Friday Funny – pissing away the CO2 alarm

Exquisite sample of urine produced after a lon...

Exquisite sample of urine produced after a long game of chess. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology  comes this hilarious bit of news pushed as serious science. I like the idea of a “potion”. It fits right up there with some of the other crazy CO2 sequestration ideas we’ve seen. Sounds like a pee bargain to me.

A urine based ‘potion’ can act as a CO2 absorbent

The ocean, the ground, rocks and trees act as carbon drains but are far from places where greenhouses gases are concentrated, especially CO2. A Spanish researcher has proposed human, agricultural and livestock waste, such as urine, as a way to absorb this gas.

Absorbing the large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases present in cities would require millions of tonnes of some naturally occurring substance. A study published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials suggests urine as a reactive. As a resource available across all human societies, it is produced in large quantities and is close to the pollution hubs of large cities.

“For every molecule of urea in urine, one mole (a chemical unit used to measure the quantity of a substance) of ammonium bicarbonate is produced along with one mole of ammonia, which could be used to absorb one mole of atmospheric CO2,” as explained to SINC by the author of the study, Manuel Jiménez Aguilar of the Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research and Training of the Regional Government of Andalusia.

After absorbing the CO2 another unit of ammonium bicarbonate is produced, which is used in China as a nitrogen fertilizer for 30 years. Jiménez Aguilar points out that “if applied to basic-calcium rich soils this would produce calcium carbonate thus encouraging gas-fixation in the ground.

To avoid the urine from decomposing, the researcher suggests the possibility of including a small proportion of olive waste water (a black, foul-smelling liquid obtained from spinning the ground olive paste). This acts as a preservative. The researcher confirms that “the urine-CO2-olive waste water could be considered an NPK fertilizer (ammonia-nitrate-phosphorous-potassium).”

The result is that the urine mixed with a small percentage of olive waste water can absorb various grams of CO2 per litre in a stable manner and over more than six months. According to Jiménez Aguilar, “CO2 emissions could be reduced by 1%.”

The fluid created can be inserted into domestic and industrial chimneys (reconverted into containers to accumulate the urine-olive waste water mixture) so that the greenhouse gas passes through the liquid, increasing the pressure exerted on the CO2 and thus increasing its absorption capacity.

As the scientist makes clear “these containers or chimneys should have a urine filling and emptying system and a control system to detect when the mixture has become saturated with gas.” When taken out of the chimney, the urine is stored in another container or can be channelled for its distribution and use as an agricultural fertilizer.

Making the most of urine

By applying this methodology as a greenhouse gas absorbent, the way in which industrialised countries use waste water and solid waste would never be the same again. The author hints that the whole water and waste treatment system would be reviewed to adapt newly built areas to a waste recycling and waste management system.

“In developing countries this nutrient recovery system could be implemented thanks to its environmental advantages,” says the expert.

Furthermore, urine recycling in every home would allow for nutrients to be recovered, leading to a lesser need for artificial fertilizers. Jiménez emphasises that “if urine and faeces are recycled there and then, as much as 20 litres of water per person per day could be saved and this would reduce waste water treatment costs.”

The study suggests that urine should be recycled for it to be used as fertilizer liquid and that faeces should be treated with solid organic waste to produce compost or solid fertilizers. The researcher also states in another study that is pending publication that the urine-olive waste water mixture can also be used to reduce the CO2 and NOx emissions of vehicles.

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VIDEO: A Spanish researcher has proposed human, agricultural and livestock waste, such as urine, as a way to absorb CO2.

 

 

Click here for more information.

 

 

References:

Jiménez Aguilar, Manuel. “Urine as a CO2 absorbent” Journal of Hazardous Materials 213: 502-504 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2012.01.087, 30 April 2012.

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74 thoughts on “Friday Funny – pissing away the CO2 alarm

  1. Insert urine into chimneys? I don’t think so. Every kid that has ever been around a campfire knows what happens when…

  2. Ironically this may not be a horrible idea… assuming the maths work out. The problem comes down to logistics.

    The only way this would have a hope of breaking even/profiting is if you basically build coal plants in major US cities. That is the only place you can easily get waste on the scale needed. They would then need to create a pipeline to the country to be able to sell the waste without huge cost of transport.
    The other option is a hybrid hydroponics system. However as soon as the government goes anywhere near such a system it will cost 5x more then it should.

