Ammonia-based fuel source set to revolutionize green energy
Ammonia-based fuel source set to revolutionize green energy
Ask the Wright brothers or Xerox, and they’ll tell you the same thing: The world of invention isn't a meritocracy. The Wrights, after all, flew their first plane in 1903, yet the technology wasn't widely adopted until a decade later. Chester Carlson, the man who revolutionized the pencil-pushing office-sphere, had photocopying technology in 1939; two decades on, Xerox would rise to prominence. And the same logic applies to green fuels—gasoline alternatives now exist. Good ones, too. Yet despite the demand for sustainable energy, no clear-cut solution has emerged.
Enter Roger Gordon, an Ontario-based inventor by way of the pharmaceutical industry. He owns Green NH3, a company that has invested time, money, and good ole-fashioned sweat into a machine that generates fuel that’s cheap, clean, and renewable: The answer, he says, lies in NH3. Or for the chemistry-challenged, ammonia.
But it’s not just plain ammonia, which is usually derived from coal or animal waste. It’s generated using only air and water. No, this isn't a lie.
“We have a technology that works. It’s not short on anything,” says Gordon. “It’s a machine the size of a refrigerator, and it connects with a storage tank. You don’t have to power it with regular grid power, too. If you’re a big enough operation, like a trucking company, you could have your own windmill and could turn that electricity into NH3.
“A large truck or plane won’t run on a battery,” he adds, acknowledging the limitations of electric cars. “But they can run on ammonia. NH3 is energy dense.”
Green NH3: Introducing tomorrow’s energy alternative today
But it isn’t only a renewable energy source. It’s a superior source of energy to gasoline period. Unlike the oil sands, whose extraction process is dirty and expensive, NH3 is renewable and leaves zero carbon footprint. Unlike gasoline—and we don’t need to remind drivers about gas prices—it’s shockingly cheap, at 50 cents a litre. (Meanwhile, Peak Oil, when the maximum rate of petroleum extraction occurs, is expected globally within the next several years.)
And with the tragedy of Lac Mégnatic explosion still fresh, it’s worth adding that NH3 is also extremely safe: Gordon’s NH3 is manufactured where it’s used, meaning there’s no transportation involved, and it’s not volatile like hydrogen, which is often touted as the green fuel of the future. It’s a superior technology with—and we’re not editorializing—game-changing consequences. Especially, adds Gordon, in the transportation and agribusiness sector, who both are historic gas guzzlers, or remote areas like the north who pay up to $5 a liter.
“There’s a lot of spin about whether climate change is happening, but truthfully, if people could spend the same price for a product that’s good for the environment, they would,” he says. “But I’m against a lot of the people who protest the Keystone pipeline, because they’re not giving alternatives. What people should be thinking about is moving forward with technologies that aren't the oil sands. Rather than saying the tar sands and pipelines are bad, we should be saying, ‘Here’s the working alternative.’”
For his part, though, Gordon isn't simplifying the energy debate: He understands that big oil has influence. He understands that petroleum products are still ubiquitous. And he understands that, at present, the Canadian government tends to sympathize the oil industry for reasons most see as obvious after a little research on the leader.
But Gordon doesn't talk long about the negatives. He’s more focused on the positives of the technology: He’s developed his NH3-producing machine, and the technology has been functional since 2009. He’s powered planes, freight trains, and automobiles with NH3, and estimates that retrofitting vehicles costs between $1,000-$1,500.
And he’s had people from across the country—travelling from as far as Alberta—roll up on his lawn, asking him to share his technology. (Note: Please don’t try this. NH3 cars require their own filling stations.)
A burning question remains, then: If Gordon’s NH3 system works so well, why, like the Wrights’ plane or Xerox’s photocopying technology, hasn't it been adopted?
“By now, I would've thought some big company would have approached me now saying, ‘You own the patent, and we’ll finance this. We’ve spent the money financing batteries, biodiesel and ethanol. We've compared our product with [those technologies] and the synopsis is that they will never be cost effective or don't work and NH3 does.
“But everybody is afraid to go against the grain, against what’s happening now.”
What he means? Oil companies currently own the energy market, and, without sounding too paranoid, they want to keep it that way. (That’s no lie: In 2012, the oil and gas industry spent more than $140 million on lobbyists in Washington alone.) What Gordon’s technology needs, then, is investment: He needs a government or large-scale corporation to provide the funds needed to start producing, and using, more Green NH3 machines.
That dream, too, isn't a utopian fantasy: Stephane Dion, once the leader of the federal Liberal party, has lauded the potential of NH3. Famed author Margaret Atwood has, too. Plenty of universities, from the University of Michigan to the University of New Brunswick, have tested his technology. And Copenhagen, who vowed to go carbon neutral by 2025, has shown notable interest in Green NH3.
There are connected people in government and big business who know about Green NH3 and intentionally have done nothing to move it forward and help the world because they are Oil Luddites or affiliates and want to squeeze every cent out of the public they can.
“We’re at a standstill, government and investment wise,” says Gordon. “And people have told me, ‘don’t spend any money that other people, that investors, should be spending on the technology.’” We agree. To learn more about ammonia based fuels, visit the folks at GreenNH3.com.