Shale will boost UK fertiliser production – report says

Nitrogen chemical plant
Source: DollarPhotoClub

UK shale gas development will boost Britain’s fertiliser production, allowing the country’s farmers to “meet increased global demand for food” – according to a new policy paper published by the North West Energy Task Force.

Debbie Baker from fertiliser manufacturer GrowHow told The Farmer’s Guardian that: “As gas is our primary raw material it determines our sustainability as a business.

“Over the long term, we believe shale gas can help retain UK fertiliser production and has the potential to improve future energy and food security in the UK.”

The paper – published by the pro-fracking group, supported by 500 businesses, geoscientists, academic economists and engineers –  pointed out that the U.S. shale boom “turned around decades of decline in the local fertiliser industry”, which allowed the country to compete with cheap international energy supplies in the Middle East and Africa. Increased production of fertiliser, the paper argued, is necessary to fulfil the world’s demand for food and tackle the problem of hunger.

Furthermore, it claimed natural gas from Lancashire shale could help to cut harmful methane emissions from cattle. Most people don’t realise that a major source of methane emissions to the atmosphere – far greater than natural gas exploration – is grazing livestock.

Methane emission from ruminant livestock – such as cows – is currently estimated to be around 100 million tonnes of methane each year and, after rice agriculture, represents the biggest man-made methane source. Methane is produced in the guts of ruminant livestock as a result of methanogenic microorganisms. It is believed that a sheep can produce about 30 litres of methane each day and a dairy cow up to about 200.

This is very important with respect to greenhouse emissions, as methane is a far more potent GH gas than carbon dioxide. In fact, over the period of 25 years, the global warming potential of methane is 72 times that of carbon dioxide.

“Without fertilisers, the world would need an extra five billion cattle grazing 20 billion acres of extra pasture to produce the same number of calories,” the report said.

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