    Without government involved(which is pretty much impossible) this idea might have some merit. However currently its just pie in the sky theory right now.

  3. Excellent. From now on I’m not going out to the bar so I can walk home on my lips. I’m sequestering carbon and raising fuel costs for all those planet destroyers that think 80 proof should be automotive fuel.

    And I no longer have to worry about catching a felony sex charge for dropping trou and relieving my bladder by a dumpster on the way home. If a friendly member of the local constabulary should inquire as to my behaviour I shall simply inform him that I am fixating carbon dioxide to save the planet for him and his offspring.

    Though I imagine the uniformed sort would start calling a breathalyzer sustainable wind-powered energy generation. In fact, I wonder if someone hasn’t gotten around to patenting the idea yet.

  4. The author either has a subtle sense of humor or is seriously loco in la cabasa. Urea, the primary waste product in human urine, has a formula of NH2-CO-NH2 so that, when it reacts with water, it forms ammonium carbonate and ammonia-a gas that readily dissolves in water. If you’ve ever had to open a diaper bucket (before the Luv generation) you’re well aware of this reaction as the ammonia rush can be strong enough to knock you back. To make his system work, you would have to insure that the ammonia remains in solution and introduce CO2 over the solution so it can react to form more ammonium carbonate. Good luck on that one. You can make his idea work but , I don’t think there’s much olive waste lying around most of the world and the smell of decomposing urine is not one of my favorites. Essentially, he’s proposing that we make every urban area-big producers of both CO2 and urine-into the urban equivalent of a industrial pig farm. I guess no sacrifice is too much to defeat that bogeyman CO2. It really pisses me off.

  5. I sure hope that none my tax dollars (US) went into this study. Talk about money down the drain!

  6. Even if there was a need to do something like this, it would require a doubling the wastewater plumbing and wastewater plants. How else are you going to separate urine from the rest of what goes down the drain? Every bathroom would need two “thrones”. Jumping (scooting?) from one to the other depending on what was going on? Flush that!

  7. Everybody has to bring a bucket full to the municipal collection center…..
    There are 50 gallon drums and funnels waiting. For each bucket, you will
    get one carbon pollution credit point and with 365 points you are allowed
    to breeze 1 full year…. no problem at all….we do all things the green way…..

  8. Amr marzouk says:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    What is Spanish for” pull the other leg.”?

    “tire de la otra pierna”

  9. “For every molecule of urea in urine, one mole (a chemical unit used to measure the quantity of a substance) of ammonium bicarbonate is produced along with one mole of ammonia, which could be used to absorb one mole of atmospheric CO2,”

    A mole is 6.022 x 10^23. So one molecule of urea produces 6.022 x 10^23 molecules of ammonium bicarbonate? That is more than the number of stars in the universe! Something smells!

  10. First time I get to be first comment, and it has to be a piss-take article. Sheesh!!!!!

    [Not only that, but you weren't first. ~dbs, mod.]

  11. As a lifelong environmentalist, I’ve always been irritated at being forced to pollute our sewer system (and ultimately the ocean when the sewer overflows) with noxious liquid waste. I’ve always wanted to fertilize the plants instead with these pure and nourishing fluids. As a public service. I’ve been able to do this out in the dry and barren desert, at least when I can identify certain plants that I feel definitely deserve what I have to offer (not all that I see do qualify). Now it just may become socially acceptable to “sequester” my concerns in this way in the urban zone as well, as was already eloquently stated by another commenter above.

    It’s nice to see warmers now “thinking outside the bowl”, if not “outside the box”. Luckily the local Italian restaurant uses its unwanted “olive black” as fertilizer in the flower beds in front of the building. I’ll be watching for the phizzz, just in case the chemical reaction starts prematurely. I’ll be ready to run if I see a pot smoker or a Bogart-type coming by, also environmentally responsible, reluctant to throw a still smoldering butt or blunt into the gutter.

  12. Werner Brozek says:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    “For every molecule of urea in urine…”

    I really hope that is a typo.

    As Werner Brozek says:
    “…So one molecule of urea produces 6.022 x 10^23 molecules of ammonium bicarbonate? ”

    If they intended “mol of urea” it might make sense, if not, they are creating something from nothing.

