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NH3 Energy+: Topical Conference at AIChE Annual Meeting

“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.

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ACS “Ammonia Economy” Call for Papers Deadline Extended

The deadline for abstracts for the Ammonia Economy session at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in August has been extended to April 3. This was reported in an interview yesterday with Martin Owen Jones, Energy Materials Coordinator for the ISIS neutron spallation facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom. Jones is the co-organizer of the session along with Michael Mock, a Catalysis Scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in the U.S. The session will be the most prominent treatment of ammonia energy to date at a scientific conference held by an organization of global stature.

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Terrestrial Energy and the Production of Carbon-Free Ammonia

On January 24, the nuclear energy company Terrestrial Energy USA informed the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission of its plans “to license a small modular, advanced nuclear reactor in the United States.” Many steps later – sometime in the 2020s – the American subsidiary of the Canadian company Terrestrial Energy, Inc., hopes to bring its IMSR technology to market. IMSR stands for integral molten salt reactor. The IMSR stands apart from conventional nuclear technology on several dimensions. On the dimension of operating temperature, the IMSR is hot enough that it can be beneficially integrated with high-temperature industrial processes. According to the company’s research, ammonia production could be a candidate for such integration.

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International R&D on sustainable ammonia synthesis technologies

Over the last few weeks, I've written extensively about sustainable ammonia synthesis projects funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE). While these projects are important, the US has no monopoly on technology development. Indeed, given the current uncertainty regarding energy policy under the Trump administration, the US may be at risk of stepping away from its assumed role as an industry leader in this area. This article introduces seven international projects, representing research coming out of eight countries spread across four continents. These projects span the breadth of next-generation ammonia synthesis research, from nanotechnology and electrocatalysis to plasmas and ionic liquids.

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US DOE funding research into sustainable ammonia synthesis

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is currently supporting six fundamental research projects that will develop "novel catalysts and mechanisms for nitrogen activation," which it hopes will lead to future sustainable ammonia synthesis technologies. These projects, announced in August 2016 and administered by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, aim "to investigate some of the outstanding scientific questions in the synthesis of ammonia (NH3) from nitrogen (N2) using processes that do not generate greenhouse gases."

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Methane to Ammonia via Pyrolysis

Eric McFarland, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of California Santa Barbara, likes fossil fuels and nuclear energy and is unimpressed by the menu of renewable energy technologies.  But he is worried about climate change and he has an original view on how to modify our current energy system so that we don’t overload the atmosphere with CO2.  He believes the key will be to separate fossil hydrocarbons into gaseous hydrogen and solid carbon.  The chemistry he is developing in this area involves transferring “electrochemical potential” from hydrocarbons to alternative energy carriers.  Ammonia is an energy carrier that McFarland believes is especially promising.

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U.S. EPA’s Toxicological Review of Ammonia

On September 20 last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of the IRIS Toxicological Review of Ammonia - Noncancer Inhalation (Final Report). The Interagency Science Discussion Draft of the Ammonia IRIS Assessment and accompanying comments were also released. The report was the culmination of almost five years of work by the EPA and a specially convened Scientific Advisory Board. September 20 also happened to be the day of the Storage and Safety Session at the 2016 NH3 Fuel Conference. This is a striking coincidence because safety is seen as a key barrier to the adoption of ammonia as a sustainable energy carrier, and the report is a substantial contribution to the literature of ammonia safety.

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ARPA-E’s vision for carbon neutral liquid fuels

We wrote last month about the US Department of Energy funding ammonia fuel projects through ARPA-E's "REFUEL" program ("Renewable Energy to Fuels through Utilization of Energy-dense Liquids"). Although we introduced the funded projects in both the ammonia synthesis category and the ammonia fuel-use category, the REFUEL project merits further analysis as a whole because it describes a roadmap for the development of ammonia fuel systems, and identifies benchmarks for their commercial success.

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Carbon Pricing and the Economics of Green Ammonia

The United States Senate is expected to open confirmation hearings for Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson on January 11. Tillerson, newly retired from Exxon Mobil, became the chief executive officer of that company in 2006. He has attracted many labels since his nomination was announced, but “climate denier” is not among them.