January 31, 2006
Syntroleum and Sustec in Coal-to-Liquids Gasification/Fischer-Tropsch Joint Venture
Syntroleum Corporation and Sustec AG, a private company based in Basel, Switzerland, have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that provides for exclusive joint business development of projects that will integrate Sustec’s gasification technology (from its Future Energy GmbH portfolio company) with Syntroleum’s Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technology.
The joint venture is aimed at converting coal and other carbonaceous materials such as petroleum-coke, residual fuel oil and biomass into synthetic fuels and chemicals. Each company will own 50% of the joint venture.
Under terms of the joint venture, Syntroleum and Sustec intend to commit exclusive licensing agreements to their respective technologies to a separate business unit that will develop jointly-owned coal-to-liquids (CTL) production facilities and other non natural gas-to-liquids projects world-wide.
This business unit will be the sole vehicle of both companies for developing and licensing projects utilizing integration of gasification with Fischer-Tropsch (IGFT) technologies from both companies. Syntroleum and Sustec also intend to pursue joint technology development under the new venture.
|FE’s GSP Gasifier|
Sustec’s Future Energy GSP gasification technology is an entrained-flow pressure gasification system that gasifies a stream of pulverized coal (or atomized liquid fuel or a fuel slurry) with oxygen. Different implementations of the gasifier technology can handle different feedstocks, such as biomass. The gasification reaction takes place under high temperature and pressure.
In Future Energy’s two test facilities for 3MW and 5MW systems, the gasification pressure ranges from 5 to 26 bar, and the gasification temperature ranges from 1,400º to 1,600º C.
The GSP method offers very high carbon conversion (greater than 99%), and produces a tar-free synthesis gas. That gas will then be converted into synthetic transportation fuels and other specialty chemicals utilizing Syntroleum’s Fischer-Tropsch technology.
Syntroleum Corporation owns a proprietary FT process for converting natural gas or synthesis gas derived from coal into synthetic liquid hydrocarbons. The company plans to use its technology to develop and participate in natural gas and coal monetization projects in a number of global locations. Syntroleum and its current licensees will continue to pursue gas-to-liquids projects separately from this venture. Syntroleum and Sustec will commence negotiation on definitive documents for the establishment of the joint venture.
Future Energy: Update on Technology and Projects
The UK: Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change
The British government has published the official report from an international conference on climate change held in February 2005—Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, also known as the Exeter Conference (earlier post)—as a book.
The book, which is also entitled Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, pulls together 41 peer-reviewed papers that try to address the critical questions, as characterized by British Prime Minister Tony Blair: “What level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is self-evidently too much?” and “What options do we have to avoid such levels?”
It is clear from the work presented that the risks of climate change may well be greater than we thought. At the same time it showed there is much that can be done to avoid the worse effects of climate change.UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the forward to the report
Background. The Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2001) reviewed in depth all the scientific, technical and socio-economic aspects of climate change.
It concluded that there was strong evidence that climate change due to human emissions of greenhouse gases was already occurring and that future emissions of greenhouse gases were likely to raise global temperatures by between 1.4 and 5.8º C during this century, with a wide range of impacts on the natural world and human society.
Building on the TAR, the conference on Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (ADCC) considered three scientific questions relating to stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at levels which would avoid dangerous anthropogenic climate change. These questions were:
For different levels of climate change what are the key impacts, for different regions and sectors and for the world as a whole?
What would such levels of climate change imply in terms of greenhouse gas stabilization concentrations and what would be the emission pathways required to achieve such levels?
What options are there for achieving stabilization of greenhouse gases at different stabilization concentrations in the atmosphere, taking into account costs and uncertainties?
ADCC. The resulting material is organized in seven sections that span all aspects of the problem, starting with climate system analysis and ending with an assessment of the technological portfolio needed for global warming containment.
The specific sections are:
Key Vulnerabilities of the Climate System and Critical Thresholds. The eight papers in this section illustrate why the term “global warming” is inadequate to describe the changes we can expect in the Earth System.
