We write January 1st 2014. Below you find our answers to Frequently Asked Questions – as of today. A way of summarizing status as a new year commences. A year holding a lot of potential – and answers – for N2 Applied’s N Fix Technology. Our first.
1. What is the status of the technology development
The practical results from the 1920s have been modelled with state of the art plasma theory using 16 air plasma components and 48 rate reactions. The practical results are still better than what the straight forward modelling is predicting. The reaction rates for making the intermediate plasma components depend mainly on the achievable electron temperature. The yield and thereby the energy efficiency depend on the quenching and cooling profile from arc through plasma and back to gasses.
The focus in a recent M.Sc. thesis has been to understand the nature of the arc, and the interface between arc and air/plasma. A prototype is scheduled for testing in a biogas plant in the 2nd quarter of 2014.
2. What is the key fundamental issues behind the technology
The term GJ/tN for making NO or HNO3 is used to facilitate benchmarking with other technologies. The best practice ammonia technologies are able to make ammonia, NH3 using 36 GJ/tN. This figure indicate 65-70% energy efficiency.
The change of enthalpy in the reaction from air to NO is:
N2 + O2 = 2NO dH = 6,4 GJ/tN
This means that with 100% energy recovery the theoretical net energy consumption will be only 6,4 GJ/tN.
The thermal equilibrium NO concentration in air is approximately 2% at 3500 Kelvin, when calculated with Arrhenius and Gibbs free energy. The plasma technology has however demonstrated yields up to and above 12% NO.
The required input energy or activation energy required to split the N2 and O2 molecule has several values depending on the reaction routes and assumptions.
- Based on thermal heating to 3500 Kelvin ca 400 GJ/
- Based on formation the plasma ion N- 133 GJ/tN
- Based on Gibbs free energy of N and O 33-49 GJ/tN
- Based on known intermediate components 19-25 GJ/tN
Heat recovery of 50-70% is still possible
3. What is the novelty/breakthrough of the present invention?
The first patent is a unique combination of three claims:
- Using a magnetic field to shape and distribute the movement of the arc and plasma
- Quenching and cooling to stop the negative back-reactions to air
- Operating at lower than atmospheric pressure to increase electron energy for making N* and O* radicals and related ions
The modelling of the performance is based on well-documented data from the industrial development of several different processes in the period 1900 to 1920.
4. Can the patent sustain opposition?
The patent is a conceptual combination of three claims. A combination of claims has its strength, but also a weakness in being omitted by other lesser advanced alternatives. Our strategy is therefore to cluster the patent with specific design details and use the achieved knowledge to establish new conceptual patents. We have also filed an application patent and has a draft of a detailed reactor loop patent.
5. What is the business advantage?
The business potential comes from going down into the fertilizer value chain with smaller units with low investment cost per unit. In the applications close to the end-user (farmers), the value of the fixed nitrogen is 2-5 time higher than close to the energy source. The electricity price is not increasing in the same way. The alternative is the world-scale ammonia production. It is now competitive based on cheap stranded gas and the economy of scale, but is suffering on the logistical and capital expenses. The trend is less cheap stranded gas, due to an emerging efficient global market for gas. The trend is also more renewable electrical energy as base load, with a backup from gas-based power plants. The gas-based power plants are able to pay a high gas price.
6. Is electrical energy sustainable and CO2 free?
Electricity is an energy carrier of high value. As such it can serve any energy source, especially the sustainable and CO2 free ones like; wind, wave, solar, hydroelectricity and nuclear power.
7. What is the business potential of the technology?
The ammonia market is growing with 2-3% every year. 2012 production capacity was 136,5 mill tN, giving an annual increase of 3,5 mill tN. The technology has the potential power of taking 10-50% of the growth in ammonia market for the first 5 years and 50%-100% thereafter. The technology will be a new basis for distributed nitrogen production and nutrient upgrading. It will integrate with the nutrient and waste recycling business.
8. What is the core competence in N2 Applied?
N2 Applied consists of two complementary key competencies: The founders, and their ability to cooperate and select the best possible partners and future owners of the technology. N2 Applied operate with ideas in the interface between the technology provider companies and the large fertilizer companies of the world. N2 tries to apply knowledge of the systematic vulnerability of their strategy to prepare post-fossil solutions .
Scenario: In 3-8 years N2 Applied has sold the business concept N-fix to someone who sees the potential and will commercialize it. “Someone” is probably different industrial partners or investors per application area. The founder’s ownership share is expected to be significantly reduced by this time. The company will retain a Licensing fee securing the possibility to follow and secure the value.
N2 Applied then start over – back to square one – starting with the next potential invention. The next promising nitrogen technology .