  13. “A Spanish researcher has proposed human, agricultural and livestock waste, such as urine, as a way to absorb this gas.”
    =============================================

    We should double our pissing immediately!

    Do not just take a piss, take two!

    Let us piss the “warming” away!

    LOL

  14. Werner Brozek says:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    “For every molecule of urea in urine, one mole (a chemical unit used to measure the quantity of a substance) of ammonium bicarbonate is produced along with one mole of ammonia, which could be used to absorb one mole of atmospheric CO2,”

    A mole is 6.022 x 10^23. So one molecule of urea produces 6.022 x 10^23 molecules of ammonium bicarbonate? That is more than the number of stars in the universe! Something smells!

    I’m not familiar with the chemistry, but “mole” would read a lot better than molecule. it even sounds like what DanJ is describing.

    Of course, if molecule is right, then I’d be glad to support a foreign aid project where the USA makes enough molecule of urea to provide every man woman and child two molecules (to have a spare if they lose the first) or more and ship them to each federal government for distribution.

  15. John Ratcliffe says:
    August 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    John Ratcliffe says:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    First time I get to be first comment, and it has to be a piss-take article. Sheesh!!!!!

    [Not only that, but you weren't first. ~dbs, mod.]

    @dbs – mod
    If not me, then who was first???

    Johnr

  16. Why would any sane person want to extract co2 from the atmosphere over this century? Greenhouse growers do not wait 88 years but more than double c02 in their greenhouses overnight and sustain it for faster growing veggies. What’s the problem? Even our very own biosphere has greened for decades now, why is this bad? Drought bad, green bad, what do Greens want?

  17. I think the urine/olive waste water mixture could be better used by aging it in oak for 10 years and selling it as an expensive aperitif.

  18. OK so if we promote more beer drinking will that help?

    I remember an old quote about how much nitrogen human urine contains for corn.
    “Every day, Americans excrete about 90 million gallons of urine. That day’s urine contains an estimated seven million pounds of nutrients in the form of nitrogen. By some estimates, that’s enough to fertalize up to 31,963 acres of corn for an entire year. And over one year, Americans “piss away” enough nitrogen to fertalize almost 12 million acres of corn — about twice the corn grown in Indiana.” http://www.concordma.com/magazine/autumn08/nitrogencycle.html

    “A study out of Finland has found that plants fertilized with urine performed four times as well as nonfertilized plants and just as well as plants given commercial mineral fertilizer.” “And more good news was that the study’s panel of 20 taste tasters found no taste difference between mineral or urine fertilized tomatoes.”
    That was for tomatoes but any family garden should do. Remember for any healthy person, that urine is sterile so no reason not to take the family out to the garden before bedtime.

  19. Up here, one of the recommended solutions for gardeners with lilac bushes that are not doing well is to occasionally relieve yourself on them. Kind of bothers the neighbors, though. Cheers -

  20. The whole thread reminds me of an old aviation story out of the SW US in the late 1970s. One night someone on frequency in Albuquerque Center dropped the F-bomb. Center controller immediately keyed his mike and demanded to know who dropped the F-Bomb, only he used the actual word. There was a moment of silence and the airliners started checking in with: ABQ Center, United 546 didn’t say f*** on the radio; Delta 1677 didn’t say f*** on the radio; and so on. It went on for nearly a half hour. EVERYBODY on frequency made the call. Flights who had checked out to the next sector checked back in and relayed the same message after hearing about it on company freq.

    This reminds me of the story because once you start talking about urine, the natural progression is to see what we see above. Funny stuff, though. Cheers -

  21. Werner Brozek says:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    “For every molecule of urea in urine, one mole (a chemical unit used to measure the quantity of a substance) of ammonium bicarbonate is produced along with one mole of ammonia, which could be used to absorb one mole of atmospheric CO2,”

    A mole is 6.022 x 10^23. So one molecule of urea produces 6.022 x 10^23 molecules of ammonium bicarbonate? That is more than the number of stars in the universe! Something smells!

    Er, uhm, ahhhh. Sort of.

