To make urea, fertilizer producers combine ammonia with carbon dioxide (CO2), but when farmers apply that urea to the soil, an equal amount of CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere. No CO2 is permanently stored or sequestered through the production of urea.
This is a statement of the obvious, I'm told, but it's worth stating for three reasons. First, not everyone knows it. Second, there was zero data in the academic literature supporting the fact, until now (see below). And third, next generation ammonia-urea plants with "zero-emissions" are becoming a reality, despite some of these new technologies relying on fossil fuel feedstocks.
SUMMARY STATUS: Planning phase
Grannus has been working to commercialize its polygeneration "Eureaka Process" since 2013, when it was a runner-up for Sustainability at the Cleantech Open. In 2015, the company closed its Series A financing, to fund engineering and feasibility work on its commercial-scale demonstration plant in California. In early 2016, Grannus awarded the engineering design contract but then, in late 2016, gave the contracts to other companies. In 2018, the EPA designated Grannus's hydrogen and ammonia production technology as "BACT."
SUMMARY STATUS: Operational
The Cherokee plant has been producing nitrogen fertilizers since 1961, and was acquired by LSB Industries in 2000. With repeated outages over the years, LSB is focused on improving reliability at the site, which serves agricultural and industrial markets; most recently, in 2Q 2017, the Cherokee site reported a 100% on-stream rate.
SUMMARY STATUS: Construction Phase
Koch is expanding its Enid plant, the "single largest project investment in company history," increasing capacity on both ammonia lines, debottlenecking the existing urea plant, and building a new urea plant. The ground-breaking took place in October 2014; the project is slightly behind schedule, but construction was expected to be complete in 2017.
SUMMARY STATUS: Operational
US Nitrogen broke ground in February 2012, when it expected its new plant to start up in March 2014, but the project was fraught with problems. Permits were revised and reissued repeatedly, and the site had major issues with compliance, which appear to continue even today. Construction and design issues led to major delays and lawsuits. The start-up process eventually began in May 2015 but the ammonia plant didn't start up until June 2016. Within a couple months, the site was temporarily shut down under federal and state investigation of permit compliance; more emission mishaps occurred in April 2017. The company announced that the plant was fully operational in January 2017 but, since then, it's not clear whether plant has been producing much product.