Nitrogen Compound Removal Processes

This project objective is to provide information on means of reducing emissions of nitrogen compounds to the environment. This information is directed to businesses and authorities with responsibility for reducing environmental impacts. Nitrogen compounds (such as ammonia, nitrate and nitrite) form an important part of the nutrient cycle for plant growth. Significant advances in food production were made with the development of technologies to ‘fix’ nitrogen from air and make it available to plants in the form of nitrogen compounds in mineral fertilisers. However, the leakage of nitrogen compounds into waterways can lead to environmental problems such as eutrophication. In addition, microbial action can result in some of the nitrogen being emitted as nitrous oxide, which has a Greenhouse gas effect 300 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Hence there is increased focus on the reduction of emissions of nitrogen compounds to the environment.

Awareness over human sources of environmental problems has increased in recent years and authorities and companies are under pressure to reduce these impacts. The problem that the project partners have identified is that the causes and effects of environmental impacts are complex, and it is not always clear for companies and authorities what actions should be prioritised, and what the effects can be. A case in point is the focus on reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and the reduction of the carbon footprint. The issue is in fact greenhouse gas emissions and the emissions are, for convenience, expressed in terms of CO2-equivalent impact. As mentioned, nitrogen compounds can give an impact that is 300 times stronger than carbon dioxide, but occur in smaller quantities.
An initial review has identified sources of nitrogen compounds from human activity. A pre-project is proposed to examine these emissions from a northern perspective, in order to identify the most relevant topics for a later main project. In addition, processes for capture, reduction or removal of nitrogen compounds from the environment have been identified and the pre-project will test these for their suitability and efficiency for application in the Kolarctic region.

Specifically, nitrogen compounds are released from explosives used in road construction, excavation of building foundations, in tunnelling and in mining. Nitrogen compounds also can be released from fertiliser application in agriculture, or as a by-product of combustion processes. Emissions of nitrogen compounds from diesel vehicles can be reduced (by 90%) using a fuel additive (Ad Blue). These emissions differ in terms of the type of nitrogen compound released, whether it occurs to water or air, the concentration and the further fate of the nitrogen compounds. The local conditions, in terms of temperature and moisture content also affect the fate of the compounds. Different processes are available for treating the nitrogen compounds, such as absorption, microbial reduction, or reaction with other compounds. The pre-project will give an overview of the different sources, types and fates of nitrogen compounds from the perspective of the prevailing conditions of the northern region. This will be used to define the activities of a main project that addresses the sources of nitrogen emissions that are most critical for the region.

The project will provide an overview of the different forms of nitrogen emissions from a range of sources, and their relative environmental impacts. This information is expected to be useful for companies and local authorities in developing environmental impact plans, providing guidance for the prioritisation of actions. The target groups and beneficiaries of the project are companies developing environmental certification, and local authorities developing climate and environmental plans. The change that the project will make is the availability of quantitative information regarding the relative impact of different types of emissions of nitrogen compounds, and the efficiency different forms of corrective action. The review and summary of the science relating to the nitrogen cycle in the environment will be presented in a more accessible form than the current scientific reporting and gathered to a convenient dissemination resource. In addition, special attention will be paid to the special conditions prevailing in the Kolarctic region, such as the cold climate and sparse population.

The project is divided into a review of the scientific theory with interpretation according to local conditions, and an experimental component developing and testing methods for removing or reducing nitrogen compounds from case studies (such as from explosive residues). The main outputs will be a) a web-based information resource for businesses and local authorities on nitrogen compound emissions from different sources; and b) results from experimental testing of technologies to remove or reduce nitrogen compounds from specific sources. This can form the basis for a later, main project, where the prioritisation of the most important sources in the region have been identified, and potential technologies at lab scale can be scaled up to implementation.

WP Activities

The Kolartic NITRGONE project is organised in the following workpackages:

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