Frequently asked questions

 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/tNHeat 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 ionsThe 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 .

 

9.  What is new in N2’s ambition, compared with what Professor Birkeland and Norsk Hydro did in 1905?

N2’s ambition is to use today’s knowledge of plasma and materials to develop a process able to make the same product using 90% less energy.  Our initial ambition is not to go for industrial scale production of Nitric Acid, but to develop small scale units suitable for todays value chain.

From 1905 to 1920, the research in the field concluded that the theoretical minimum energy requirement would be 70 GJ/tN and the practical minimum would be 130 GJ/tN.  Today we know that the theoretical minimum input energy is 20 GJ/tN and practical obtainable is about 36GJ/tN.  With 100% heat recovery, the theoretical lowest energy consumption is 6,4 GJ/tN.

Birkeland’s technology succeeded in moving the arc through a large volume of air making plasma, the disc. He further managed to quench the plasma with air on its way through the reactor, keeping the outlet temperature below 1000 Kelvin.

 

10. With whom are N2 Applied partnering and collaborating?

N2 is partnering with SBI, an innovative plasma welding company based in Hollarunn, Austria.  N2 and SBI are further using the competence of the University of Vienna for analysis of plasma composition and temperatures.

N2 is further collaborating with Acona and SINTEF in developing numerical modelling techniques, in spreadsheets and CFD tools.

 

11. What other applications are suitable for the technology – in addition to at farm production of fertilizer?

There are numerous possible applications.  Below are some of the most obvious ones.

  1. The technology can in a similar way be used in upgrading the bio rest from municipal and organic waste treatment plants and bio-gas plants.
  2. The technology can also be used in liquid fertilizers to upgrade Ammonia/Urea with Nitrate, dissolve Phosphates, and control pH to avoid scaling.
  3. The technology can further be used to boost landlocked process plants where NO gas or Nitric Acid is an intermediate.
  4. The technology can also be used to suppress bad smell and formation of H2S.
  5. Nitric Acid is a valuable chemical, and its application is very often limited by risky and costly logistics. Our technology will facilitate the use of Nitric Acid.

 

12. What is the most likely first application for the technology?

The most likely application is an installation at an industrial farm where bio-gas, wind and solar power is installed.  The technology will enable the utilization of periodically low cost power, reduce smell and upgrade the bio-rest and open for a broader spreading area.

 

13. Why is the utilization of solar power seen as favorable?

The installation of renewable solar power as a base load is creating a power market where the periodic marginal cost of electrical power is dropping and even going negative.  The market is today asking for low capital swing producers or consumers to even out the tops and the bottoms.

 

14. What is the relationship between N2 and Yara – both being Norwegian and all?

Yara and N2 is maintaining an open dialog, over the facts and potential as described on this web site.  Yara has no formal rights or claims to the technology.

 

15. What will it cost to install a nitrogen production unit at a farm?

The equipment cost of a 100 kw unit able to produce 100 tonn N per year will be in the range of 100.000 Euro.  Installation cost will depend on the location and scope of the application.

 

16. When will the farmer be able to install his first unit?

The first prototype will be tested 2nd Quarter 2017.  After tuning and optimization in 2016-2018, the first generation unit will be available in 2018.

 

17. In which geography will the technology find its first customer?

The most likely first customer will be a landlocked industrial farm in the US or EU.  The main market is however highly populated area with limited access to natural gas. Typically India and China as well as regions in Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

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