Optimal Design of Sustainable Ammonia-Based Food-Energy-Water Systems with Nitrogen Management

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11 Scopus citations


As the basis for virtually any form of nitrogen fertilizers, ammonia plays a vital role in agriculture; in addition, there has been an increased interest in its use as a carbon-free energy carrier. However, ammonia is also associated with two major environmental concerns: CO2 emissions from the conventional production process and nitrogen pollution from the excessive use of ammonia-based fertilizers. To mitigate these environmental impacts, we develop an optimization framework for the design of a sustainable ammonia-based agricultural system that synergistically integrates the production of ammonia from renewable resources and effective measures for nitrogen management. The proposed model captures the effect of intermittency by incorporating both design and detailed operational decisions. By applying a multiscale time representation that reduces the problem size and a tailored surrogate model that accurately approximates model nonlinearity, we are able to achieve optimal solutions within reasonable computation times. A computational case study is conducted using real-world data from a local farm in Morris, Minnesota, and the results indicate the trade-off between cost and nitrogen loss. Importantly, we show that practicing effective nitrogen management can significantly reduce the nitrogen loss with only a small increase in net present cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2816-2834
Number of pages19
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 9 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded in part by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), U.S. Department of Energy, under award number DE-AR0000804 and in part by the Digital Technology Center of the University of Minnesota through a Digital Technology Initiative Seed Grant. The authors would also like to thank Prof. David Mulla from the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate at the University of Minnesota for discussions and valuable insights in the early phase of the project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Chemical Society.


  • food-energy-water
  • integrated design and scheduling
  • mixed-integer optimization
  • nitrogen management
  • sustainable ammonia


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