Together, industrial sources are thought to emit ~1.3 Tg N2O/year to the atmosphere. Of these, nitric acid production is one of the most important. Nitric acid is a key ingredient in nitrogen-based fertilizers. Nitric acid production involves the oxidation of ammonia (NH3) using a platinum catalyst. N2O emissions arise from this process during the catalytic oxidation and it is estimated that ~5 g of N2O is produced in this way for every kilogram of nitric acid manufactured. Much recent progress has been made in reducing N2O emissions from this process by using more efficient NH3 oxidation conditions - lower reaction temperatures preventing large amounts of the NH3 ending up as N2O.
Nylon manufacture is responsible for N2O emission through its requirement for adipic acid (also called hexanedioic acid). Adipic acid is a fine powder used in the manufacture of nylon fibres, as well as for some plastics, clothing, carpets and tyres. It is also used in the production of dyes and insecticides. N2O arises from adipic acid production during the oxidation of a ketone-alcohol mixture with nitric acid. It is estimated that for each kilogram of adipic acid made, ~30 g of N2O is also produced. However, big improvements in the removal of N2O before its emission to the atmosphere, such as by thermal decomposition, have achieved cuts in emissions from this source of more than 90%.
Burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal, in electricity generation can lead to substantial amounts of N2O production. Emissions arise primarily from the reaction of nitric oxide during combustion, though the high temperatures involved often mean that a large proportion of the N2O produced in this way is destroyed before it can escape to the atmosphere. Nevertheless, increasing global energy demands have led to increased emissions from this source in
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