Modular Production Units Link Ethanol and Nitrogen

April 2, 2013 05:52 AM

We have talked at length about the relationship between natural gas and fertilizer. Natural gas is the feedstock for nitrogen fertilizers and phosphates via ammonia and the glut of fracked natural gas from North Dakota has held a monopoly on aspirations of increased domestic fertilizer production. But a new idea from Colorado-based Agrebon Inc. has the future of fertilizer production looking in a different direction that could kill two birds with one stone.

Agrebon, in conjunction with Fargo's Progressive Nutrient Systems LLC (PNS), has devised a modular system that would bolt-on to existing ethanol plants and utilize waste streams from ethanol production to produce nitrogen fertilizers. Each of the units cover an area of about two square acres and have an annual production capacity of 12,500 tons of Urea or 7,000 tons of anhydrous.

Ethanol plants in Casselton and Hankinson, ND are already in talks with Agrebon and PNS regarding the new technology and will likely be among the first to utilize the modular system. Of course increased nitrogen production in the U.S. is exciting to growers who eye the price reductions such a system would allow, but ethanol producers have another reason to celebrate the advance.

The new Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) requires ethanol plants to operate with a carbon footprint 20% lower than petroleum-based production. The PNS modules would satisfy that requirement and contribute to the revenue stream of the facility, widening profit margins. Agrebon projected the finished nitrogen product to retail for about $490.00/ton -- that's a discount of nearly $100.00/ton to today's urea price and roughly half the current anhydrous price.

“Agrebon offers a disruptive technology to drastically improve how ethanol is produced and how farmers gain access to fertilizer,” said Justin Eisenach, CEO of AGREBON. “It has global potential to change the way we live. That’s why we like to call it the ‘iPad of the industry.’”

A smaller carbon footprint, increased domestic production and a fulfilled RFS2 requirement make this new fertilizer production technology a good fit for North Dakota. If the system pays off like developers expect, ethanol producers across the nation can save on RIN credits and lower their emissions while growers will enjoy lower input costs and better access to nitrogen.

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