| Green Nitrate fertilzer and amonia fuel|
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|Nitrate fertilizer as it is currently produced is very carbon intensive and probably means the current biofuels industry is a complete waste of time in terms of reducing CO2, but it can be made using renewable energy and also amonia as a fuel for vehicles has great potential. It was apparently used very successfully for buses in Belgium during the war. |
The soil association are keen to point out the carbon sequestration properties of healthy soil and certainly we have seen this in our own garden as we have gone from a 'neat' barren grass monoculture where all cuttings were removed from site, with very poor soil structure to a thriving biodiversity with return of earth worms, and now frogs and toads and more birds in 5 years. We also have enough fruit and veg to keep us going for a good proportion of the year.
Probably the answer is a balance with some artificial fertiliser being produced in a more sustainable way, but also more use of organic principles so that it is retained within the soil structure and results in increased growth rather than being leached away.
Not all farmers will go organic so given that most of them will use some nitrates it makes sense to make it with renewable electricity and water.
Amonia as a fuel also seems more practical and cheaper than hydrogen and could be a good way of converting renewable electricity to transport without having to build a lot of batteries which use rare metals.
|I just came across a bit more information on this topic. 1 kg of nitrate fertiliser requires 78,078 J of energy if produced from fossil fuel, or 200,928 J of energy using electricity (actually, re-reading the paper, it says 1 kg of nitrogen, so I guess the weight of the fertiliser is quite a bit more - but the comparison stands). We're already going to be asking a lot of our renewable electricity if we want it to power our electric gadgets, and heat most of our buildings (because there isn't any zero carbon alternative in most cases, storage and transport of bio-mass fuel being too difficult and the resource insufficient anyway) and fuel our vehicles. So I don't think using renewable electricity to produce fertiliser is going to be all that helpful. We now seem to be facing the prospect of 15 billion people on the planet by 2100, coupled with diminishing resources of energy and fertilisers, and competing demands for land for energy and food generation. Meanwhile there's increasing pressure to produce more grain-fed meat, and we're banned from feeding food waste to pigs. Doesn't look all that good to me.|
|Where did you get those figures? Can't see them on the freedom fertilizer website. The ammonia fuel looks interesting. It might still be better than using one form of fossil fuel to create the fertilizer, then using it to grow corn that is then converted into ethanol. It would be interesting to have an energy comparison for that.|
|Food, energy and Society Part 6, by David and Marcia Pimentel - but I have to come clean and confess I haven't read the whole opus. It was precised in the most recent Optimum Population Trust Journal - which, incidentally is a good read, if a bit dense and one-sided at times. See http://populationmatters.org/in-depth/articles-periodicals-papers/j... , where you can download the October 2011 edition and get thoroughly depressed. I don't know about the ammonia bit, but if the Pimentel figures are right it's hard to see how ammonia is going to square the circle. Seems to me there's very little chance of there being enough fossil fuel to do the corn - ethanol conversion, as far as I can see that is a net user of energy rather than a generator. At some stage we just have to recognise we can't have unconstrained population and resource demand on a finite planet. We can have fewer people with a decent standard of living, or more people in grinding poverty, but we can't have more people and a decent standard of living.|
|I think this is the bit 'Nitrogen can be produced using electrical discharge to convert atmospheric |
nitrogen to nitrate. However, about 200,928 J of energy are required to produce 1 kg of
nitrogen by this method, compared to 78,078 J required using fossil energy dependent
technologies. Based on current renewable energy technologies, a quantity of energy
produced using renewable technologies costs from five to ten times more than an equivalent
amount obtained from fossil energy sources.
I've emailed freedom fertilizer to see what their response is.
Steve Gruhn via yahoo.com to me
show details 23:26 (10 minutes ago)
S.A.F.E. / Freedom Fertilizer
Sustainable Ammonia Fertilizer Enterprise, LLC
3006 Hwy 71 - Spirit Lake, IA 51360
Green Ground Zero
See this reply. Can you convert the joules to MW?
Thank you for your interest. Our system would require about 14MW of electricity top produce 1 ton of NH3. The process we are using is the standard Haber process with H2 coming from electrolysis. The electrical discharge process that you refer to is the Birkeland Eyde which is very inefficient. The cost in NH3 is H2 production as new technology is developed that lowers the costs of H2 production we will benefit.
I would have to disagree on the costs of renewable energy. Initial deployment costs maybe higher but in the long run it will be cost effective. We can produce green NH3 cost effectively from wind power if we have access to curtailed and off peak generation. In our area wind generation capacity is installed and at certain times it is being curtailed or the price is discounted because of over production. This is when NH3 production makes dollars and sense.This type of NH3 production then becomes energy storage.
S.A.F.E. / Freedom Fertilizer
Sustainable Ammonia Fertilizer Enterprises LLC
3006 Hwy 71 - Spirit Lake , IA 51360
Green Ground Zero - GreeNH3 - Nitroline - NH3 Future Fuel - Freedom Fertilizer -Nitronol sm
S.A.F.E. LLC is located at Green Ground Zero - The NW corner of The State of Iowa. This is the epicenter of the new green revolution. The area is home to more installed wind, ethanol, bio-diesel and biomass capacity than anywhere else in the world.... With much more being planned. The future here is bright with projects like SAFE's GreeNH3, sustainable carbon free Freedom Fertilizer, Nitroline and Nitronol fuels. Our local vocational schools lead the nation with premier green job training programs in all phases of green energy production. The area has many new ideas, plenty of room and the green resources for much, much more. So just maybe your next renewable project should consider being a part of this green revolution at Green Ground Zero.
