Why Scientists Are Calling Ammonia the “Fuel of the Future”
More than 100 years ago, this equation saved the world:
And it might do it again!
What we're looking at is the equation for the Haber-Bosch process.
To the layman, this equation is little more than a string of letters and numbers. But without it, there's a good chance neither you nor I would exist today. It's quite likely that without this equation, neither of us would have been born.
That's because without this equation, it's likely there would not have been enough food to feed our grandparents — let alone any children.
Commercial agriculture requires fertilizers. Prior to the 20th century, the most common fertilizer used to grow food was manure. And one of the most important sources of that manure was bird and bat guano, which was found in remote tropical locations.
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Sacking guano on the Ballestas Islands
As a massive global industry, guano was a big deal.
But there was big problem brewing...
With the global population rapidly expanding at the beginning of the 20th century, it became clear the world's guano reserves could not satisfy future demands. There just wasn't enough of it.
Something had to be done.
That's when two German chemists stepped into the picture: Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch
Together, these two men developed the Haber-Bosch process, which produces ammonia from air.
This ammonia was used as the basic building block to make ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which could replace manure.
The importance of the Haber-Bosch process can not be overstated.
Chemical engineer Claudia Flavell-While writes, “Without the Haber-Bosch process, we would only be able to produce around two-thirds the amount of food we do today.”
Haber and Bosch were both awarded Nobel prizes for their work.
More than a century later, the Haber-Bosch process is still used to make the ammonia for most fertilizers and thus helps feed billions of people around the world today. Right now, about 90% of all ammonia produced worldwide is used in fertilizer.
But ammonia is good for more than just fertilizer.
It can also be used as a safe, low-emissions fuel.
The Haber-Bosch Process Gave Us Food. Now It's Giving Us Clean Fuels
Ammonia can be used as a fuel and in low-emissions energy systems in several different ways. It can be used in internal combustion systems and jet engines or as a fuel in solid oxide fuel cells.
There are many benefits to using ammonia as fuel over traditional hydrocarbons. First, burning ammonia is cleaner than fossil fuels. An engine running on ammonia emits nothing but water vapor and nitrogen. In fact, you can inhale and drink the exhaust from a car engine running on it.
But ammonia is also way more stable than refined fossil fuels like gasoline or diesel. Ammonia is not highly flammable. True, in high concentrations and certain atmospheric conditions it's flammable, but ammonia is much safer to use, transport, and generally be around than gasoline.
Energy and power analyst Louis Brasington writes:
Ammonia has nine times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries and three times that of compressed hydrogen, creating potential as a carbon-free energy carrier. Whilst ammonia has a well-established supply chain, the “green ammonia” market is only just starting to gain traction globally.
So why aren't we already using ammonia as fuel?
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Well, two reasons really: It's expensive and dirty to produce the ammonia.
The Haber-Bosch process is truly a modern miracle. But it also requires enormous amounts of heat, pressure, and the burning of fossil fuels. Here's a modern ammonia production plant:
Producing ammonia this way consumes so much energy that it's simply not economically feasible to use it as a mass-consumption fuel.
And that's the way things have been for more than a century...
Right up until a few months ago...
An inventor from a small town in Ontario found a way to produce ammonia without using any fossil fuels at all.
His machine cleverly makes it from nothing but air and water.
And now he's taken the invention public in the form of a tiny company that trades on Canada's TSX Venture exchange.
The technology he uses involves wind and solar energy systems. And it addresses one of the major flaws in those systems.
Everyone knows one of the main challenges to wind and solar energy is not having enough of either. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.
But another problem is having too much.
When there’s a lot of sun and wind, more energy can be produced than the grid can handle. When that happens, solar panels and wind turbines have to be disconnected from the grid to prevent overloads.
That results in billions of dollars in lost energy production.
Alex Koyfman, investment director for Microcap Insider and recent publisher of an ammonia-based investment report, writes,
Wind and solar energy have surged by 77% in the U.S. since 2010. In California, rooftop solar is already producing three times as much as centralized stations. As a result, the state loses nearly 200 gigawatt-hours of electricity each month. That’s enough to power about 228,050 homes... and it’s simply going to waste!
The Ontario inventor's fridge-size machine takes the excess electricity from wind and solar systems and transforms it into ammonia.
When there’s no sun or wind, that ammonia can be fed into thermal power stations to produce zero-emission electricity.
Koyfman writes, “It's like a liquid battery, only without the chemical waste or constant potential for failure.”
The invention has already caught the attention of those in the highest levels of government and business. And now, investors are just starting to catch wind of it.
In his report, Alex Koyfman goes into much more detail about the ammonia industry and the tiny microcap stock that's positioned to disrupt it.
You can check out that report for free now by clicking here.
Until next time,
As an editor at Energy and Capital, Luke’s analysis and market research reach hundreds of thousands of investors every day. Luke is also a contributing editor of Angel Publishing’s Bull and Bust Report newsletter. There, he helps investors in leveraging the future supply-demand imbalance that he believes could be key to a cyclical upswing in the hard asset markets. For more on Luke, go to his editor’s page.
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