    Yes, one “mole” of anything of that molecular weight is 6.022 x 10^22 molecules: 2 grams of hydrogen (at STP), 12 grams of carbon, 28 grams of nitrogen (at STP)32 grams of oxygen (at STP), 56 grams of iron, 235 grams of pure Uranium235 (or 238 grams of pure U238) , etc. all have one “mole” of molecules in them.

    So one mole of nitrogen (N2, a gas at STP with 6.022 x10^22 molecules) will combine with the proper ratios of the other elements to produce your one mole of urea, which will have 6.022 x 10^22 molecules. In reverse, one mole of the urea will break down into the other elements: one mole of nitrogen, two moles of hydrogen, one mole of carbon, 1/2 mole of oxygen.

    One molecule of urea CO(NH2)2 can only break down into two atoms of nitrogen, one atom of carbon, one atom of oxygen, four atoms of hydrogen.

  22. After reading that study, communists are going to change their well known slogan from “Workers of the world, unite!” to “Workers of the world, urinate!”.

  23. OH,WOW!
    I wonder how much Al Gore will pay for my manure pile…..

    I wonder if I can get Mikey Mann and Jummy Hansen to muckout my stalls for the good of mother Gaia.

  24. Sweden mixed aged community of 160 people annual yield = 78 cubic meters urine which gave
    285 Kg. nitrogen (N) + 24.5 Kg. phosphorus (P) + 79 Kg. potassium (K); the nitrogen form converts at 80% efficiency which would give plants 217 Kg. nitrogen/yr. Generally 1 liter of urine said to contain 11 gr. N & 0.8 gr. P & 2 gr. K and an adult pees +/- 1.5 liters daily.

    When put urine (being +/- 59% urea) directly on ground growing site the urea -> ammonia -> acted on by nitrosomes -> nitrite ions (which can be root toxic, like see where dog pee burned grass) & some nitrite ions acted on by topsoil nitrobacter -> plant assimilable nitrate. That open field conversion should take less than 2 weeks. Gardeners find it safer to use aged urine because standing urine in a few days hydrolyses the nitrogen component ( NH2CONH2 & 2H2O -> NH3 & NH4+ & HCO3- ). African experiments were successful in augmenting the urine potassium (K) content by fermenting urine with banana peel &/or comfrey leaf. There are also procedures to extract the urine’s phosphorus (P) as crystals of Struvite (NH4)MgPO4.6(H2O) with bittern leftover from NaCl salt pan evaporation.

    Cow urine is useful for crop applications controlling bacterial leaf blight, fusarium wilt, helminthosporium leaf spot & ripe rot. Hindus have a tradition that cow urine removes sin & the rear of the cow is where Maha Lakshmi manifests. Camel urine is recently reported to have nano-particles with beneficial implications for human health. Human urine is a bush remedy for dropsy; someone gives their urine to person who has urine stoppage to induce urination.

  25. Ed MacAulay says:
    August 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    …urine is sterile so no reason not to take the family out to the garden before bedtime.
    ______________________________
    gringojay says:
    August 17, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    When put urine (being +/- 59% urea) directly on ground…
    _________________________________
    For application as fertilizer, human urine needs dilution in addition to “aging” to prevent the build- up of salts, otherwise good to go.

  26. Gail Combs says:
    August 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    OH,WOW!
    I wonder how much Al Gore will pay for my manure pile…..

    I wonder if I can get Mikey Mann and Jummy Hansen to muckout my stalls for the good of mother Gaia.
    _________________________
    When Jim retires, see if he’ll hire out as your pilot. Just tell him “whatever you find in that stall, pilot outside”.

  27. Out here in flyover country, the local “honey wagons” (the trucks that pump out septic tanks) are more than happy to spread their “load” on farm fields. Otherwise, I hear the city charges them to unload into the sanitary sewer system. A win-win.

  28. This isn’t much of a joke. Diesel exhaust fluid is already required for many late model diesel vehicles. DEF is made of roughly 1/3 urea and 2/3 water.

    One of many reasons I drive an older mechanical injected diesel.

  29. Ric Werme says:
    August 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm
    Of course, if molecule is right, then I’d be glad to support a foreign aid project where the USA makes enough molecule of urea to provide every man woman and child two molecules (to have a spare if they lose the first) or more and ship them to each federal government for distribution.

