No Haber-Bosch

OTL WWI Germany relied heavily on the Haber-Bosch process for high explosives.

What if the process hadn't been invented yet? What is going to happen to the German war effort?

1. Assuming it doesn't get developed at all, how does WWI go?

2. Alternatively, what happens if Germany does a crash research program once they realize the war isn't going to be over quickly. Will they be able to industrialize the process in time to make a difference?

Also, if you think no Haber-Bosch means no WWI, I'd be interested in your logic.
 
I think what makes Haber-Bosch interesting is that WWI was a contest of materiel, a big giant slugging match to see who would get worn down first, and at some point Germany has got to have nitrates for their munitions.
 
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Germany cant fight a long war, so the date for an armistice will be fix for when the supply of nitrates runs out. A lot would depend on whether the allies know about the problem (in which case they carry on and force Germany to come to terms), or they don't and Germany tries to settle for limited gains before they do realise.
 
If the Allies don't know something is up, what kind of gains could Germany conceivably extract? That is a really interesting possibility, I hadn't thought that one.
 
I wonder if Germany would be more likely to go East in this situation as keeping Britain onside could be more crucial.

I doubt it though. I would expect Germany to go west and hope for a knockout.
 
Preventing Haber-Bosch has very dramatic effects on agriculture which cannot be ignored. With limited Nitrogen, food would be severely limited which would result in the overpopulation crises predicted by Thomas Malthus coming to fruition. Expect a lot of wars to be fought over land and food as the threat of starvation approaches in the interwar period.
 
Since it was developed so close to the start of the war, would the lack of any such thing have led Germany to stockpiling nitrates at the time?
 
Germany planned on a short war (because they believed they would lose a long one) so the lack of Haber-Bosch would make no difference. I would be surprised if any German planner considered it for a moment or was even aware of it beyond a 'reading the newspapers' level.

On point 2. Well the actual 'process' was developed in 1909 by Haber. BASF hired Bosch to industrialise it and that took a year. It then took 3 years to build the first industrial scale factory for it. Maybe you can squeeze some of those times, but it is still several years from having the idea to getting any useful production out of the factory and no crash programme can change that.

However Haber-Bosch was not the only way of fixing nitrogen, prior to that Frank-Caro and Birkeland-Eyde were used. They were more energy intensive which is why Haber-Bosch eventually took over. But it was eventually, Frank-Caro was used for decades and apparently dominated fertiliser production till after WW2. I suspect that Germany could muddle through without Haber-Bosch so they would not utterly run out of ammunition. But they will have far less nitrates and they will be more expensive to produce (in terms of resources as well as money) so the Germans will have to transfer resources from some other area. I suspect the German chemical weapons programme takes a hit and doesn't happen, because all the chemist and works have to work on nitrates (in OTL Haber got dragged into the chemical weapons programme for instance).

I think there would be no dramatic collapse, but a German army without chemical weapons, a poorer home front and with far less ammunition. I've seen it suggested artillery caused 60-70% of casualties in WW1, so a Germany without H-B just does not have the shells to inflict large casualties. Something like the OTL Verdun would be impossible for Germany, it might even turn into a French victory as the German artillery will run out of shells far earlier.

So at a first stab I'd say the Central Powers seek terms in early 1916, having finally run out of ammunition and a variety of desperate "last chance" offensives having failed.
 
However Haber-Bosch was not the only way of fixing nitrogen, prior to that Frank-Caro and Birkeland-Eyde were used. They were more energy intensive which is why Haber-Bosch eventually took over. But it was eventually, Frank-Caro was used for decades and apparently dominated fertiliser production till after WW2. I suspect that Germany could muddle through without Haber-Bosch so they would not utterly run out of ammunition. But they will have far less nitrates and they will be more expensive to produce (in terms of resources as well as money) so the Germans will have to transfer resources from some other area. I suspect the German chemical weapons programme takes a hit and doesn't happen, because all the chemist and works have to work on nitrates (in OTL Haber got dragged into the chemical weapons programme for instance).
Nitrates are also a by product of coking coal. There are also organic nitrates in manure.

Germany would have enough nitrates for either war or food but not both. Balancing the two will be tricky as in OTL.

Germany should have been able to last at least until 1916
 
As I have heard the story it is really far more 'funny':

Germany relied totally on importing guano from Chile. It got scraped off those islands off Chile and really no problem. Steady supply.

However, nobody thought of ordering plenty of supplies prior to WWI. As a matter of fact, Germany had guano for 3-6 months - AND THAT WAS IT.

The ships destined for Germany got embargoed.

so, WWI could have ended before Christmas!

... as I have heard the story.
 

NoMommsen

Donor
... actually ... they did as @El Pip said.
During WW1 about 2/3 to 3/4 of the nitrogen for agricultural use was made by the Franko-Caro process as the "Kalkstickstoff" was of lesser use for explosives production. ... but could be put as it came out of the ractor into the soil.
In 1914/1915 there were some rather harsh negotiations how much money was to be spent on which process.

@ivanotter
The mentioned processes were well known - also in germany - prior to the war the 'dependency' on importednitrtes was rather due to the large amounts shipped.
... as shipping and indios (almost slave-) workers were still simply cheaper than investing in one of the artificial processes. ... good ol' capitalism
 
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For one Chile will be Richer, the Haber-Bosch process destroyed the principal Chilean export, his tax base, their incipient industrialization, almost all of it focussed on and for the Saltpeter mines, and the workers movement, plus devilitate the goverment enough to become THE most affected country on the 1929 economic crisis. Things were ugly here
(...) 'dependency' on importednitrtes was rather due to the large amounts shipped.
... as shipping and indios (almost slave-) workers were still simply cheaper than investing in one of the artificial processes. ... good ol' capitalism
There is also the point that were increible easy to get Saltpeter in Chile as it was literally on the soil, most of the Antofagasta´s pampa (desert) was Saltpeter, here a photo of the miners, all that around them is saltpeter

articles-315081_thumbnail.jpg


or this map of all the Salpeter Oficinas (mines) in the late XIX century, the thing was cheap as dirt in Chile, becasue it was literally the dirt

Mapa_Oficinas_Salitreras_del_norte_de_Chile_%281890%29.jpg
 
As I have heard the story it is really far more 'funny':

Germany relied totally on importing guano from Chile. It got scraped off those islands off Chile and really no problem. Steady supply.

However, nobody thought of ordering plenty of supplies prior to WWI. As a matter of fact, Germany had guano for 3-6 months - AND THAT WAS IT.

The ships destined for Germany got embargoed.

so, WWI could have ended before Christmas!

... as I have heard the story.
The role that bird shit played in the history of the 19th and 20th Centuries was truly immense :)
 
Preventing Haber-Bosch has very dramatic effects on agriculture which cannot be ignored. With limited Nitrogen, food would be severely limited which would result in the overpopulation crises predicted by Thomas Malthus coming to fruition. Expect a lot of wars to be fought over land and food as the threat of starvation approaches in the interwar period.
if you prevent it forever. But Haber-Bosch not being discovered until the late teens or early 20s would have more or less its OTL effects on agriculture but still have potentially huge consequences for WWI and its run up.
 
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