We should focus not only on temperature, but also on anticipated shifts (perhaps rapid) in the full range of climate variables, their variability and their extremes; and also on the direct oceanic consequences of atmospheric CO2 concentration increases. Further, we need to quantify uncertainties arising from uncertainties in future emissions and in climate models, as far as possible, in probabilistic terms.
[...]Addressing climate change will involve balancing uncertainties in both future change and the consequences of policy actions, and understanding the dangers associated with delayed action.
General Perspectives on Dangerous Impacts. This section considers the entire range and diversity of potential climate change impacts on natural and human systems instead of focusing on one or two geophysical watershed events (such as the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet).
First, the scientific assessment of climate change risks needs to take into account both gradual and discontinuous processes, the interactions between them, and the synergistic effects of climate change and other human-induced stresses.
Second, as the planet warms, societies will also be changing. New technologies will emerge, ground-breaking discoveries will be made and population structures and distributions will alter. These dynamics will, in turn, transform the adaptive capacities of communities at all scales and, thereby, the character of dangers faced.
Third, the notion of resilience is a key element of the analysis. For instance, climate change will expose more people to infection by malaria, but the increment is probably small in relation to the total number at risk. A resilient society, with excellent public health measures containing malaria, will be able to cope.
Key Vulnerabilities for Ecosystems and Biodiversity. The papers in this section consider impacts of recent climate change on the carbon cycle and ecosystems.
Socio-Economic Effects: Key Vulnerabilities for Water Resources, Agriculture, Food and Settlements. This section focuses on focus on the science behind the determination of key magnitudes, rates and aspects of timing related to the estimated effects of climate change.
Regional Perspectives: Polar Regions, Mid-Latitudes, Tropics and Sub-Tropics. The six papers in this section investigate climate impacts in five disparate regions: the Arctic, Australia, California, Africa and Asia.
The group of papers in this section spans a wide range of regions, climates, impacts and adaptive capacities. The contrast between potential climate impacts and the abilities to cope with these impacts in the developed counties compared with the lesser-developed countries is stark. It highlights the global nature of a problem that respects no geographical boundaries.
Emission Pathways. These papers all focus attention on the probabilities of exceeding different concentration or temperature thresholds along alternative pathways.
They, and others, highlight the consequences of delaying action on climate change....delays are possible, but at the cost of requiring more rapid emissions reduction later.
[...]a 20-year delay of action could result in required rates of emission reduction 3–9 times greater than that required for a more immediate response to meet the same temperature target.
[Other authors] offer a word of caution by demonstrating the possibility of a dangerous climate policy mitigation that would slow economic growth to such an extent that vulnerability to climate change might actually be higher (particularly in developing countries).
Technological Options. This section includes seven papers that consider the role of technology in climate change from multiple perspectives.
Both technology and climate change are very slow to change, due to the inherent inertia of their underlying systems. Both are inherently cumulative in nature, meaning that their consequences are large and emerging changes in systems they affect are fundamental.
Technology is highly malleable in the long run. Mitigation of climate change is also a long-term challenge as it cannot be resolved in the near future. This means that in the long run, technology needs to be central element of response strategies to climate change.
One robust finding of all seven contributions to this chapter is that fundamental technological and associated institutional changes are needed to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, despite the deep uncertainties that surround the science and politics of climate change.
Implications. Of the many different considerations and conclusions highlighted in the report, once especially jumps out to the fore. Based on earlier assessments, the EU had sought to cap the increase in average global temperature to 2º C. The report, however, says that the EU’s target of avoiding climate change of more than 2º C might be too high, with 2º C now being thought possibly sufficient to melt the Greenland ice sheet.
Furthermore, based on current behavior, it looks like the world will easily blow past the 2º C mark into more dangerous territory.