    They obviously meant mole and not molecule. It is also obvious the WUWT team did not peer review this. However even if we had a mole of urea, CO(NH2)2, and distributed it evenly among Earth’s 7 billion people, each person would get about 6 x 10^23/7 x 10^9 = 9 x 10^13 molecules. This sound like a lot, but with a molar mass of 60 g/mol, and with each person getting 1/(7 x 10^9) of a mole, the total mass each person would get is about 10^-8 grams.

    (P.S. Thank you RA, but it should be 6.02 x 10^23 and not 10^22.)

  30. After stealing so much money from us to “combat climate change” I’m surprised they actually think anyone has a pot left to pee in!

  31. Ric Werme says:
    August 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm
    Of course, if molecule is right, then I’d be glad to support a foreign aid project where the USA makes enough molecule of urea to provide every man woman and child two molecules (to have a spare if they lose the first) or more and ship them to each federal government for distribution.
    ==================================================================
    What would the slogan for such a program be?
    “A pissin’ in every pot!”?
    Would it be promoted by yellow journalism?

  32. @ Ed MacAulay

    Sorry!

    I love the idea of being able to tell my wife that I am drinking to save the world. The trouble is that beer production involves both yeast (which not only pees alcohol but also farts CO2) and energy to heat the mash. If it isn’t direct solar heating, it will probably cause more CO2 to be produced that the resultant urine would absorb..

    Damn!

    Heating is also needed for making tea, but the production of the leaves is photosynthesis, so maybe tea drinking is, overall, CO2 negative. Since tea is a great diuretic, that might be the one to encourage. We will have a CO2-free atmosphere in no time.

  33. “Ed MacAulay says:
    August 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm”

    Far too many years ago I care to remember my mum once told me her father, my gramps, used to do exactly this to, in particula, his tomato plants. So, in effect, he had already developed CO2 sequestration technologies by being nitrogenous in his greenhouse.

  34. Yes, over here I’ve heard it’s good to pee on your herb bed. Mind you that could have something to do with “Greek Plumbing”!!!
    ……we’ve got lots of olives too, this could be the answer to our financial problems.

  35. Well, I’ve known a fair few people down the years who have peed on their compost heaps. As Luther Wu points out (7pm) you need dilution and aging for best results, which the heap provides, and the results those people achieved were generally pretty good. Presumably it was the little beasties in the heap which kept the ammonia smell down. None of these gardeners ever mentioned CO2, though.

    I have an uneasy feeling that my assessment of this practice might count as “pee-er review”.

  36. “For every molecule of urea in urine, one mole (a chemical unit used to measure the quantity of a substance) of ammonium bicarbonate is produced

    Clearly the author does not understand the difference between a mole and a molecule. Not a good start. What else did he get wrong?

    considering the smell in the morning when I forget to flush at night, I don’t think I want every house in my neighbourhood to fit this to their chimney.

    Could be a good solution to urbanisation and UHI though. Cities would be deserted in a matter of weeks.

  37. I am a little bit appalled by the idea that they had a jar of urine mixed with olive waste water sitting in the lab to figure out if it held on to the CO2 or not …

  38. (Sigh…) The Left/CAGWers have become so unhinged that it is no longer possible to tell where their reality ends and sarcasm/irony begins.

    Regards,
    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)

  39. There’s nothing like a couple of daily doses of piss on the rose garden to make the flowers smell good.

  40. This gives new meaning to the term “squaters” referring to the earlier settlers in the US. Fertilized the crops and watered them too to overcome drought. I can just picture it in my mind! The cowboys and indians must have thought they were nuts!

  41. Mind your P’s:

    2011 “The antiplatelet activity of camel urine.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21854200 )
    2010 “The inhibitory effect of camel’s urine on mycotoxins and fungal growth” (http://academicjournals.org/ajar/PDF/pdf%202010/4%20Jun/Al-Abdalall.pdf)

    2004 “Theraputic Use of Urine in Early Indian Medicine” (http://www.new.dli.ernet.in/rawdataupload/upload/insa/INSA_1/2000c951-415.pdf)

