The study conducted by Centre for Science and Environment found that urea plants in the cooperative sector consume less energy than the ones in private and public sectors
Indian urea manufacturers are on a par with the best of the world in terms of low energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based non-profit, under its Green Rating Project (GRP).
With increased availability of natural gas over the past few decades, the country’s urea industry has largely preferred it over naphtha and other feedstock as it is a cleaner fuel besides being more energy-efficient.
Of the 31 urea manufacturing plants currently in operation in India, 28 plants use natural gas, while naphtha is used at only three plants.
In 2017, 94 per cent of India’s urea production capacity was natural-gas based and only six per cent was naphtha-based.
With energy consumption of 5.17 giga calories (Gcal) per metric tonne (MT) of urea produced, the Yara plant in Babrala of Uttar Pradesh has been the best performer and only inches behind the global best (4.8 Gcal per MT), the study revealed.
Energy perfomance of the plants surveyed
Although the government has been taking number of policy measures to increase the use of natural gas, its availability, however, continues to be an issue as the fertiliser industry has to compete with power production and other industrial sectors for the allocation of gas.
The study also found that urea plants in the cooperative sector consume less energy than the ones in private and public sectors.
Besides becoming a global concern for pollution of groundwater and surface water bodies, the production and use of urea has also significantly contributed to GHG emissions.
Urea contributes to climate change with the release of nitrous oxide that has a GHG potential 300 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2).
In ammonia and urea production, CO2 emissions take place from the use of hydrocarbons as fuel and feedstock, as well as from captive power plants and purchased electricity.
According to the study, the net emissions of CO2 in Indian plants was 0.7 CO2/MT of urea produced.
This compares favourably with an average of 0.9 MT CO2/ MT of urea produced in the European Union (when it had 27 member countries), 0.96 MT CO2/MT of urea produced in Africa, one MT CO2/MT of urea produced in the United States, 1.1 MT CO2/MT of urea produced in Russia, 1.2 MT CO2/ MT of urea produced in Chinese gas-based plants and 2.3 MT CO2/MT of urea produced in Chinese coal-based plants in 2014, the study added.
CO2 emissions from urea production in select regions of the world
However, the need is to address the gap between the best (Yara, Babrala 0.43 MT CO2/MT urea) and worst (SFC, Kota 1.35 MT CO2/MT urea) among the Indian plants.
Moreover, the use of urea in the fields also gives rise to emissions of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O).
Considering that India produced 24.2 million MT of urea in 2017-18, the total CO2 emissions from urea production in India would amount to 16.94 million MT in the same year. Lifecycle emissions for the urea produced and used in India are estimated to be 119 million MT, the study noted.
The performance of the Indian urea sector has been found average in almost all important categories like energy and GHG emissions, water use, pollution control and policy, and below average in transparency and stakeholders’ perception, the study said.
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