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Improvement of Haber-Bosch: Adsorption vs. Absorption

At the recent NH3 Energy+ Topical Conference, Grigorii Soloveichik described the future of ammonia synthesis technologies as a two-way choice: Improvement of Haber-Bosch or Electrochemical Synthesis. Two such Haber-Bosch improvement projects, which received ARPA-E-funding under Soloveichik's program direction, also presented papers at the conference. They each take different approaches to the same problem: how to adapt the high-pressure, high-temperature, constant-state Haber-Bosch process to small-scale, intermittent renewable power inputs. One uses adsorption, the other uses absorption, but both remove ammonia from the synthesis loop, avoiding one of Haber-Bosch's major limiting factors: separation of the product ammonia.

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A new strategy for internal combustion of ammonia

Of all the devices that can convert the chemical energy in ammonia to electricity, gas turbines and fuel cells appear to be receiving the lion’s share of development effort, outstripping that devoted to ammonia-fueled internal combustion engines (A-ICEs).  An Ammonia Energy review last year found a number of organizations with histories of work on A-ICE technology, but reports of progress have not been forthcoming.  It was good news, therefore, when a representative of a newly engaged group appeared at the NH3 Energy+ Topical Conference earlier this month and delivered a talk on an innovative A-ICE “combustion strategy.”  Donggeun Lee from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Seoul National University (SNU) delivered the paper, entitled “Development of new combustion strategy for internal combustion engine fueled by pure ammonia,” on behalf of his co-authors, Hyungeun Min, Hyunho Park, and Han Ho Song.

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N-Fuels vs. C-Fuels: Nitrogen “superior” to carbon as a hydrogen carrier

Gideon Grader, a Faculty Dean at Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and Bar Mosevitzky, one of the members of his laboratory, spoke in separate talks at the NH3 Energy + Topical Conference about one of the Grader Research Group’s key focuses: nitrogen-based energy carriers.  Grader and his team champion the idea that ammonia can be the starting rather than ending point for nitrogen-containing fuels for heat engines.  The focuses of their research include ammonium hydroxide ammonium nitrate (AAN), ammonium hydroxide urea (AHU), and urea ammonium nitrate (UAN).  As described below, this work is an indispensable addition to the C-fuel vs. N-fuel debate well known to proponents of ammonia energy.  And the Grader team stakes out a position: per the abstract of Grader’s talk, “using nitrogen as a hydrogen carrier can potentially offer a superior option.”

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The Future of Ammonia: Improvement of Haber-Bosch … or Electrochemical Synthesis?

During our NH3 Energy+ Topical Conference, hosted within AIChE's Annual Meeting earlier this month, an entire day of presentations was devoted to new technologies to make industrial ammonia production more sustainable. One speaker perfectly articulated the broad investment drivers, technology trends, and recent R&D achievements in this area: the US Department of Energy's ARPA-E Program Director, Grigorii Soloveichik, who posed this question regarding the future of ammonia production: "Improvement of Haber-Bosch Process or Electrochemical Synthesis?"

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Renewable Energy for Industry: IEA’s vision for green ammonia as feedstock, fuel, and energy trade

This morning in Beijing, China, the International Energy Agency (IEA) launched a major new report with a compelling vision for ammonia's role as a "hydrogen-rich chemical" in a low-carbon economy. Green ammonia would be used by industry "as feedstock, process agent, and fuel," and its production from electrolytic hydrogen would spur the commercial deployment of "several terawatts" of new renewable power. These terawatts would be for industrial markets, additional to all prior estimates of renewable deployment required to serve electricity markets. At this scale, renewable ammonia would, by merit of its ease of storage and transport, enable renewable energy trading across continents. The IEA's report, Renewable Energy for Industry, will be highlighted later this month at the COP23 in Bonn, Germany, and is available now from the IEA's website.

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2nd European Sustainable Ammonia Conference Announced

Last month the NH3 event Europe Foundation released a “call for papers” for the 2nd European Conference on Sustainable Ammonia Solutions.  The conference will take place in Rotterdam on May 17 and 18, 2018, almost exactly a year after the 1st Conference. This is further fulfillment of a vision articulated by Hans Vrijenhoef, Managing Director of Proton Ventures in the Netherlands, during the formation of the NH3 Fuel Association’s Global Ammonia Energy Federation (GAEF) in 2016.  In Vrijenhoef’s view, the rising level of activity and interest in ammonia energy created a compelling opportunity and need for a European conference.

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254th ACS Meeting, Energy and Fuels Symposium “The Ammonia Economy” — Oxidation, Catalytic Cracking & Storage

In August of 2017 a symposium on the Ammonia Economy was held in Washington DC as part of the Energy and Fuels Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS) conference. The symposium was devised to explore the latest results from ammonia related research, including but not limited to; advances in the generation of ammonia, advances in the catalytic cracking of ammonia to nitrogen and hydrogen, ammonia storage and utilisation, detectors and sensors for ammonia, ammonia fuel cells and hydrogen from ammonia, ammonia combustion and ammonia safety.

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254th ACS Meeting, Energy and Fuels Symposium “The Ammonia Economy” — Synthesis, Utilization & Nitrogen Reduction

In late August, the day before the exciting solar eclipse, the Ammonia Economy symposium was held as part of the Energy and Fuels Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in Washington DC. This marks the third gathering of Ammonia related research since 2015 at the national level ACS conference. This year, in addition to the important focus on chemistries for the utilization of ammonia, the rapidly developing field of homogeneous catalysts and biological processes for nitrogen fixation was included as a major theme.

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ARPA-E talks advanced hybridization, carbon-neutral liquid fuels

In the race to place the automotive sector on a sustainable footing, the field is dominated by just two horses: battery-electricity and hydrogen fuel cells.  The economic implementation of BEVs is already well underway, with motor companies on track in 2017 to sell more than a million vehicles globally for the first time.  The economic implementation of FCVs is also in progress, albeit at a much earlier stage, and has the backing of major motor companies and public-sector agencies.  Given the huge leads enjoyed by electricity and hydrogen, ammonia is scarcely seen as a contending fuel.  Earlier this month, though, the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E unit published an interview with two of its program managers that has an intriguing implication: the race is far from over and ammonia may yet break to the front of the pack.

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China and Australia collaborate on ammonia as a clean transport fuel

The University of Western Australia has entered the increasingly competitive field of ammonia energy research in Australia, announcing a collaborative agreement to develop "the world's first practical ammonia-powered vehicle" as well as an "ammonia-based hydrogen production plant." These goals are supported by funding from the R&D arm of Shenhua Group, formerly a coal company but now "China's largest hydrogen producer with a production capacity to power 40 million fuel cell passenger cars."