Last week Kaden Watch, a Japanese Web site for appliance news, reported that Tokyo Gas had delivered its 80,000th Ene Farm residential fuel cell system. This small news item, delivered by a niche media outlet, lifts a critical corner of the decidedly “big-tent” story of Japan’s strategy to develop a hydrogen-based energy economy. How the Ene Farm topic develops is likely to be a major factor in Japan’s ability to sustain its hydrogen vision -- and possibly a determinant of the role ammonia could play within it.
Next month the print edition of Fuel Processing Technology will feature a paper entitled “Auto-ignition of a carbon-free aqueous ammonia/ammonium nitrate monofuel: a thermal and barometric analysis.” This title is provocative. First, what is this idea of a fuel composed of a mixture of ammonia and ammonium nitrate (AN)? If ammonia is a good fuel, is it made better with the addition of ammonium nitrate? Second, why is it aqueous? Is the presence of water a feature or a bug? Third, what is a monofuel and why is this term used when the fuel is a mixture of two molecular species? And finally, why is the paper ultimately about auto-ignition?
On February 14 the Journal of Physical Chemistry published a paper entitled “Local Structures and Catalytic Ammonia Combustion Properties of Copper Oxides and Silver Supported on Aluminum Oxides.” The paper, by Satoshi Hinokuma of Kumamoto University in Kumamoto, Japan and four co-authors, reports on a catalyst system that is well adapted for use in ammonia energy applications.
Developers around the world are looking at using ammonia as a form of energy storage, essentially turning an ammonia storage tank into a very large chemical battery.
In the UK, Siemens is building an "all electric ammonia synthesis and energy storage system." In the Netherlands, Nuon is studying the feasibility of using Power-to-Ammonia "to convert high amounts of excess renewable power into ammonia, store it and burn it when renewable power supply is insufficient."
While results from Siemens could be available in 2018, it might be 2021 before we see results from Nuon, whose "demonstration facility is planned to be completed in five years." But, while we wait for these real-world industrial data, the academic literature has just been updated with a significant new study on the design and performance of a grid-scale ammonia energy storage system.
A start-up company in Denmark is commercializing technology to generate low-cost, high-purity hydrogen from ammonia, for use in fuel cells.
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.