Covid and sustainability times are making society discover that chemistry is a cohesive whole that spans multiple sectors of the economy. The public already discovered that now that gas prices are high (due to sustainability initiatives in the US and the catch-up demand of the economy after 2020), the production of fertilizers is limited. gas it is residual product of plant material that long ago grew and gathered in deeper layers of the earth. Fertilizer is made using gas from those old plants.
Truck from Spain
Less fertilizer means less crop production now and higher food prices. This means, among other things, extra higher prices for vegetables from greenhouses, because they are heated in late winter and early spring to provide us with fresh Dutch tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and aubergines from early summer to autumn. In the cold period, those vegetables come by diesel-fuelled truck from Southern Europe, especially Spain.
Euronorm 5 and 6
It is probably little known that the production of fertilizer also produces the by-product with which modern diesels can still drive in an environmentally friendly way: urea.
In addition to being a fertilizer product, urea is also the most important component of AdBlue, the substance that diesel drivers add to their clean diesel engine (with Euro standard 5 and 6). This makes them more economical than a petrol driver. This aqueous solution is used in diesel engines to limit their NOx emissions. NOx is a chemical name for nitrogen oxides, one of the causes of air pollution. AdBlue breaks down NOx into nitrogen and water, breaking the composition. For example, the car has less impact on nature and the engine pollutes the air in cities less.
The product that diesel drivers throw into the hole with the blue cap next to their diesel tank has almost tripled in price in a year
But less high gas prices also means less urea and therefore less AdBlue. In December 2020, urea still cost €300 per ton when purchased; at the end of this year the price touched €1,100 per tonne; urea determines approximately 60% of the final price of AdBlue. That is why the product that diesel drivers throw into the hole with the blue cap next to their diesel tank has almost tripled in price in the same time.
Road transport drives up prices
The largest user of diesel with AdBlue is the transport sector, which consumes about three quarters of all AdBlue. And in road transport, the transport of foodstuffs and stimulants with 11% of carbon emissions the second largest polluter and user of the substance in road transport.
If demand in the transport sector remains high, the price in the current market will continue to rise. All signs point to that. A large number of urea factories have been temporarily closed this year or have reduced their production. India in South Korea were already experiencing problems due to a lack of urea.
Russia and China exported pre-Covid urea, but have recently announced they are limiting their urea exports to maintain domestic stocks. As a result, the market will tighten further and prices will rise further. Suppliers in the Netherlands say they do not expect any delivery problems until the spring, but do ask their customers to take higher prices into account. These will have to be added to the price of our Spanish winter tomatoes. In the event of delivery problems, fewer freights can be driven. The clean Euronorm 6 engines are tuned in such a way that they refuse to start without AdBlue.
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Society discovers chemistry cohesion – Clean diesels, road transport and vegetable prices suffer from urea shortage – Foodlog