Nitric acid is an important raw material in the chemical industry, especially for fertiliser production. However, the manufacture of nitric acid releases nitrous oxide (N2O) into the atmosphere. N2O is a greenhouse gas that is 264 times more harmful to the climate than CO2. Businesses have no incentive to reduce N2O emissions, as this would not result in any efficiency gains or any other benefits. Likewise, owing to the current low price of emission reduction certificates, the carbon market is not adequately incentivising investment in N2O reduction either. And yet, N2O abatement is relatively inexpensive, averaging EUR 1 to 2 per tonne of CO2-equivalent. By way of comparison: combined heat and power (CHP) is EUR 13 and biogas feed-in EUR 55 per tonne of CO2-equivalent.
This sector’s global mitigation potential – estimated at 200 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent (MtCO2e) by 2020 – is very significant. For this reason, Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) launched the Nitric Acid Climate Action Group (NACAG). NACAG’s vision is for all nitric acid production plants worldwide to be fitted with N2O abatement technology by the year 2020.
Developing countries and emerging economies that are NACAG members plan and implement measures for the long-term abatement of N2O emissions caused by nitric acid production. After 2020, member countries take mitigation into their own hands.
The project is assisting BMUB with NACAG’s implementation. To this end, it advises interested partner country governments on the legal and institutional framework conditions for reducing industrial N2O emissions. The project is also helping to establish and intensify contacts with a wide range of stakeholders; for example, bilateral and multilateral donors, developing countries and emerging economies, industrial companies and associations, technology providers and project developers. Furthermore, it supports relevant stakeholders in identifying, preparing and implementing N2O abatement projects.
By setting its sights on harnessing this sector’s 200 MtCO2e mitigation potential by 2020, the Nitric Acid Climate Action Group is helping to close the ongoing mitigation gap. If partner countries commit to mainstreaming N2O abatement in their national climate change strategies after 2020, the mitigation potential could reach 500 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent by 2030.