Urea Sector – Fertilizers: Kafkaesque Bureaucracy Kjeldahl nitrogen

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Green Rating Project


Fertilizers in 2018-19

Pulp and paper, auto-mobiles, chlor alkali, cement, iron and steel and thermal power

6 categories

54 indicators

Profit is a private concern of industry, pollution is a public one.

Urea manufacturing is an energy intensive process, accounting for 70-80 per cent of production cost.

Energy use and greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions were given the highest weightage (30 per cent).

Pollution—of air and water, and generation of solid and hazardous waste—is the second-most important segment and carries nearly 20 per cent weightage.

Water use efficiency was given 15 per cent weightage.

Environment management systems, health and safety and compliance are crucial components of a sustainable industrial operation and 17 per cent weightage was assigned to them.

Local stakeholders play the role of a watchdog in a plant’s performance and their perspective is given a weightage of 10 per cent.

Transparency has been given a weight-age of 8 per cent considering public disclosure practices of environmental data by the plants and their disclosure during the grp process

THE THREE TOP rated urea fertiliser plants are igf, Jagdishpur, Uttar Pradesh at the top position; kribhco Ltd, Hazira and Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilisers, Karnataka at joint second; and Yara Fertilisers, Uttar Pradesh, at the third position

Only Indo Gulf Fertilisers (IGF), Jagdishpur scored above average rating of the 23 operational urea manufacturing units – one plant with 4 leaves - Aditya Birla Group. It has an annual production capacity of 1.1 MT. – natural gas based

NFL Nangal was at the bottom with a score of 15 per cent.

kribhco, Hazira is a natural gas-based plant. It has an annual urea production capacity of 2.2 MT.

Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilisers Ltd in Panambur, north of Mangaluru city has an annual production capacity of 0.42 MT – natural gas based

But some plants, like Yara, Babrala, are among the world’s best. Emissions from production are only a small part of the ghg released from fertilisers.

Yara Fertilisers in Babrala, Uttar Pradesh, was the country’s best performer, almost matching the global best -

Average CO2 emission intensity during the past three years has been 0.43 tonnes CO2 per tonne urea, which is among the best in India. - 80 per cent treated waste-water is recycled in process and the rest is used in landscaping.


Food Production: from 52 MT in 1951 to 277 MT in 2017-18

NPK consumption: from 0.07 MT to 40 MT and per hectare (ha) (1951-2018)

Of the over 41 MT fertilisers produced in 2016-17, urea constituted around 60 per cent. India’s urea consumption has grown from 6 MT in 1980 to 30 MT in 2017.

Green Leaves Award

Since 1997, the Centre for Science and Environment has been rating industrial sectors through its “Green Leaves Award”. “5 Leaves” are for best performers. The urea sector as a whole received a score of 42 per cent and “3 Leaves”—an average performance.

Urea Industry

Biggest natural gas consumer (used as feedstock and fuel – cleaner)

Major pollutant

Major Source of water pollution

Fertiliser Production Is a moderately water intensive process. The average annual water consumption of the urea manufacturing sector of India is about 191 million cubic metres

Some plants do not even meet the 2003 Corporate Responsibility for Environment Protection Guidelines, issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb).

India’s Fertiliser Industry is classified under the “red category” of polluting sectors by cpcb. Wastewater generated at urea plants contains ammoniacal and Kjeldahl nitrogen, and cyanides

Total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) is the sum of organic nitrogen, ammonia (NH3), and ammonium (NH4+) in the chemical analysis of soil, water and wastewater. To calculate Total Nitrogen (TN), the concentrations of nitrate-N and nitrite-N are determined and added to the total Kjeldahl nitrogen.

Kjeldahl nitrogen - 83 per cent groundwater samples collected near 18 plant sites had an ammoniacal nitrogen content of 0.51–93.5 parts per million (ppm), the upper limit of which is 187 times the permissible limit of 0.5 ppm for drinking water set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

At a urea plant, the major sources of water pollution are the process condensate generated from the urea section (containing urea, ammonia and CO2) and oil-bearing effluent from pumps and compressors.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is more of an issue for only naphtha-based plants or those with fuel oil or coal-based captive power plants. NOx emission norms for reformers were only introduced in December 2017. As per cpcb guidelines, it is mandatory to install conti-nuous emission monitors (cems) in urea prilling towers

Disappointments - IFFCO, the largest cooperative and NFL, the largest public sector entity, operating three and four plants respectively (constituting around 18 per cent and 16 per cent of the total capacity of the sector respectively)

New Urea Policy 2018

New Urea Policy 2018 targets set by the government and were granted additional two years to meet their targets by 2020

There is a huge gap of 8 m3 of water used per tonne of urea produced between the sectorial best and worst

Indian farmer pay lowest price for urea

While the desirable ratio of N-P-K application is 4:2:1, the ratio in Punjab stands at 31.4:8:1 and the ratios are also skewed in favour of nitrogen in most other regions - stagnating or even declining productivity, soil sickness, widespread deficiency of secondary and micronutrients, and soil alkalinity and salinity

The biggest issue facing the sector has to do with the future of nitrogenous fertilisers. The industry has an important role to play in addressing two major global environmental challenges: nitrogen pollution and climate change.

Moreover, the world has breached the planetary limit for nitrogen, and the use of nitrogenous fertilisers is a major contributor

Improving Efficiency

Rainwater harvesting

Ground recharge

Zero liquid discharge status by tertiary technologies & use treated water for cooling tower and boiler make-up

Phase out coal for captive power

Nitrogen use efficiency in India is very low, at below 35 per cent in lowland rice and under 50 per cent in upland crops. The rest of the nitrogen is lost to the environment, representing a significant financial loss as well as contributing to pollution

Bio-fertilisers are one product that can be profitable to industry and farmers as well as being less harmful to the environment.

Yara is already setting up a small solar-powered electrolytic plant to produce hydrogen for ammonia production at its facility in Pilbara, Australia

Fertilisers are the most controlled sector of the Indian economy. The system of subsidies and controls in its present form has led to imbalanced and gross overuse of urea with adverse consequences

Kafkaesque bureaucracy micro managing marketing, logistics and subsidy payment - Metamorphosis about a man who turns into a giant insect

Decontrol will also make the industry more competitive. Competitiveness and innovation

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