This is a modified Haber process which, unlike the existing Haber plants, captures the heat produced by the process and uses it to drive the process, thus making it significantly more efficient.
The only part of the process that is at high temperature and pressure is the iron based catalyst chamber; all other parts of the process are at much lower pressures and temperatures, thus reducing the cost of the plant.
This is done by taking a Nitrogen and Hydrogen mix at essentially room temperature and using an adiabatic compressor to bring it up to the temperatures and pressures required for the reaction.
After the reaction has taken place an adiabatic decompressor is used to bring the mix, together with the Ammonia produced back to essentially room temperature thus harvesting the energy produced by the process and allowing it to be used for driving the other compressors.
The mix is then cooled using a heat pump to condense out the Ammonia and the balance of the mix is then recycled.
The dwell time (inverse of space velocity) in the catalyst is much lower than is usually employed. As it happens the catalysts have much better activity under these conditions so much less catalyst is needed to operate the process. In addition there is no need for the follow-up Ruthenium catalysts needed in traditional plants.
The use of compressors as described allows the process to be done on site at a much smaller scale than the huge Haber plants, allowing it to be compacted into shipping container sized objects. This removes the cost and hazards of shipping Ammonia.
Since the Hydrogen required is produced from essentially renewable Electricity at much lower cost than that from Natural gas reformation, the process is environmentally friendly and does not consume any fossil fuels or produce the pollutants associated with such plants.
The US is the world’s largest importer of Ammonia, approximately 6.3 million metric tons during 2010. The volatile and upward trend in U.S. natural gas prices from 2000 to 2006 has led to a 17 percent decline in the national supply of ammonia. U.S. ammonia production declined more than 4 percent, while U.S. ammonia imports have increased 115 percent in the same timeframe. Production of ammonia in the U.S. dropped, while the share from imports increased from 15 percent to 42 percent. The decline in production raised the price for farmers 130 percent from $227 per ton in 2000 to $521 per ton in 2006. Prices are now above $800/metric ton. Department of Commerce figures show that there has been a 36% increase in Ammonia imports during the month of April 2011 alone.
Considering that this process can manufacture Ammonia for $439/metric ton, about 45% less than the present cost it is clear that the FAM’s have major positive economic implications for US agriculture and the economy.
As well as fuel and fertilizer uses, the Ammonia machines also offer a means of storing and recycling electrical energy, thus helping to balance and increase the utilization of the grid. Such storage greatly increases the utilization of renewable power generation such as wind and solar as it provides the much needed storage.