    Rural tropical agriculture use of cow urine ( from Dr. K. Natarajan, email: rcango@yahoo.com):
    a) mix 5 Kg. fresh cow manure + 1/2 Kg. clarified butter (“ghee”) in plastic/clay container, stir 2x/d for 4 days
    b) add w/mixing 3 liter cow urine + 2 liter cooled boiled milk + 2 liter milk curd + 12 mashed ripe bananas + 3 liter green coconut water + 3 liter sugar cane juice (or “jaggery” crude sugar cake);
    mix 2x/d for 20 minutes over 15 days
    c) after total 19 days ready to use, makes about 20 liters so 1x/d remember to stir unused portion (cover with cloth to keep out insects)
    d) Use every 15 days as foliar feed 200 mL filtered stock/10 liter H2O or as ground fertilizer 1 liter stock/10 liter H2O

    Non-tropical agriculture use of cow urine:
    a) 5 Kg. fresh dung + 1 Kg. clarified butter + 5 liter cow urine + 3 liter milk curd + 3 liter clean milk + 5 liter H2O
    b) mix together above ingredients & at least 1x/d stir thoroughly for 15 days, cover with cloth against insects & daily stir unused portion
    c) Use monthly as foliar feed 1 part filtered stock to 10 part H2O

  42. Well, talk about p****ng away our inheritance on crazy climate schemes.

    If I ever get caught short while out an about I know what to tell the policeman now.

    I’m saving the environment by sequestering CO2 – I doubt he’ll be convinced ‘though.

  43. Don’t know if it has been mentioned . . . but, I was reading some book the other day . . . and they used to collect the stuff and sell it for a bleaching agent in the “olden days!” S-crap like that just sticks in my brain for some reason . . . I would have to re-“research” it to post a link . . . so no source citing on this one . . .

  44. Cheaper to pipe it to the farmer’s fields or the forest and let it take its own CO2. I don’t see any back of the envelope calculations – could be like the marginal effect of wind turbines. I guess Spain has created all the green jobs it can and is now working on yellow.

  45. @ Luther Wu who says:
    August 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm
    Insert urine into chimneys?

    Insert urine over the camp fire to “mop it up”?
    I say it was the inadverdent invention of explosives . . . as many a camp site was re-used in the “olden days”! I can see it in my minds eye now! Samething – Onlydifferent!


    What the hell is that . . . . about?

  46. “The study suggests that urine should be recycled for it to be used as fertilizer liquid and that faeces should be treated with solid organic waste to produce compost or solid fertilizers.”

    About the only sensible part of the article. Fear of spreading disease inhibits use of human excrement as fertilizer, but modern technology can sterilize sewage and change it from a nuisance into a resource.

  47. “Laurie Bowen says:
    August 18, 2012 at 11:56 am”

    Tony Robinson, AKA “Baldrick”, did a really interesting TV series call the “Worst Jobs in History”.

  48. The Confederate South had difficulties procuring raw materials to support their efforts during the Civil War and potassium nitrate aka saltpeter or nitre, so necessary to gunpowder was highly sought after… until an inventor named John Harrelson devised a method of extraction from urine, which spawned bawdy lyrics form both sides of the conflict.

    From the South:

    John Harrelson, John Harrelson, you are a wretched creature,
    You’ve added to this bloody war a new and awful feature,
    You’d have us think while every man is bound to be a fighter,
    The ladies, bless their pretty dears, should save their piss for nitre,

    John Harrelson, John Harrelson, where did you get this notion,
    To send your barrel around the town to gather up this lotion,
    We thought the girls had work enough in making shirts and kissing,
    But you have put the pretty dears to patriotic pissing,

    John Harrelson, John Harrelson, do pray invent a neater
    And somewhat less immodest mode of making your saltpeter,
    For “tis an awful idea, John, gunpowdery and cranky,
    That when a lady lifts her skirt, she’s killing off a Yankee.

    and in response, from the North:

    John Harrelson, John Harrelson, we’ve read in song and story
    How a women’s tears, through all the years, have moistened fields of glory,
    But never was it told before, how, ‘mid such scenes of slaughter,
    Your Southern beauties dried their tears and went to making water,
    No wonder that your boys are brave, who couldn’t be a fighter,
    If every time he shot a gun he used his sweethearts nitre?
    And, vice-versa, what could make a Yankee soldier sadder,
    Than dodging bullets fired by a pretty woman’s bladder.