Please contact us for more details
|I asked them about the current scale of production. |
'The unit that is currently available is a 1.5 MW. It will produce about 1000 ton annually. We also have a natural gas unit that is similar in output. It requires 33-34 MBTU per ton of production. Either unit would run about 2.9 million euro'.
It would seem sensible to have a facility at a wind farm site.
1. Means that excess energy can be used rather than having to be stored or transmitted, reducing need for more grid capacity and or pump storage.
2. Fertilizer is produced near farmers, substantially reducing transport costs.
3. It would be nice if all farmers were organic, but I can't see that happing soon and I don't know if we have enough land to feed everyone if they do.
4.Some use of nitrate fertilser would seem to be necessary and if supply chains start to break down we need it produced as locally as possible.
What is the best way to get people to look at this locally? Polititians? The Agricultural Ring? Local businesses? Wind farms? Press?
|Bit of a problem because he's quoting units of power (MW) rather than energy (MWh or Joules)! It's a bit like saying Culbokie is 15 miles per hour from Inverness, doesn't mean anything. But then I see he's talkng about BTU's, which, perversely are a bit more helpful. 1 BTU is 1,054 Joules, he's suggesting 33,500 BTU's per kg from the gas unit (not quite right as he's probably using tons rather than tonnes, but near enough), or about 34 million Joules, compared with 0.078 million Joules quoted in the OPT paper. He also suggests a 1.5 MW wind turbine will produce 1000 tons/ year. Assuming a 30% capacity factor, the 1.5 MW turbine should generate about 4,500 MWh/ year, so we're looking at 4.5 kWh/ kg from the wind turbine. 1 kWh is 3.6 million Joules, so that equates to 16.2 million Joules/ kg, compared with 0.2 million Joules/ kg from the OPT paper. |
The figures obviously don't stack up, although I don't know which is likely to make more sense.
To my mind though, we have two problems (actually, a lot more, but let's just thing about two for now!) First, we are trying to change our existing electricity generating system to one with about a third renewables, a third nuclear and a third thermal generation with carbon capture and storage, and at the same time we're planning to increase the demand for electricity by about 50% by switching most space and water heating from fossil fuels to electricity, and switching transport to electric vehicles. Give that carbon capture and storage is unproven, no-one seems keen to build new nuclear power stations yet (the plan was that the first planning consents would be given this year), and we haven't yet worked out how we're going to deal with the intermittency of renewables, nor have we developed the technologies necessary for the marine renewables which will be a big part of the equation, this looks like a very tall order to me.
The second problem is how we produce fertiliser without fossil fuels. To my mind the most elegant solution to this would be to re-engineer our sewage systems. At the moment we are using purified water, pumped around the water mains, to flush away fertiliser, which can't be a very smart thing to do. Someone would need to do some sums on how it all stacked up, but I would have thought that should deal with part of the problem at least. There's an excellent book by Simon Fairlie, "Meat - a Benign Extravagance" which sets out some analysis of UK land use under various agricultural regimes, and his conclusion is that we could fairly comfortably feed the population through organic means, using nitrogen fixing plants in pasture to fertilise the ground, so that's worth thinking about. Or we could add to the first problem by increasing the demand for electricity.
On the other hand, I found something the other day that suggested the wind generation either in use, in construction or in planning now exceeds the minimum demand on the grid, so that means we'll soon be in the position where, even with every other generator in the grid switched off, at times we'll still be shedding wind energy. I can't see pumped storage coming anywhere close to meeting the requirements for balancing the grid, so having some way of using surplus generation would be useful. Overall, though, I can't help thinking we should be looking for ways to reduce the demand for electricity rather than increase it.
|I think his point was that the wind turbine was used for the nitrate production only when the wind was producing more electricity than required. Presumably if you're looking at the economics you get more from selling electicity to the grid when its needed (and maybe using his gas plant to manufacture the nitrate in those circumstances or maybe you don't produce nitrates all the time) but using the surplus electricity to produce nitrate fertiliser when not needed. We do need to do something when the wind turbines over produce. |
The idea of using ammonia to fuel vehicles also looks interesting. It seemed to work very well with buses in Belgium in the war. Looks like it could be a better option than hydrogen and again would mean that manufacturing could occur at night when nuclear power stations are producing too much.
I still think thorium sounds a much better option if we do need nuclear and those plants can also use up waste.
I agree about the sewage though, but then my Dad was a water engineer, so sewage works and pumping stations where always pointed out! We used to use 'sludge' on the garden sometimes but I think there is now a worry about disease and antibiotic residues. Couldn't they use anaerobic digestion to produce methane and then use the remnants for fertilser? I think some sewage works do. We seem to have got very squeamish about waste generally. Our ancestors used it for all sorts of things
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