The atmosphere currently contains about 380 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide compared to levels before the industrial revolution of about 270 ppm. To have a good chance of achieving the EU’s target of a 2ºC increase in average global temperature, levels should be stabilized at 450 ppm or below, the report concludes.
However, Sir David King, the UL government’s chief scientific adviser, thinks stabilization at 450 ppm is unlikely.
We are going to be at 400 ppm in 10 years’ time. I predict that without any delight in saying it.
But no country is going to turn off a power station which is providing much-desired energy for its population to tackle this problem—we have to accept that. To aim for 450 ppm would, I am afraid, seem unfeasible.—Sir David King
The UK, which saw its CO2 emissions increase by 0.5% in 2004, is itself tracking for a 10% decrease in CO2 emissions by 2010 instead of the 20% promised.
We know from geological history that there is such a thing as a tipping point.. what [the report] does highlight, is just how important it is soon to change our behavior and do everything we can...and when I say we, I mean the people on the planet...to try and address some of these problems. It’s a big risk we’re taking.
What is concerning about the Exeter report is that it suggests that what has been a long-term policy framework...may be going to cause more major difficulties than people imagined...—UK Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett on BBC 4
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change; Cambridge University Press
BEST Project Launches for Ethanol Use
The BEST (BioEthanol for Sustainable Transport) project officially launched in Stockholm last week at a three-day conference for all participants.
BEST is a four-year project, partly funded by the European Union (EU), in which three vehicle manufacturers, ten locations, five ethanol producers and four universities will cooperate cross-functionally to accelerate the introduction of bioethanol as alternative automotive fuel in Europe.
The objective for the BEST project is to establish a launch pad for a major breakthrough in the perception of bioethanol as an alternative automotive fuel. It is also carrying out research to encourage the use of common standards and recommendations for Europe.
The first phase of the project calls for the creation of a functioning infrastructure with at least 140 E85 and E95 pumps at ten selected sites, including eight European cities, Nanyang in China and Sao Paolo in Brazil.
Project sponsors hope that this will lead to about 10,000 bioethanol-powered cars being put on the road as demonstrators to inspire businesses, communities and motorists in general. Among the longer-term goals is the testing of hybrid-electric vehicles running blends from E10 to E85.
Saab Automobile, Ford of Europe and Omni/Scania are contributed from the automotive sector. The fuel producers involved come from Sweden, Holland, Great Britain, Ireland and Brazil.
The contributing universities are Umeå University (Sweden), Tsinghua University (China), Genoa University (Italy) and Imperial College (UK). The participating cities are Stockholm, Rotterdam, Dublin, Madrid, Baskia, La Spezia, Nanyang (China) and Sao Paulo (Brazil), in addition to the county of Somerset (UK) and the Biofuel Region (Sweden).
The City of Stockholm is acting as a coordinator for starting up initiatives.
Honda to Trim US Minivan and SUV Production
Nikkei. Honda Motor said Tuesday that it intends to reduce production from April to December at its minivan and sport utility vehicle factory in Alabama due to falling demand caused by rising gasoline prices.
The plant, which manufactures the Odyssey minivan and Pilot SUV has an output capacity of 300,000 units. Honda will trim production by 27,000, or 9%.
Beginning in April, daily output on the first assembly line, which currently assembles the Odyssey minivan, will be cut to 500 from 650. The total number of vehicles produced can be flexibly adjusted because the same model can be made on multiple lines.
There will be no work force reductions, according to the automaker.
Honda is not reducing its 2006 sales target of 1.51 million new vehicles in the US, up 3% on the year.
New Volvo Inline-Six: More Power, Lower Fuel Consumption
|The new compact inline-six|
Volvo has introduced a new high-efficiency, compact six-cylinder engine to accompany its all new Volvo S80.
The new six-cylinder engine, designed by Volvo, is of an all-new, compact design. Its main structure is made entirely of aluminium and has a larger displacement than its predecessor, 3.2 liters as against the previous 2.9. Power increases to 175 kW (235 hp) as is torque, at 320 Nm.