    They say there is a subtle smell
    That lingers in the powder;
    That when the smoke grows thicker,
    And the din of the battle louder
    That there is found to this compound
    One serious objection;
    A soldier can not sniff it
    Without having an erection.

  49. Ooooo… bother. One of my previous jobs was as the conceptual designer/cost estimator for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) National Fertilizer Development Center (NFDC) – a long-gone national lab. For context the TVA-National Fertilizer Development Center (NFDC) was the United State’s leading national lab in the area of fertilizer development from the mid 1930’s through the early 1990’s. It was also the leading developer of fluid fertilizers.

    In this position I was periodically tasked with considering and responding to public “ideas” to produce fertilizers – as well as evaluating the potential of internally developed ideas. In practical terms this meant I worked, daily, with the U.S. leading experts in fluid fertilizers.

    Inevitably someone in the public-sphere would come up with the “bright idea” of using urine as fertilizer. This usually came with some eco-friendly twist. The difficulty, it seems, is that the
    “green” type individual that typically made such proposals never could quit grasp that to produce a viable commercial liquid fertilizer one had to overcome certain practical obstacles.

    Specifically that the keys to producing economical nitrogen solutions are: 1) that the solutions be low in water content and high in nitrogen (N) content , 2) have a low salt-out temperature (i.e. any potential solid phases don’t precipitate out of the solution), 3) Should not have a storage pressure issues, 4) can be easily be applied in a commercial agricultural setting. The problem with urine-derived solutions is they don’t have any of these characteristics.

    Let’s hit issue 1 first. The water content of urine is about 95% by weight. The high water content presents two problems.

    First the high water content makes urine-derived solutions uneconomical to transport in commercial markets – much less get the farmer to buy it. One must consider that urine would be competing with Urea/Ammonium Nitrate (UAN) solutions. UAN-32 solution, for example, is composed of 45% ammonium nitrate, 35% urea and 20% water by weight. Depending of the grade, commercial UAN solutions have between 32-28% available nitrogen.

    This compares to urine with a “raw” urea content of 2-4%. A 2-4% urea solution would have 0.92-1.84% available N. I have seen indications that about 59% of the nitrogen in urine is initially present as urea. Although I’ve never been sure how much nitrogen is this is actually “available” for agricultural purposes.

    I have seen claims of urine having an available nitrogen content of 11-15% (See for example Zsofia Granrot’s “Urine processing for efficient nutrient recovery and reuse in agriculture”). But, I have not been able to reconcile these figures with the low urea content commonly reported by the medical community. Possibly the authors were referring to concentrated urine solution. But, for the purposes of this conversation, it makes no difference. (And to be fair, I didn’t spend much time trying to figure it out). The bottom line is that the nitrogen content is too low to be commercially viable.

    Second there are degradation issues. The high water content of urine combined with its chemical makeup inevitability leads to the degradation of the nitrogen containing chemicals in urine via rapid urease catalyzed hydrolysis via the reaction.

    (NH2)2CO (urea) + H2O => 2NH3 + CO2

    The degraded ammonia and carbon dioxide can reform into carbonates at ambient temperatures and pressures via the following example reactions:

    (NH2)2CO (urea) + H2O NH2COONH4 (ammonium carbamate)

    NH2COONH4 2NH3 + CO2

    NH2COONH4 + H2O (NH4)2CO3 (ammonium carbonate) + O2

    (NH4)2CO3 2 NH3 + CO2 + H2O

    (NH4)HCO3 (ammonium bicarbonate) NH3 + CO2 + H2O

    However, all of these reactions tend to the right at atmospheric pressure; so loss of ammonia to the atmosphere tends to proceed rapidly in urine-derived solutions. And one should note that the breakdown of urea would continue nicely along the carbonate routes – even if the urease reaction were inhibited.

    In comparison, the water content of UAN solutions is about 20% by weight and the underlying chemistry is different. So UAN solutions simply do not encounter these issues.

    Next let’s hit issue 2 – salt out temperature. The salt-out temperature is the temperature which a given a solution will begin to precipitate solids.

    Commercial UAN solutions have high nitrogen contents and the low salt-out temperatures. For example the salt-out temperatures for:

    UAN 28-0-0 is 1°F (28% N).
    UAN 30-0-0 is 14°F (30% N)
    UAN 32-0-0 is 28°F (32% N)

    In contrast a pure 32.5% urea solution (with 15% N) has a salt-out temperature of 12 F. The salt-out temperatures increase with increasing concentration. For example, a 40% urea solution (with 18.5% N) has a salt-out temperature of 32 F.

