The World Bank

Nitrogenous Fertilizer Plants Industry - Pollution Prevention Guidelines


Courtesy of The World Bank


Pollution Prevention Guidelines to provide technical advice and guidance to staff and consultants involved in pollution-related projects. The guidelines represent state-of-the-art thinking on how to reduce pollution emissions from the production process. In many cases, the guidelines provide numerical targets for reducing pollution, as well as maximum emissions levels that are normally achievable through a combination of cleaner production and end-of-pipe treatment. The guidelines are designed to protect human health; reduce mass loadings to the environment; draw on commercially proven technologies; be cost-effective; follow current regulatory trends; and promote good industrial practices, which offer greater productivity and increased energy efficiency.

Table of Contents

  • Industry Description and Practices
  • Waste Characteristics
  • Pollution Prevention and Control
  • Target Pollution Loads
  • Treatment Technologies
  • Emissions Guidelines
  • Monitoring and Reporting
  • Key Issues
  • Sources

Industry Description and Practices

This document addresses the production of ammonia, urea, ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate (AN), calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN), and ammonium sulfate nitrate (ASN). The manufacture of nitric acid used to produce nitrogenous fertilizers typically occurs on site and is therefore included here.


Ammonia (NH3) is produced from atmospheric nitrogen and hydrogen from a hydrocarbon source. Natural gas is the most commonly used hydrocarbon feedstock for new plants; other feedstocks that have been used include naphtha, oil, and gasified coal. Natural gas is favored over the other feedstocks from an environmental perspective.

Ammonia production from natural gas includes the following processes: desulfurization of the feedstock; primary and secondary reforming; carbon monoxide shift conversion and removal of carbon dioxide, which can be used for urea manufacture; methanation; and ammonia synthesis. Catalysts used in the process may include cobalt, molybdenum, nickel, iron oxide/chromium oxide, copper oxide/zinc oxide, and iron.


Urea fertilizers are produced by a reaction of liquid ammonia with carbon dioxide. The process steps include solution synthesis, where ammonia and carbon dioxide react to form ammonium carbamate, which is dehydrated to form urea; solution concentration by vacuum, crystallization, or evaporation to produce a melt; formation of solids by prilling (pelletizing liquid droplets) or granulating; cooling and screening of solids; coating of the solids; and bagging or bulk loading. The carbon dioxide for urea manufacture is produced as a by-product from the ammonia plant reformer.

Ammonium Sulfate

Ammonium sulfate is produced as a caprolactam by-product from the petrochemical industry, as a coke by-product, and synthetically through reaction of ammonia with sulfuric acid. Only the third process is covered in this document. The reaction between ammonia and sulfuric acid produces an ammonium sulfate solution that is continuously circulated through an evaporator to thicken the solution and to produce ammonium sulfate crystals. The crystals are separated from the liquor in a centrifuge, and the liquor is returned to the evaporator. The crystals are fed either to a fluidized bed or to a rotary drum dryer and are screened before bagging or bulk loading.

Ammonium Nitrate, Calcium Ammonium Nitrate, and Ammonium Sulfate Nitrate

Ammonium nitrate is made by neutralizing nitric acid with anhydrous ammonia. The resulting 80–90% solution of ammonium nitrate can be sold as is, or it may be further concentrated to a 95–99.5% solution (melt) and converted into prills or granules. The manufacturing steps include solution formation, solution concentration, solids formation, solids finishing, screening, coating, and bagging or bulk shipping. The processing steps depend on the desired finished product. Calcium ammonium nitrate is made by adding calcite or dolomite to the ammonium nitrate melt before prilling or granulating.

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