The removal of surplus nitrogen from pig slurry can be necessary in order to avoid pollution such as nitrate leaching. However, the treatment itself can create significant pollution; up to 20 % of the removed slurry nitrogen has been shown to be released as nitrous oxide (N2O), which contributes to global warming and the breakdown of the ozone in the stratosphere. Avoiding such emission requires conditions that encourage the complete conversion of the nitrogen to the environmentally safe di-nitrogen gas (N2), and a clear understanding of the underlying biochemistry; for example, whether the nitrous oxide is the bi-product of incomplete nitrification (chemical oxidation) or denitrification (chemical reduction). The stable isotope of nitrogen (15N) was used in this investigation as a label. Results indicated a new route for substantial release of N2O: via nitrification (rather than denitrification), caused by a combination of high aeration levels and the presence of nitrification products. Sequential aeration, which leads to a cycling between nitrification and complete denitrification, was proposed as an abatement in view of this new mechanism. This process achieved 89% removal of ammoniacal nitrogen in laboratory scale treatment, with 94% of the nitrogen removed in the form of N2. These findings suggest that the possibility of N2O emissions from nitrification be considered in the design of treatment schemes. Increased aeration would be the intuitive response to incomplete nitrification. However, the results of this study suggested that although this response can increase nitrogen removal, this may be as N2O rather than N2.
- nitrous oxide
- slurry nitrogen removal