This corresponds to increases of 31 kW (+21.5%) and 40 Nm (+14.2%) respectively. Fuel consumption decreases 0.7 l/100km to 9.9 l/100km (24 mpg), a 7% decrease.
An advanced valvetrain and a variable intake system (VIS) mean that the engine can be exploited efficiently throughout the rev range, thus promoting quick response and solid performance. At the same time, the engine is very fuel-efficient.
The valvetrain features VCT (Variable Cam Timing) and CPS (Cam Profile Switching) on the inlet side. CPS (Cam Profile Switching) means that the camshaft is designed such that the inlet valves are lifted to two different heights depending on engine speed and load.
In normal driving, with normal throttle opening and low engine revs, fuel consumption is modest at the same time as torque is sufficient to provide good driveability.
In more aggressive driving involving full throttle opening and high engine revs, the engine responds instantly to the accelerator and provides a thrust of power, both at low and at high speeds.
In principle, Cam Profile Switching creates two engines in one. We can unite widely differing demands on one and the same engine and easily meet the requirements of customers with entirely different wishes. For instance, we can equally easily satisfy customers who prioritize performance as well as those who are more interested in driving comfort and fuel economy.—Derek Crabb, Vice President Powertrain, Volvo Cars
The VIS is equipped with two throttle flap valves which adjust the intake manifold volume to suit the current driving situation. This results in a uniformly high and broad torque curve.
Through precise interplay with the flap valves we actually get three different torque curves that are integrated with one another. Consequently, we can exploit the engine’s capacity to the maximum and extract the highest possible power throughout the rev range.—Derek Crabb
Transverse mounting of the 3.2-liter engine.
The complete engine package is only 3 millimeters longer than Volvo’s five-cylinder engine, allowing for it to be mounted transversely. The engine itself cannot be made all that much smaller since the cylinder spacing and block structure are roughly the same as in a five-cylinder engine. Instead, the focus was on building the entire installation, encompassing the engine, automatic transmission and ancillaries, in as compact a package as possible. One additional condition that had to be taken into account was that the transmission would be a six-speed automatic.
The ancillary systems, such as the Power Assisted Steering Pump and Air Conditioning Compressor are placed behind the engine in the space above the gearbox. Consequently, there is no front-end drive of the ancillaries; rather they are driven via gears by the rear end of the crankshaft.
This design approach is known as READ—Rear End Ancillary Drive. The alternator is direct-driven and installed on the engine block. This solution means that the entire engine and transmission package takes up minimum space, particularly in the car’s longitudinal direction.
By designing the drive system in the form of a small gearbox with an intermediate shaft inside the driveshaft—known as a Shaft In Shaft design—it was possible to ensure a very short package. The two shafts are driven by different gears that give them different speeds (one speed for camshaft drive and one for the ancillaries).
The engine will start series production in week 13, 2006.
Biocatalytic Desulfurization for Bitumen and Heavy Crude
Scheme for a biodesulfurization process. Click to enlarge.
Energy & Environmental Partners, a privately held technology company led by the former President and COO of Clean Diesel Technologies, has launched a new commercial licensing program for US and Canadian patents covering the use of microorganisms for the desulfurization of high-sulfur crude and bitumen petroleum products (biocatalytic desulfurization).
The EMULSOx patent family offers a way to upgrade the high-sulfur crudes in the western hemisphere (Orinoco bitumen, oil shale, tar sands) with lower energy and environmental impact.
Most fuel desulfurization methods currently used are chemical and/or physical processes. Many of these processes, such as hydrodesulfurization, typically require hydrogen and high temperatures and pressures, and hydrogenation catalysts are often poisoned by the hydrogen sulfide formed in the reaction.
The patents available for license cover novel methods of biological desulfurization of bitumens to remove difficult to process sulfur compounds using low-temperature biological reactors similar to waste-water treatment plants. Thus high-sulfur non-conventional feedstocks could be converted to lower sulfur products prior to shipment to a refinery or as part of a refinery pretreatment step.
