nitrous oxide is also produced.

However, improvements in the removal of nitrous oxide before emissions to the atmosphere, such as by thermal decomposition, can cue potential emissions form this source by over 90 percent.


Fossil Fuel Power Plants

power switch turned to offThe burning of fossil fuels in electricity generation plants can lead to substantial amounts of nitrous oxide production. Coal fired power stations tend to dominate emissions form this source due to their lower combustion efficiency compared to other fossil fuels.

Emissions arise from the reaction of nitric oxide during combustion, though the high temperatures involved often mean that a large proportion of the nitrous oxide produced in this way is destroyed before it can escape to the atmosphere.

Nevertheless, increasing global energy demands have led to increased emissions from this source in recent decades and the widespread use of coal as power station fuel mean that nitrous oxide emissions from this source should not be overlooked.


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