EnviNOx®: when agriculture becomes even greener
innovation | Sustainability and climate protection | When it comes to climate protection, we have set ourselves a very clear goal: we want to become climate-neutral by 2050 – and reduce our emissions by 30 percent by 2030. We also want to support our customers in becoming greener. This also applies to agriculture. During the production of fertilizers, nitrous oxide – often called laughing gas – is emitted in large quantities. The greenhouse gas is actually about 300 times more climate-damaging than carbon dioxide. The EnviNOx® process dissolves the climate killer into air.
Laughing gas is produced particularly frequently in agriculture – 60 percent of anthropogenic emissions originate here. Laughing gas is also produced in large quantities during the production of nitric acid, which is an important raw material for fertilizer production. Around 500,000 tons of laughing gas are produced here every year. It’s a disaster for our environment. But the good news is that thanks to EnviNOx®, N2O can be broken down relatively easily into its harmless components nitrogen and oxygen. thyssenkrupp has already demonstrated this on World Environment Day 2018. What has happened since then?
A year in the life of EnviNOx
Meinhard Schwefer is Principal Chemist at thyssenkrupp. He is one of the leading minds behind the process and can look back on a very successful year for EnviNOx®. “In January of this year, an EnviNOx® plant was commissioned in Belarus. It removes around 700,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents per year and also completely reduces all remaining NOx nitrogen oxides,” reports Schwefer.
Since the last World Environment Day, thyssenkrupp has also sold three more EnviNOx® plants in South Africa, Egypt and Poland. At the Polish site Włocławek alone, the environmental technology will eliminate almost 3,000 metric tons of N2O annually in the future. This corresponds to more than 700,000 tons of CO2 equivalents – a great success for the team behind EnviNOx® and for the environment.
Greater environmental awareness in society and politics
Schwefer observes a growing awareness of environmental and climate issues worldwide. In addition, the price of CO2 certificates has almost doubled in Europe since the last World Environment Day – companies that emit the greenhouse gas must obtain such certificates from the European Union. In this way, politicians want to get industries to keep their emissions as low as possible.
Thus, EnviNOx® is becoming more attractive for more and more companies and plant operators. Through further research, the team intends to open up even more areas of application. “In concrete terms, we are currently working on a project in Central Europe. If realized, this project alone could eliminate almost one million CO2 equivalents per year.”
EnviNOx®: a success story
There is a long history behind the development of this process. When Meinhard Schwefer and his team started developing the process in 2000, only a few people were interested in the greenhouse gas N2O. The chemists and engineers at thyssenkrupp tested in the laboratory and in real exhaust gas under which conditions laughing gas can be decomposed with the help of catalysts in the best way.
This development took several years. “Only those who go deep and have a long breath are successful,” says Schwefer. The first system was sold in 2006. The EU even declared the process “Best Available Technique” in 2008 and recommends it for nitric acid plant operators. Around 15 percent of nitric acid plants worldwide are now equipped with thyssenkrupp’s solution. EnviNOx® thus eliminates almost 15 million tons of CO2 equivalents annually.
In a nutshell: how EnviNOx® works
“The exhaust gas is simply passed through a special catalytic converter with the aid of which the N2O is broken down into its components,” explains Meinhard Schwefer. This is made possible by so-called zeolite catalysts that are activated in a special way with iron ions. “In this way, the laughing gas can be degraded as far as possible under industrial conditions,” says Schwefer.
In addition, EnviNOx® also eliminates the toxic NOx nitrogen oxides contained in the exhaust gas – completely! If a reducing agent such as ammonia is added during the process, the catalysts convert the NOx into water and nitrogen. By the way: Anyone who wants to use EnviNOx® does not have to rebuild their production plant: Exhaust gas purification, for example, can be easily integrated at the end of the nitric acid production process. A relatively small step for the plant operator, but a big one for climate protection.
About thyssenkrupp’s climate strategy
Sustainability plays a special role for us at thyssenkrupp. In particular, we have received several awards in recent years for our contribution to climate protection. So, it is only logical that we set ourselves a particularly ambitious goal for the future: climate-neutral by 2050. Find out how we intend to achieve this here.