Saturday, February 20, 2010

Drive your car with Solar Ammonia from Seawater

Thanks John,  for the hint about -- IN TIMES OF DROUGHT, USE THE
surplus solar power and make ammonia from seawater
to drive your car with.

You gave the MAINE word I needed ... just three words:

I have to study it a bit, so I sent theis as a reminder to myself...

BTW - There are other kinds of Ammonia engines, too:

Have you seen this video? I can't watch it with my modem...
use NH3 instead of gasoline in your car:

The Ammonia Economy
11/19/2009 2:09:00 PM  by Joe Steinberger
Saturday morning I attended a powerpoint presentation at the Strand Theatre. The presenter was Matthew Simmons, of local and international fame, who had been invited by the Island Institute to take part in its Sustainable Island Living Conference.
He is a leading proponent of the "peak oil" concept and the author of several books on the subject. He recently founded the Ocean Energy Institute, which describes itself as a "think-tank and venture capital fund addressing the challenges of U.S. offshore renewable energy."

His presentation, entitled "The Gulf of Maine: What Lies Beyond the Fossil Fuel Horizon," was billed as "describing the role that off-shore wind can play in reducing Maine's unsustainable dependence on fossil fuel based energy resources."

At the Strand he pulled no punches in describing the challenge he believes we are facing. According to Simmons, heating oil will probably not even be available in five or ten years. Not only is oil running out, but fresh water is running out too, with even more dire consequences. Then he proposed a solution: floating offshore windmills that will produce both fresh water and liquid ammonia.

I found it fantastical. I do not doubt that increasing demand for oil, combined with its limited supply, is bound to make it more expensive over time, and that Maine's dependence, especially on heating oil, is a disaster in the making. What I find incredible is the idea that we are going to solve the problem by fueling our cars and heating our homes with ammonia, and that this amonia - let alone a significant supply of fresh water - is going to be produced by windmills in the Gulf of Maine.

There is wind, of course, in the Gulf of Maine, and there is a great deal of energy in that wind. There is wind all over the earth, especially over the oceans, and the total amount of energy in the wind is much greater than all the energy currently used by humanity. The same is true, even more spectacularly, for solar power. The problem is that these sources cannot easily be tapped like oil that gushes from a hole in the ground

Ammonia as Fuel

During my interview with Matt Simmons on “peak oil” for my book on renewables, I asked about suggestions for averting the imminent disaster he sees associated with maintain the status quo in energy generation and consumption. The response:

Large wind turbines will soon be built at the University of Maine and tested off the Maine coast, made from advanced composites with breakthrough characteristics in strength, weight, and cost. Once put into production, they can be used to produce large quantities of ammonia.

Matt pointed out that anhydrous ammonia (NH3), also known as “the other hydrogen,” is ultra-clean and energy-dense — the closest thing to a perfect transportation fuel.

He laid out a significant list of benefits:
Liquid at ambient temperatures and moderate pressures (~125 psi)
Has 52% of the energy density of gasoline, more than 50% more energy dense than liquid hydrogen
Can be used directly in internal combustion engines, using relatively straightforward conversions of gasoline and diesel ICEs
Easy to store and deliver in large quantities
Current worldwide annual production of ammonia is ~130 million tons
A storage and delivery infrastructure of pipelines, barges, rail and truck already exists for ammonia, with 3000 miles of pipeline in the US heartland; retail ammonia outlets exist in almost every state
Can be produced cleanly from coal and natural gas with carbon sequestration, and also from biomass, renewable energy sources and nuclear power, using nitrogen from the air
Contains no carbon, so releases no GHGs on combustion; also any NOx is easily neutralized

I propose to conduct a bit more research on this subject, and post my findings when they are available. In the meanwhile, please feel free to comment.

Institute plans to make ammonia for fuel
By Kevin Miller - BDN Staff

A Rockland-based nonprofit involved in Maine’s efforts to develop deepwater wind turbines also sees “green energy” potential in a compound that many people likely associate with cleaning products.

The Ocean Energy Institute is developing plans for a pilot project in Maine that would take hydrogen from seawater and nitrogen from the air to form ammonia, which then can be used as a type of fuel similar to propane.

A common ingredient in the fertilizer that supports modern agriculture, ammonia traditionally has been produced from natural gas, oil or other fossil fuels through an energy-intensive process.

But staff at the Ocean Energy Institute — a small think tank and venture capital fund formed in 2007 — believe they can create ammonia from desalinated seawater and air with zero carbon footprint. To power the conversion process, the institute hopes to use off-peak electricity from deepwater wind farms proposed for the Gulf of Maine.

Ammonia will likely never replace oil or other fossil fuels, the Ocean Energy Institute’s managing director, Robert West, said in an interview on Sunday. But it could be another piece of Maine’s and the nation’s energy future as the country shifts to more renewable energy.

“It’s a totally green fuel that over time, given the future price of energy, could potentially be used to partially replace gas or diesel,” West said.

Unlike electricity generated by wind farms, which instantly flows into the grid, ammonia created by the process the institute proposes can be stored in liquid form in tanks for later use in combustion gas turbine generators or even cars, buses or other engines.

West said he could foresee a time when lobster boats on Maine islands could be fueled by ammonia generated from local wind turbines.

“You are converting electric energy into ammonia, and ammonia has stored energy. It’s a fuel,” West said.

The Ocean Energy Institute’s plans received a boost Thursday night when Gov. John Baldacci mentioned the firm and its founder, Matt Simmons, during his State of the State address. Simmons also is founder and chairman of Simmons & Co. International, the world’s largest energy investment banking firm.

“Imagine, using the power of the wind and waves to create a new energy source almost literally out of thin air,” Baldacci said in his speech. “Matt’s imagined it, and he’s working to make it real. My administration is working with the Ocean Energy Institute, which is planning to build a pilot plant within the next two years.”

Of course, the institute will have to overcome a host of challenges — both technological and financial — before that happens. Arguably the biggest challenge could be addressing the real and perceived safety concerns that come with ammonia.

The city of Portland got a taste of the challenges of dealing with large amounts of ammonia on Friday when hazmat crews spent several hours at a leak at a cold-storage facility. No one was injured, but the leak led to a voluntary evacuation order for the surrounding neighborhood.

Ammonia is caustic and is classified by the federal government as an irritant and a corrosive material that can damage the skin, eyes, respiratory tract and mucous membranes. Exposure to large amounts of ammonia can be fatal.

Ammonia is similar to propane in that it can be converted from a gas to a liquid at cool temperatures or under pressure. But unlike propane or gasoline, ammonia does not ignite easily, making it less prone to explosion, West said. Ammonia gas also rises in the air rather than accumulating on the ground.

The Ocean Energy Institute also must convince the U.S. Department of Energy to re-classify ammonia as a type of fuel. Ammonia has been used as a fuel for buses, planes and other engines in Europe, most notably during fuel shortages during World War II.

Seated in the institute’s still-empty new offices, West said the Ocean Energy Institute is “just ramping up” its work on the issue. The institute also is continuing to work with University of Maine researchers on the DeepCwind consortium planning to deploy prototype deepwater wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine within several years.

A lot also will depend on the future prices of oil and electricity, West said. “As the markets change, we hope it will have a viable future,” he said.

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posted by u2r2h at Saturday, February 20, 2010