Published February 2014
Nitrogen fertilizers are the most widely used fertilizers in the world. Ammonia is the basic building block of the world nitrogen industry. With the exception of China, where much of the ammonia produced is from coal gasification, most of the worlds ammonia is produced from natural gas. Nitrogen fertilizer consumption accounts for more than 80% of the world ammonia market, and with population continuing to grow and no new arable land being developed, a renewed growth trend is projected during the forecast period. Increased usage of nitrogen fertilizers, in particular urea, will be required to meet the growing need for food. On a country-by-country basis, nitrogen fertilizer use is closely related to the health and level of maturity of the agricultural economy, disposable income and dietary changes.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of ammonia:
ammonium nitrates, ammonium phosphates, ammonium sulfates and nitrogen solutions. World apparent consumption of ammonia increased by 18% during 2008–2013, although it slowed during the latter part of 2008 and 2009. Growth is forecast at 2.7% annually during 2013–2018. Some regions will grow faster, in particular the United States, led primarily by increased urea production.
The global ammonia supply/demand balance is expected to move from slightly tight to easing toward a surplus, provided at least half of the announced projects come to fruition. However, if a majority of projects are delayed, the current tight situation could persist.
Consumption of ammonia in industrial applications is projected to grow slightly faster than fertilizer use during the forecast period. Ammonia is used to produce ammonium nitrates that are used to make explosives. See the CEH Explosives and Blasting Agents report. Ammonia is also used in the production of acrylonitrile for fibers and plastics; hexamethylenediamine for nylon; caprolactam for producing nylon, isocyanates for polyurethanes and hydrazine; and production of amines and nitriles.
During the next several decades, the requirement for fertilizers is forecast to grow because of the declining amount of arable land per person and because the world population is growing. The population is forecast to reach 8.5 billion people by 2030 and 9.2 billion by 2050. At that rate, the FAO estimates that agricultural demand will be 50–80% higher than the level of production today. Conversely, the amount of productive arable land per person is declining as a result of urbanization, soil erosion, and nutrient exhaustion. In addition, the amount of usable water is declining, and usable water availability could become more strained with climate change.