The Anonymous Widower

Frankfurt Starts Building Fuel Station For World’s Biggest Zero-Emissions Train Fleet

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Reuters.

These are the two opening paragraphs.

German regional transport group RMV began construction on Monday of a filling station near Frankfurt that will use hydrogen generated as a by-product of chemicals manufacturing to fuel the world’s largest fleet of zero-emissions passenger trains.

France’s Alstom will deliver 27 hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains to the Infraserv Hoechst industrial park in the Rhine-Main region in mid-2022. Starting regular local services by that winter, the fleet will replace diesel engines.

All the investment will be partly funded by fares.

Chlorine Manufacture

I find it interesting, that the article also states that the hydrogen comes as a by-product of chlorine manufacture. When I worked in a ICI’s electrolysis plant around 1970, their plant used the Castner-Kellner process to produce both gases.

The process uses a lot of mercury and Wikipedia says this about the future of the process.

The mercury cell process continues in use to this day. Current-day mercury cell plant operations are criticized for environmental release of mercury  leading in some cases to severe mercury poisoning as occurred in Japan Minamata_disease. Due to these concerns, mercury cell plants are being phased out, and a sustained effort is being made to reduce mercury emissions from existing plants.

Are INEOS, who now own the Runcorn plant, and the Germans still using the Castner-Kellner process?

I remember two stories about the theft of mercury from the Runcorn plant.

Mercury was and probably still is very valuable,  and it was always being stolen. So ICI put a radioactive trace in the mercury, which didn’t affect the process. The result was that all legitimate metal dealers on Merseyside bough Geiger counters to check any mercury before they bought it.

One guy thought he had found the ideal way to steal mercury, so he filled his bike frame with the metal and wheeled it to the gate. Whilst he clocked out, he propped the bike against the gate-house. Unfortunately, it fell over and because of the weight of the mercury, he was unable to pick it up.

My work in the plant, involved devising a portable instrument that would detect mercury in air and a colleague’s project was to develop a way of detecting mercury in urine samples from the plant operatives.

Those projects say a lot, about why we should be careful around any process involving mercury.

 

 

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport, World | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Twisted Mind That Gave Us Chemical Warfare

The title of this post is the same as that of an article by Ben Macintyre,  in today’s copy of The Times.

It is subtitled.

Fritz Haber’s pacifist wife killed herself as he plotted Great War carnage…and he picked up a Nobel price.

Fritz Haber was a brilliant chemist, described in the first paragraph of his Wikipedia entrry.

Fritz Haber ( 9 December 1868 – 29 January 1934) was a German chemist who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his invention of the Haber–Bosch process, a method used in industry to synthesise ammonia from nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas. This invention is of importance for the large-scale synthesis of fertilisers and explosives. The food production for half the world’s current population depends on this method for producing nitrogen fertilisers. Haber, along with Max Born, proposed the Born–Haber cycle as a method for evaluating the lattice energy of an ionic solid.

This description is rather stained by the second paragraph.

Haber is also considered the “father of chemical warfare” for his years of pioneering work developing and weaponizing chlorine and other poisonous gases during World War I, especially his actions during the Second Battle of Ypres.

Ben Macintyre feels strongly about Haber and finishes with this paragraph.

Rescinding Haber’s Nobel prize will not stop Assad from killing his own people with poison bombsbut it would be a profound symbolic expression of the moral revulsion over the misuse of science so dramatically demonstrated by Haber’s wife a century ago.

I don’t know whether Nobel prizes can be rescinded, but the article is a very informative read about the origins of chemical weapons.

 

 

 

April 14, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , , | 3 Comments