Plasmasynthese van stikstofhoudende halffabricaten voor duurzame landbouw en circulaire kunststoffen

Publieke samenvatting / Public summary

Nitrogen (N) containing molecules are essential for production of fertilisers and fine chemicals such as
engineering plastics and pharmaceuticals. Their industrial synthesis involves hydrogen production by
steam reforming of natural gas, followed by ammonia production via the Haber-Bosch process. At
Chemelot, ammonia synthesis causes 35% of the GHG emissions at 2.2 MtCO2eq/year. At Sluiskil it is
responsible for 3.4 MtCO2eq/year.
Dutch and European climate ambitions set the urgency for sustainable alternative processes. The recent
events in Ukraine add urgency from the perspective of continuity in global fertilizer production & food
supply and independence of the national process industry on (pricing of) raw materials. Both Russia and
Ukraine are important producers of fertilizers and Dutch/European N-chemistry relies heavily on imports
of natural gas from Russia.

This MOOI sustainable nitrogen chemistry project aims to circumvent energy intensive ammonia
production by activation of nitrogen molecules with sustainable electricity in electrical discharges
(plasma). It enables synthesis of alternative, more economical, chemical building blocks such as NO and
HCN. The approach achieves circularity, as no fossil inputs are required. As far as carbon is required, it
uniquely valorises CO2 (from air or biomass) and/or CH4 (as primary output from biomass reforming or
plastic recycling). In effect, process technology is developed that offers (i) reduction of overall energy
consumption, (ii) zero GHG emissions, (iii) compatibility with intermittent sustainable electricity, (iv)
small scale local production opportunities, and (v) compatibility with circular carbon strategies.

Korte omschrijving
Initially, literature, patent, market, safety and social impact studies will refine the current knowledge
basis and maximize efficiency and impact of the R&D project by fine tuning the project plan where
necessary. Specific attention will be paid to the dynamics of cost-determining factors such as electrical
energy, raw materials, products, installations, CO2 tax, etc. that eventually determine the investment and
operational costs associated with the intended applications. Subsequently, the available R&D facilities
required will be adapted and configured for fit the demands of the project. Both experiments and model
studies will be carried out to investigate the primary plasma activation/conversion of nitrogen,
subsequent chemical reactions, and possibilities to control them through controlled cooling in order to
optimize the desired CO2-free product formation of nitric oxides and (hydrogen) cyanides.

The proposed project will cover the development phase of plasma activation of nitrogen as alternative to
Green Haber-Bosch, which means implementation of the technology in a prototype at lab scale (TRL4) up
to implementation relevant conditions (TRL6). The main target is to establish the competitiveness of the
technology in comparison to Green Haber Bosch in terms of economics, efficiency, productivity, safety,
and acceptability. It will demonstrate the potential to fulfill a role as game changing technology in the
transition of the process industry to sustainability and raw materials circularity. The work will prepare for
demonstration and/or application on an industrially relevant scale within 10 years from today.