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Vanadium As a Potential Catalytic Membrane Reactor Material for NH3 Production

In solid or liquid states, ammonia salts and solutions are the active components of most synthetic fertilizers used in agriculture, which consume 83% of the world’s ammonia. Today, ammonia for fertilizers is industrially produced via the Haber-Bosch process at 400-500 °C and at pressures up to 30 MPa (300 bar). These harsh operating conditions are necessary due to the high affinity of dissociated nitrogen atoms towards the catalyst surface in addition to the high barrier associated with N2 dissociation. For these reasons, the need for advanced catalytic methods for the reduction of N2 to ammonia remains a requirement for sustainability…

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Advances in Making High Purity Nitrogen for Small Scale Ammonia Generation

The presentation will address recent developments in the Solar Hydrogen Demonstration Project in which hydrogen, nitrogen and ammonia are made from solar power, water, and air; and used to fuel a modified John Deere farm tractor. In industrial applications very pure nitrogen is made by cryogenic distillation of air. Using Pressure Swing Absorption systems alone it is extremely difficult to achieve the required purity. An improved method was developed for making high purity nitrogen, for smaller systems. Will discuss how, when Oxygen contaminates the reactor catalyst, Hydrogen is used to purge the catalyst, and subsequently used as fuel.

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Scale up and Scale Down Issues of Renewable Ammonia Plants: Towards Modular Design

Renewable sources of energy such as biomass, solar, wind or geothermal just to mention some of the most widely extended are characterized by a highly distributed production across regions (EPA, 2017). Total renewable energy available is more than enough to provide for society needs, but the traditional production paradigm is changing. Economies of scale have featured current industry and its infrastructures based on large production complexes (i.e Dow, Exxonmobil or BASF hubs). The well-known six tenths rule has extensively been used in the chemical industry to scale up or down the cost of technologies. This rule is suitable for large…

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Ammonia technology portfolio: optimize for energy efficiency and carbon efficiency

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the International Fertilizer Association's (IFA) conference on the subject of Innovations in Ammonia. A key point was the benefit of technology diversification: as with any portfolio, whether an investment account or a global industry's range of available technologies, concentration in any area represents risk, and diversification represents resiliency. Unfortunately, the ammonia industry has grown highly concentrated, and its dependency upon one technology and one feedstock represents significant risk in tomorrow's markets. This article features five charts that aim to demonstrate why energy efficiency is insufficient as the only measure of technology improvement, why it is better to optimize instead of maximize, and why market evolution is necessary to support investment decisions in sustainable ammonia synthesis technologies.

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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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Process Synthesis and Global Optimization of Novel Ammonia Production Processes

Synthetic ammonia production has played a huge role in sustaining population growth by providing the nitrogen in fertilizers that are widely used in modern agriculture. Even long after it was first commercially developed by Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch in the 1930s, the Haber-Bosch process remains the basis for industrial ammonia production today. Through reducing energy requirements by half in the last 50 years, centralized industrial plants have kept their technical and economic advantage over other modes of operation. However, the centralized production also comes with high transportation costs, since plant capacities usually exceed local ammonia consumption [1]. This and…

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Load Range Enhancement of Haber-Bosch Process Designs for NH3 Sustainable Energy Storage By Multi-Parametric Optimization

With the world’s major shift towards renewable energy, the need of chemicals-based energy storage has drastically increased, as renewable energy is intermittent and energy storage medium is required. Among several chemical energy storage options, ammonia is promising for renewable energy on utility-scale. The Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis was the first heterogeneous catalytic system employed in the chemical industry and developed over a period of century. However, the conventional ammonia process has been designed and optimized for steady state operation and high capacity. Power-to-ammonia requires a more flexible operation, small size reactors and decentralized production. The impact of adjustable parameters, such as,…

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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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Comparative studies of ammonia production, combining renewable hydrogen with Haber-Bosch

In recent months, research teams from both Canada and Italy have published comparative analyses of sustainable ammonia production pathways. These projects aim to quantify the costs and benefits of combining Haber-Bosch with a renewable hydrogen feedstock. Both projects examine the carbon intensity of ammonia production but, while the Canadian study broadens its remit to a full life cycle analysis, including global warming potential, human toxicity, and abiotic depletion, the Italian study focuses primarily on energy efficiency.