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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Y025776/1
Title: Global Nitrogen Innovation Center for Clean Energy and the Environment (NICCEE)
Principal Investigator: Collins, Professor AL
Other Investigators:
Carswell, Dr A Valadares Galdos, Dr M McAuliffe, Dr GA
Cardenas, Dr LM
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Net Zero and Resilient Farming
Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 December 2023 Ends: 30 November 2028 Value (£): 2,212,924
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Environment Soil science
Sustainable Energy Networks
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
The technological innovation to produce ammonia using renewable energy, known as "green ammonia," offers transformational opportunities and disruptive hazards. In the agricultural sector, green ammonia technology could lead to decentralization of fertilizer production, which stands in contrast to the centralized, carbon-intensive production methods currently in use. This shift could enhance fertilizer use and bolster food production in countries where N fertilizer accessibility has been limited, thus improving crop production, economic prosperity, nutrition, and food security. It could also enable farmers in industrialized countries to improve the timing and dosing of fertilizer to better match crop needs and thereby reduce N losses. On the other hand, cheap and abundant N fertilizer could also exacerbate the current severe environmental problems of N losses to air and water from over- or inefficient use of N fertilizers. This technological transformation appears to be close at hand. And yet we are only beginning to contemplate the wide-ranging consequences, both good and bad, that are likely to ensue. Several green ammonia plants are already planned or under construction in Australia, South Africa, and the U.S. with production capacity ranging from several hundred to a million tons per year.

We think it is imperative to explore the future impacts of green ammonia in agriculture so that both food production and efficient use of N in the agriculture-food-energy (AFE) system are improved. We have built a partnerships among countries not only offering complementary expertise, but also presenting a diverse portfolio of potential users of green ammonia technologies, as well as the cyberinfrastructure and innovation platform provided by the center.

The overarching goal of the NICCEE center is to enable and accelerate transformative socioeconomic and technological innovation for sustainable and climate-smart nitrogen management with use-inspired and data-driven approaches. One technological advancement of particular focus of the center is the emerging production and use of green ammonia for clean energy and as a fertilizer source for food production. The center will have three core functions: 1) Information hub to develop state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure, including data discovery, model fusion, and a knowledge portal, for benchmarking current N fertilizer production and usage in the agriculture-food-energy system, while co-developing data and decision-support tools to guide the emerging green ammonia production and use; 2) Innovation platform to facilitate the co-development of technological and socioeconomic innovations associated with green ammonia as fertilizer and energy through living labs and stakeholder workshops on local, national, and global scales; 3) Education programme to establish a flagship Nitrogen school for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as early career professionals in more than four countries.

The project will combine measurements with modelling. We will apply the innovative green ammonia fertilizers and conventional fertilizer and assess emissions of ammonia and greenhouse gases (N2O and CO2). We will apply the Catchment Systems Model (CSM) in the UK which currently informs national policy regarding environmental consequences of agricultural practices based on an extensive nationwide database, to anticipate environmental consequences associated with the advent of green ammonia. Other models such as the Global Change Assessment Model will also be applied to represent connections among fertilizer demand, producer prices, and various price-elastic demands for agricultural commodities and inter-regional trade, enabling analysis of food security indicators and impacts on vulnerable populations. The data from the UK, Canada and the US will fill an extant gap in knowledge to enable the capture of the multifaceted impacts of this emerging trend in the use of green ammonia in global farming
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