The “NH3 Energy+: Enabling Optimized, Sustainable Energy and Agriculture” Topical Conference, originally conceived as a one-day event, has been extended to a second day, according to NH3 Fuel Association (NH3FA) President Norm Olson. “NH3 Energy+” is the 2017 edition of the NH3 Fuel Conference that has been held every year since 2004. This year it will be held under the auspices of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ Annual Meeting in Minneapolis in the U.S.
“Ammonia Energy Arrives on World Stage.” This could have been the headline for today's story about the 2017 NH3 Fuel Conference that will be staged in conjunction with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). But that would be hyperbolic and would also single out just one step of ammonia energy's rise to global prominence. Nonetheless, the full-day event, officially entitled, “NH3 Energy+: Enabling Optimized, Sustainable Energy and Agriculture,” is unquestionably a milestone on the journey.
An article in the latest issue of Dutch-language magazine NPT Proces Technologie provides a detailed update on the Nuon project, about which we wrote a few months ago. Nuon's Power-to-Ammonia project looks at grid-scale storage of "seasonal surplus" electricity from wind and solar in the form of ammonia.
Proton Ventures, the originators of the Power-to-Ammonia concept in The Netherlands, have also been sharing details of the project in recent conference presentations - and announced that they will be hosting the first European ammonia fuel conference, in Rotterdam, in May 2017.
I wrote last week about ARPA-E's "transformative" ammonia synthesis technologies, describing three technology pathways under development: low pressure Haber-Bosch, electrochemical processes, and advanced electrolysis.
ARPA-E's ambitious R&D program might imply that a meaningful, commercial market for sustainable ammonia is still decades away. It represents, however, only the slow American tip of a fast-moving global iceberg.
In Japan, where there's no debate about climate science, the national effort is already well underway, with three programs to develop low-carbon ammonia synthesis under the Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP), 'Energy Carriers.'
The US Department of Energy's Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA-E) is funding projects with a view to commercializing low- and zero-carbon ammonia synthesis technologies.
Grigorii Soloveichik, ARPA-E Program Director, described the aims and challenges of his agency's initiative and introduced the technologies currently in development in his keynote presentation at the recent NH3 Fuel Conference, in September 2016.
Eddie Sturman, noted inventor and co-founder of Sturman Industries, has been developing ammonia internal-combustion-engine (ICE) technology for several years – "at least six, maybe more." At the 2016 NH3 Fuel Conference, he provided the most in-depth look so far at the results of Sturman Industries' R&D program. Specifically, his talk featured a dual-fuel compression ignition engine powered by a combination of diesel fuel and ammonia.
'Solar ammonia' could be the key to the sustainable energy economies of two nations. During his talk at the 2016 NH3 Fuel Conference, Keith Lovegrove, Head of Solar Thermal at IT Power Group in Australia, said that Japan and Australia have the opportunity to move their trade in energy onto a climate-friendly foundation. This would involve development of Australia's solar resources in a way that helps Japan ramp up its Strategy for Hydrogen & Fuel Cells in the coming decades.
A recent paper from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, published in June 2016, provides new data on the relative efficiency and safety of using ammonia as a transportation fuel. It presents a cradle-to-grave "comparative life cycle assessment" for a range of vehicles, encompassing the vehicle cycles (manufacturing, maintenance, and disposal) and the fuel cycle (operation).
A common concern with ammonia fuel is that NOx emissions will be too high to control. However, in new research from Turkey, USA, and Japan, presented at this year's NH3 Fuel Conference in September 2016, two things became clear.
First, NOx emissions can be reduced to less than 10ppm by employing good engineering design and exploiting the chemical properties of ammonia, which plays a dual role as both the fuel and the emissions-cleanup agent.
Second, the deployment of ammonia-fueled turbines for power generation is not only feasible, but actively being developed, with demonstration units running today and improved demonstration projects currently in development.