N2O Science and Biology
How Potent is Nitrous Oxide?
These are the two major concerns on N2O as a greenhouse gas:
- N2O has a global warming potential that is about 270 times greater than CO2
- N2O is involved in the reaction with ozone resulting in ozone depletion.
The global warming from N2O will increase even further in the future due to the input of nitrogen compounds to the environment, e.g. from fertilizers and wastewater.
How Do You Control N2O Emissions?
The extent of N2O formation in wastewater treatment is complex and depends on multiple factors. However, N2O emissions from the biological treatment processes can be very significant. Therefore, modern wastewater treatment plants face a challenge to manage the emission of N2O to the atmosphere. Although a relatively small amount of N2O is released to the atmosphere, it contributes significantly to the climate impact from wastewater treatment.
Therefore, wastewater treatment plants need to be aware of the N2O science and biology. Hence, WWTPs must include N2O in the total climate footprint and seek to reduce the emissions. However, the impact from N2O varies significantly from plant to plant and during the season. This means that the use of standard values is inappropriate to estimate the impact of N2O. In conclusion, if you want to be able to calculate and manage emissions and climate impact from N2O, you need to measure it.