    As you can see, commercial UAN solutions are much easier to store in winter conditions than urine (urea) based solutions; because, the solids are less likely to precipitate out of solution in cold weather. And they have substantially higher nitrogen contents.

    In addition, with urine, you have the potential for carbonates to be present. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the amount of carbonates one can add to a solution. For example, the solubility of ammonium carbamate in water is only about 40% by weight at 68 F (although the percent can be increased by adding ammonia). The other carbonates have similar issues.

    What this means, in practical terms, is that the ability of urea and carbonate solutions to “store” usable nitrogen is severely limited by their physical properties. Add too much urea, or any member of the ammonium carbonate family, and one risks getting large amounts of precipitated solids in the storage tank in which the fluid might be stored. In other words one risks ending up with an unusable storage tank (filled with difficult to remove crystals); plugged pipes, etc.

    Another issue is urine’s tendency to produce struvite (NH2MgPO2 * 6H2) – a colorless crystal with a low solubility in water. Stuvite crystal growth creates both maintenance and operational issues in waste water treatment plants. It would be a nightmare for farmers and fertilizer dealers.

    I also see a problem with the researcher’s suggestion to process their fluid by “inserted into domestic and industrial chimneys”. Any gas stack produced using coal or wood (or say any bio-waste) is going to contain a good deal of calcium. If the industrial “stack“ has a dry or wet flue gas desulphurization system, as calcium will be present in form of carried over lime or limestone. Calcium present in nitrogen solutions is known to produce sticky insoluble precipitates which will to promptly gum up spray nozzles, storage tanks, and pipes, etc.

    Next let’s hit issue 3 – storage pressures. UAN solutions do not produce the off-gassing that would lead to a requirement to store the solutions in pressured tanks. However, tanks containing solution mixtures containing urine, ammonium cabamate, ammonium bicarbonate, and ammonium carbonate must be pressurized to contain the potential for ammonia off-gassing.

    Heating the tanks to prevent winter salt-out only increases the potential for ammonia production and increases storage tank cost – due to increased risk of tank pressurization. For example, at temperatures of greater than 140 F, carbonate mixtures typically decompose completely into ammonia and carbon dioxide. And at the interface between a tank heater and the fluid local temperature in excess of 140 F will likely be encountered.

    Next let’s hit issue 4 – easily application. This is largely inter-related to the degradation and salt-out issues described above. Any solids suspended in the solution the farmer gets can and does lead to plugged sprayers… when the farmer attempts to apply the solution on to his fields. The problem is particularly acute in the late fall and early spring planting scenarios.

    Typically a fertilizer dealer begins to build his fluid inventories in the early fall and later winter – in preparation for the sales for planting the spring crop. So salt-out, even if limited to solids suspended in the solution only, represents a significant financial risk to both the farmer and the dealer. In contrast clear UAN solutions can be used with far less risk of salt-out.

    In short, the idea’s… a bit too academic.

    Regards,
    Kforestcat

  50. Well shoot. Despite my best efforts the carbonate-related reaction symbols for equilibrium didn’t get thru the editor right. Here’s a 2nd try.

    NH2)2CO (urea) + H2O NH2COONH4 (ammonium carbamate)

    H2COONH4 2NH3 + CO2

    NH2COONH4 + H2O (NH4)2CO3 (ammonium carbonate) + O2

    (NH4)2CO3 2 NH3 + CO2 + H2O

    (NH4)HCO3 (ammonium bicarbonate) NH3 + CO2 + H2O

    Regards,
    Kforestcat

  51. All. Ok here are the equations without equilibrium signs

    NH2)2CO (urea) + H2O => NH2COONH4 (ammonium carbamate)

    H2COONH4 => 2NH3 + CO2

    NH2COONH4 + H2O => (NH4)2CO3 (ammonium carbonate) + O2

    (NH4)2CO3 => 2 NH3 + CO2 + H2O

    (NH4)HCO3 (ammonium bicarbonate) => NH3 + CO2 + H2O

    Regards,
    Kforestcat

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