U.K. farm fixes nitrogen with plasma reactor

Chris Mccullough Producer.com

The company that developed the process says it could save farmers up to 20 percent of their artificial fertilizer costs and reduce ammonia

A large dairy farm in Northern Ireland is testing a new system that can reduce ammonia emissions while also producing its own liquid nitrogen fertilizer.

This new concept, developed by Norwegian company N2 Agri, involves passing manure or digestate through a plasma reactor to produce liquid nitrogen fertilizer.

This process, says the company, could save farmers up to 20 percent of their artificial fertilizer costs and reduce their ammonia production.

Although the concept has moved beyond the prototype stage, it is still being tested around the world: one on a pig farm in Denmark and the other on a 650-cow dairy farm near Templepatrick in Northern Ireland.
N2 Agri has developed and patented the technology, which uses a plasma reactor that fixes nitrogen from the air and adds it to manure.

The Northern Ireland farm is run by Robin Bingham and his son, George, who installed a biogas plant one year ago that produces electricity, which is then fed into the national grid.

In total, the farm has 1,200 cows, including dry cows and followers, and runs a zero-grazing system, where the fresh grass is harvested and delivered to the cows daily.

The plasma reactor was installed at the farm two months ago and is already producing liquid nitrogen, which has been spread on test plots at the farm.

N2 Agri says its goal is to improve global food production by enabling farmers to produce their own fertilizer from manure, air and renewable energy.

By installing their system, N2 Agri says farmers could potentially save up to 20 percent on their artificial nitrogen costs and with those savings should be able to recover the cost of the plasma reactor in about six or seven years.

N2 Agri has developed and patented the technology, which uses a plasma reactor that fixes nitrogen from the air and adds it to manure.

This causes a reaction with the manure and stops ammonia losses, as well as emissions of other greenhouse gasses. It also removes bad odours.

The system also increases the nitrogen content in manure and transforms it from a waste problem into a fertilizer.

Henk Aarts, N2 Agri business development director, said the company aims to empower livestock famers by giving them access to affordable fertilizer production.

“Our ultimate goal is to substitute chemical fertilizers with fertilizer produced locally on the farm from air and renewable energy. And meanwhile, we work on a better stable climate and a more sustainable livestock sector.

“We can also upgrade biogas digestate to a higher value fertilizer with our technology,” he said.

Although the company is testing two machines in Europe, it plans to embark on more trials further afield in places like South Africa.

“Our reactor is not fully developed, but we want to test it under farm conditions in an early stage to get experience with different types of manure and biogas digestate and to do field trials on different crops, which on the Bingham farm are grass plots,” he said.

The key argument to convince farmers to use this plasma reactor is to explain how they are losing so much nitrogen from their livestock and slurry, which is later supplemented by artificial fertilizer spread on the ground.

It is estimated that 1.93 million tonnes of ammonia are lost on European livestock farms each year, a huge loss of potential fertilizer.

Dairy farmer George Bingham said the system interested him because it met his desire to farm in a more environmentally friendly way.

“Using this plasma reactor system will help us achieve our goals of farming more environmentally friendly while at the same time, sorting out my ammonia quotas.

“I see this as a potential game changer across the world helping farmers get more from their farmyard slurry and saving them money.

“For me, reducing or even eliminating my chemical fertilizer bill is one of the main benefits of this system.”

It is anticipated that a farm with 150 to 200 cows will need one 25-kilowatt plasma reactor; therefore a 600-cow herd would need three units.

However, the reactors can be scaled to suit the farm, said Henk.

Link: https://www.producer.com/2018/09/u-k-farm-fixes-nitrogen-with-plasma-reactor/