One of the EMULSOx patents covers a microorganism recovered from a petroleum waste settling pond that demonstrated up to 47% sulfur removal from distillate versus control samples. The organism shows good specificity for sulfur removal versus others tested for comparison.
Another of the patents covers a means for using bitumens in an emulsion form as fuel in a furnace to generate steam. This steam can then be used to extract bitumens from tar sands or to generate electricity. This patent covers a method for controlling emissions and boiler fouling when burning bitumen based fuels in boilers or combustors.
Biocatalytic Desulfurization (BDS) was suggested as early as the 1950s, and has been more recently explored beginning in the early 1990s. Earlier efforts on BDS were generally focused on high-value feedstocks like distillates.
Although the application of BDS to heavy feedstocks will, according to Energy & Environmental Partners president James Valentine, require additional work on biocatalyst and process design (hence, cost), the current market prices provide the financial upside.
U.S. Patent No. 6,124,130: Microbial catalyst for desulfurization of fossil fuels
U.S. Patent No. 5,593,889: Biodesulfurization of bitumen fuels
U.S. Patent No. 5,122,353: Reduction of sulfur emissions from coal-fired boilers
Riding the fossil fuel biodesulfurization wave; Daniel J. Monticello; CHEMTECH July 1998, 28(7), 38-45.
PSA Peugeot Citroën Unveils 69MPG Diesel Hybrid Prototypes
One of the pair: the C4 diesel hybrid.
As promised, PSA Peugeot Citroën unveiled two prototypes featuring diesel-electric parallel hybrid powertrains, the Peugeot 307 and the Citroën C4 Hybride HDi.
The hybrids deliver average combined city and highway fuel consumption of 3.4 liters per 100 kilometers (69 mpg US), with 90 grams of CO2 emitted per kilometer—a tank-to-wheel record for compact cars, the most popular segment in Europe. This is about 25% better than a similar vehicle equipped with a gasoline hybrid system, or as much as a liter per 100 kilometers in combined city and highway driving.
Hybrid technology using a petrol engine is not very competitive financially, and does not offer significantly better fuel economy or CO2 emission performance than a conventional HDi diesel engine. However, PSA Peugeot Citroën believes that combining a hybrid powertrain with an HDi engine would constitute a step change in terms of improved fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions in Europe, where diesel engines are already widely used.—PSA Peugeot Citroën statement
PSA Peugeot Citroën’s Hybrid HDi technology includes:
- 1.6-liter HDi engine and diesel particulate filter system (DPFS)
- New-generation Stop & Start system (earlier post)
- Electric motor and inverter
- High-voltage battery pack
- Dedicated control electronics
- All-electric mode for speeds under 50 kilometers an hour (31 mph)
- Driver selection of Extended ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle, i.e., all-electric) mode
- Electronically-managed gearbox
PSA Peugeot Citroën Parallel Hybrid Architecture. Click to enlarge.
The engine. The prototype marks the first combination of the 1.6-liter, 66 kW HDi engine with the latest generation Stop & Start system. The company added a dedicated control system to the engine, using operating instructions coordinated directly by the powertrain management unit (PTMU), most notably for engine starts and stops, while also guaranteeing delivery of the torque required by the driver.
The engine, with the diesel particulate filter system (DPFS), meets Euro-4 standards.
Stop & Start system. The Stop & Start system used in the Hybride HDi powertrain is based on the technology integrated in both the Citroën C2 and C3. The new system has 40% more power than the first generation to support the easier starting of the 1.6-liter diesel.
In the hybrid powertrain, the Stop & Start system restarts the ICE. While the Stop & Start function is only used on the C3 when the vehicle is stationary, the engine stop function can occur at any given moment on the Hybride HDi, as soon as the vehicle’s speed falls below 60 kilometers an hour (37 mph).
