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.
The deadline for abstracts was extended from April 17 to May 1 in recognition of the short lead time between the announcement of the Topical Conference and the original cut-off date. In emails in the days leading up to the deadline, Olson described the rapidly mounting number of abstracts. On April 19 he wrote, “31 submitted so far.” On April 27 he wrote, “We will have over 40 abstracts to select from.” On the afternoon of May 1, he wrote, “7 hours to go and 53 abstracts already submitted. Kind of amazing.” When the deadline arrived, the total was 58.
While pleased with the number of abstracts, Olson said in an interview that he was even more impressed by their quality. “There is ground-breaking research being done out there by top-notch people, there is no doubt about that,” he said. He also said they represent an extraordinary diversity in terms of geography (submitters hail from 13 different countries) and subject matter. In the latter regard, it’s not just that there are abstracts for each of the major features of the ammonia energy landscape, from synthesis to storage, reforming to combustion, and safety to macro system design. It’s that a range of topics is addressed within each area. In ammonia synthesis, for example, the submitted abstracts describe at least nine distinct methods.
This presents a classic “high-quality problem,” in which a large amount of valuable content must be accommodated in a very limited timeframe. The solution — adding more sessions on a second day — was obvious to Olson, but not necessarily to the AIChE’s conference managers, who have a finite set of resources to manage within their own space-time constraints. Fortunately, they were sympathetic to the plight and found a way to provide two additional sessions. In an email, Sipho Ndlela, the Program Chair for the AIChE Annual Meeting, acknowledged that “with [nearly] sixty submissions it would have been difficult to accommodate all oral sessions and a poster session on a single day.”
Olson said that even before the influx of abstracts, the NH3FA had decided to embrace at least one aspect of the highly regarded TED Talks conference series: an 18-minute time limit for talks (with a small additional increment for questions). The intention, Olson said, is not to unduly constrain speakers in sharing information, but rather to help attendees maintain their focus over the course of a long day of talks.
The evolving conference plan now calls for approximately 35 talks spread across five sessions over two days. Even with the additional slots for talks, Olson said, “we will need to lean hard on the poster session to get all of the information out there that people will bring to the conference.”
Ndlela spoke of the situation in optimistic terms: “We are really impressed that the NH3+ Topical has attracted such high quality papers in its first year programming under the AIChE annual conference. Certainly a great opportunity to engage chemical engineers. I am confident that this collaboration will continue to be an integral part of future annual meetings.”
The original date for the NH3 Energy+ Topical Conference was November 1. The additional sessions will take place on November 2. The AIChE website indicates that registration for the Annual Meeting will open in early July. Those interested should subscribe to Ammonia Energy News for updates.