2017 - Volume #41, Issue #3, Page #11[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Wind-Powered Machine Produces Anhydrous Out Of Thin AirCanadian inventor Roger Gordon has patented a process that makes anhydrous ammonia out of air and water, using wind power. He then uses it as fertilizer and also to power his F-350 pickup and Ford tractor. The system, which is about the size of an upright freezer, produces up to 125 gal. of anhydrous ammonia (NH3) per day.
“I converted my truck and tractor to compressed natural gas (CNG), which I use as a starting fuel and then switch over to 97 percent anhydrous,” says Gordon.” NH3 has about 80 percent the Btu’s of diesel fuel, but driving down the road I get closer to 90 percent equivalent mileage.”
Gordon has converted more than 20 engines to using NH3, later converting some back. They include gas, diesel and even a jet engine as proof of concept with Pratt and Whitney. He uses onboard tanks that hold NH3 at only 150 psi.
He suggests that NH3 is a superior “green” fuel to either propane or CNG. As it contains no carbon, it produces no carbon dioxide. He adds that it is safer than either of them or hydrogen (H), although NH3 has its own safe handling requirements.
“By itself, NH3 is non-combustible and non explosive,” he says. “Siemens is developing NH3 as a storage system for renewable energy. China is working on developing it as a fuel source, and Japan is funding engine R&D.”
Gordon has been working on his system since 2008, developing the right volumes, pressures and timing to pull nitrogen (N) and H out of air and water, and then convert it to NH3.
His U.S. patent (8,778,293) was issued in mid 2015, and he encourages people to access and review it. He uses electrolysis to produce the H. A pressure-swing adsorption process is used to pull the N out of the air. Both the N and H are compressed and stored separately. They are then mixed together and compressed in a third cylinder, where they are heated in the presence of a catalyst to react with the N and H and turn them into NH3.
“I am still adjusting the system manually, but once it is computerized, sensors will find the sweet spot for production and adjust inputs for the best output,” says Gordon. “The only regular maintenance is to add a catalyst, like a handful of metal filings, about every 3 months.”
Gordon adds that not only are N and water the only byproducts of combustion, NH3 can be used in fuel cells without combustion to produce energy. The process to make the NH3 is an exothermic reaction producing free heat, which could be captured and used.
In order to use the NH3 as a fuel, he did need to adapt his engines. Gas engines with injectors are started on gas and switched over to NH3, much as with a propane conversion. Diesel engines require the addition of a spark plug and a catalyst to ignite the NH3 in cylinders. That requires finding diesel engines with room to add a spark plug.
“An F-350 with a plastic intake can be adapted in about half a day,” says Gordon. “The hardest part is mounting a 20-gal. propane tank to hold the NH3. Converting a Ford tractor requires the head to be milled.”
Gordon continues to refine the system, which he estimates could be built and sold for around $10,000. It is a process, he says, that will soon be even more economical to operate.
“We have a new process for making hydrogen at about half the current cost of electrolysis, which is about 7¢ per liter,” he says.
While his system seems to have everything going for it, Gordon has had trouble interesting the Canadian government or domestic investors. He suspects the current tax system may play a role.
“We have a carbon tax in most of the provinces that is estimated to bring in as much as $160 million to Ontario alone,” he says. “We have asked for certification that we are not a carbon based fuel, but they say they don’t have a program to cover it.”
While he is confident anyone could own and produce NH3 with his system, he feels the real savings would be for remote installations such as mines in northern Canada. However, he suspects the systems may end up being built elsewhere.
“I’ve spent nearly $2 million to develop the process,” says Gordon. “We have 2 groups from the Middle East very interested in it.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, GreenNH3 (greennh3.com).
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