Electric motor and inverter, The synchronous permanent magnet electric motor develops 16 kW of continuous power, with 80 Nm of torque. It offers peak power of 23 kW and 130 Nm to meet occasional demand from the driver.
PSA Peugeot Citroën opted for the volume and performance of the motor to ensure that the all-electric mode would be used for speeds up to 50 kilometers per hour—a speed typical of city driving.
Connected to the inverter, the motor operates in a voltage range from 210 to 380 volts. In the restricted space available, this electric motor/inverter does not enable use of the conventional engine cooling circuit, whose typical temperature is too high. Water cooling is therefore provided by a special radiator and a low-temperature cooling circuit at 60°C.
For main road and highway driving, the electric motor can provide a 35% power boost for extra acceleration.
Battery system. The battery pack consists of 240 NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) cells that deliver 23 kW of power at a nominal voltage of 288 volts. The cells are cooled by special air intakes that recover air from the passenger compartment, taking advantage of its temperature control.
There is also a conventional 12V storage battery, which continues to handle its usual functions.
The high-voltage battery pack fits in the rear part of the Group’s platform 2 vehicles (base for the Peugeot 307 and Citroën C4) in place of the spare tire, following a slight modification to the cut-out in this compartment. Adding the batteries does not reduce trunk capacity for any of the vehicles.
All-electric mode: Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV). The driver can use a special switch to access an extended all-electric mode that expands the operating range for the vehicle in this mode. In this case, the ICE is only activated for more prolonged acceleration.
The extended all-electric mode is de-activated either automatically, when the high-voltage battery pack no longer has a sufficient charge, or manually, by using the dedicated switch.
Economics and Future. PSA Peugeot Citroën says that while it could market its Hybride HDi vehicles as early as 2010, the introduction is dependent upon its ability to make the technology available at an affordable price.
Today, the price gap between a Hybride HDi model and a comparable diesel HDi model is still too wide and would have to be halved to make diesel hybrid vehicles accessible to most consumers.
The Group is planning a two-pronged approach to reach that goal:
Extensive R&D on the four areas that generate most of the extra cost: high-voltage batteries, electric motor/generator, inverter and the regenerative braking system.
Unite the expertise of equipment manufacturers and research laboratories to focus on this project.
PSA Peugeot Citroën has asked the French Agency for Industrial Innovation to support the project.
Comparing Fuel Consumption and CO2 Vehicle Conventional C4/307 Hybride HDi % Difference Engine 1.6-liter, 80kW 1.6-liter, 66kW -17.5% Acceleration 0–100km/h 12.4 sec 12.4 sec – Acceleration 30–60 km/h 5.8 sec 3.5 sec -40% Fuel consumption combined cycle 4.7 l/100km 3.4 l/100km -28% CO2 emissions combined cycle 125 g/km 90 g/km -28% Fuel consumption city cycle 5.4 l/100km 3.0 l/100km -44% CO2 emissions city cycle 145 g/km 80 g/km -45%
Sanyo and VW Jointly to Develop Batteries for Hybrids
Sanyo Electric and Volkswagen will jointly develop next-generation Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries for hybrid electric vehicles (HEV).
Sanyo has already provided HEV batteries for Ford’s Escape Hybrid and Honda’s Accord Hybrid on the North American market. The agreement with Volkswagen is the company’s first HEV partnership with a European automaker.
Sanyo is working to reduce the size and weight of its HEV NiMH systems, while increasing output. The company also is working with lithium-ion technology.
The Japanese firm reportedly will send engineers to Volkswagen to cooperate in the development process. Although it will eventually supply the German automaker with the batteries as well as control systems for the products, the timing and volume have not yet been specified.
Sanyo is focusing on batteries as one of the major drivers of a financial rebound, and has set an ambitious goal of obtaining 50% of the hybrid vehicle battery market by the end of 2010.
Earlier in January, Volkswagen and Continental Automotive Systems agreed on a strategic partnership for the development and supply of power electronics for future hybrid projects. Volkswagen also awarded a contract for a hybrid drive module, including the power electronics, to Continental Automotive Systems and ZF Friedrichshafen AG. (Earlier post.)
January 30, 2006
IC Corporation Working with Enova on First Hybrid School Bus
Hybrid school bus prototype.
IC Corporation, North America’s largest school bus manufacturer and a subsidiary of International Truck and Engine, is working with Enova Systems to introduce the nation’s first hybrid school bus. (Earlier post.)
The two companies have developed a prototype school bus with a hybrid diesel-electric drivetrain that is currently undergoing testing.
The project couples Enova’s parallel post-transmission 80kW hybrid drive system with an International VT365 turbocharged V8 diesel engine. The Enova drive system includes the transmission, batteries and permanent magnet motor. Regenerative braking will recharge the batteries.
The hybrid drivetrain will deliver an estimated 40% increase in fuel economy, along with greatly reduced emissions, according to Enova. The partners expect to deliver the prototype to a customer in spring 2006.
With fuel prices at all-time highs, new innovations in hybrid technology are needed to help customers keep their operating costs lower. We feel that this technology could provide significantly improved fuel economy. In addition, even though current International diesel engines produce no visible smoke and low emissions, the hybrid program will reduce engine emissions even further.—Michael Cancelliere, VP and general manager, IC Corporation
The hybrid bus announcement is the continuation of research and development for new technology in a number of different vehicles. IC Corporation’s parent, International Truck and Engine, is working on hybrid trucks for the utility industry with Eaton. (Earlier post.)
International Truck and Engine Corporation is a member of the Advisory Board for the Hybrid Electric Bus Project, which was formed in 2003 in North Carolina.
Neural-Network Engine Controller for Higher Efficiency and Lower Emissions
Use of the neural network (NN) controller (right) reduces heat release in lean operation (shown) and with high EGR. Click to enlarge.
Researchers at the University of Missouri-Rolla are developing a neural-network-based engine controller in an attempt to increase engine efficiency while reducing NOx emissions.
Artificial neural networks are adaptive software systems which learn based on the successful connections they make between nodes. The goal of the work is to create a controller that essentially learns on-the-fly how to operate an engine more cleanly and efficiently.
Lean operation on a spark ignition (SI) Engine can reduce emissions (HC, CO and NOx) by as much as 30% and also can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 5%–10%. Engines operating with high EGR (exhaust gas circulation levels) can further reduce emissions by as much as 50% to 60%.
One problem with operating the engine either extremely lean or with high EGR is cyclic dispersion—cycle-to-cycle variability in engine output—of heat release.
A good example of people experiencing cyclic dispersion is when they’re sitting in their car at a stop light and they feel their car shaking. The more EGR you can add, the lower your NOx emissions. The question is how far can we push it and still keep cyclic dispersion in a reasonable range.—Jim Drallmeier
The goal of the neural-network (NN) controller is to allow operation under both lean and high EGR regimes while minimizing cyclic dispersion heat release.
The neural-network observer part of the controller will assess the total air and fuel in a given cylinder in a given time. It then sends that estimate to another neural network, which generates the fuel commands and tells the engine how much fuel to change each cycle.—Jagannathan Sarangapani
This controller observes what an engine cycle is doing, makes measurements in that period of time, reduces that data, and decides how you need to push the engine in the next cycle. It does all that before the next cycle starts. We’re talking about a matter of milliseconds.—Jim Drallmeier
Although increasing EGR can reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, it can cause significant cyclic dispersion—cycle-to-cycle variability in engine output—in heat release.
A smart controller that can reduce cyclic dispersion could open new avenues for engine efficiency. The research team is also exploring the feasibility of the neural network controllers for hybrid vehicles and fuel-cell/gas vehicles as well.
The National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency are jointly funding the three-year, $515,000 project. The researchers are collaborating with Caterpillar Inc., and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.