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July 2006

July 31, 2006

Toyota Sustainability Report 2006: Environmental Costs Are 2.3% of Sales

Cover of Sustainability 2006

Toyota Motor has released its 2006 sustainability report, summarizing its efforts on sustainability from environmental, social and—for the first time—economic frames of reference. The Japanese version of Sustainability Report 2006: A New Future for People, Society and the Planet is available on Toyota’s website; the English version will be available in August.

Toyota says it achieved all the goals specified in its Third Environmental Action Plan and began initiatives toward achieving goals of the Fourth Environmental Action Plan (2006-2010). Toyota’s environmental costs (unconsolidated) totalled ¥237.8 billion (US$2 billion), representing a 3% increase of ¥6.7 billion from the previous year and accounting for 2.3% of net sales.

The section on environmental aspects covers initiatives in Toyota’s biotechnology, afforestation, and housing business, in addition to initiatives that span the areas from vehicle development and recycling to logistics.

The section on social aspects, with more data provided than before, explains activities undertaken during 2005 in greater detail with respect to each category of stakeholder, such as customers, employees, business partners and shareholders.

National and regional reports are now published by Toyota overseas affiliates or related companies in 11 countries and regions outside Japan. Together, these reports are distributed in about 85% of the countries and regions in which Toyota vehicles are sold. Toyota says that it intends to further expand global information disclosure through measures that include increasing the number of countries and regions issuing reports in the future.

July 31, 2006 in Sustainability, Vehicle Manufacturers | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Monsanto: Breeding and Biotech Research Complements Push to Biofuels

Monsanto is focused on three crops for biofuels: corn, rapeseed and soybeans. Click to enlarge.

Monsanto’s corn and oilseeds breeding and biotech are complementary to the overall push to biofuels, according to Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President Robb Fraley.

In an investor presentation providing an update on the company’s research, Fraley said that Monsanto’s focus is on improving the yield-per-acre potential of crops as well as for ways to enhance the value of those crops.

Increased ethanol yield with Producer Preferred HFC

Monsanto’s breeders have already identified high fermentable corn (HFC) hybrids that yield more ethanol per bushel.

The average yield for a conventional dry mill is 2.8 gallons of ethanol for every bushel of corn. Large-scale commercial trials of HFC demonstrated an average increase in yield of 2.7%. These hybrids are sold with the company’s trait technologies which help protect yield, and ultimately the plant’s ethanol output.

A Monsanto joint-venture with Cargill—Renessen—is working on a combination of biotech, breeding and processing projects designed to increase the nutrient value of the animal feed co-product stream from ethanol. (Earlier post.)

Other highlights from mid-season test results from Monsanto’s winter production field trials in Latin America as well as new analyses of research data include:

  • Drmon
    Current drought map. Click to enlarge.
    Drought-tolerant corn, one of Monsanto’s next-generation agronomic technologies and one of the company’s high-impact technologies—HIT projects—is showing yield advantages compared with its conventional counterpart for a third-consecutive season. This technology is currently in Phase 2 of the research pipeline.

    According to the Drought Monitor at the University of Nebraska, some 60% of the US is currently experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions.

  • Nitrogen-utilization corn technology may provide farmers with a new way to boost yield in both normal- and limited-nitrogen usage settings. This technology is currently in Phase 1 of the research pipeline.

  • Dicamba-tolerant soybeans, Monsanto’s third-generation herbicide-tolerant technology, may provide farmers with tolerance in both pre- and post-emergent settings, as well as increase the flexibility of herbicide applications. This technology is currently in Phase 2 of the research pipeline.

  • Insect-protected soybeans, the company’s first insect-protection technology for oilseeds, are demonstrating yield advantages compared with its conventional counterpart in both mild and moderate insect infestations. This technology, which is currently in Phase 2 of the research pipeline, is intended to be commercialized with the company’s Roundup RReady2Yield technology, leading to a new stacked product in soybeans.


July 31, 2006 in Biodiesel, Biotech, Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Minnesota Governor Pushes for EPA Testing of Flex-Fuel Conversion Kit

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency asking it to consider using Minnesota as a site for testing XcelPlus FlexTek E-85 conversion kits. (Earlier post.)

The Governor said he wants to offer tax breaks for low and moderate income families who convert their vehicles to run on ethanol. Minnesota Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN) is arranging for state leaders to meet with XcelPlus to discuss the conversion technology and bring results to the EPA.

We [Minnesota] are the largest ethanol producer. We’ve lead the nation in the ethanol issue. It would be a logical next step to lead the country in conversion.

—Congressman James Oberstar

FlexTek, distributed by XcelPlus, is a Brazilian bi-fuel converter that utilizes its own standalone CPU to enable a vehicle’s fuel system to burn ethanol (E85), gasoline, or any blend of the two fuels.

The FlexTek converter integrates into the wiring of the vehicle injection system via connectors and modifies the injection instructions for use with high-ethanol blends. The system requires manual selection of fuel mode: one position is for 60% or more gasoline; the other for 60% or more ethanol. The system now works on cars with multi-port and sequential fuel injection systems.

To prepare the car for use of E85 and help protect against corrosion, XcelPlus recommends the use of their “E85 Engine Treatment and Fuel Treatment” before running on ethanol.

The system is not yet EPA-tested or certified, and although XcelPlus’s original stance was that it does not need to be, the company is proceeding with EPA testing.

In terms of fuel economy, XcelPlus claims that the reduction in fuel economy resulting from the use of E85 may be somewhat offset by the use of the E85 Engine Preparation Kit.

July 31, 2006 in Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Modine Introduces Fuel-Cell-Based CO2 Heating and Cooling System for Trucks

The CO2 Idle Reduction Cooling and heating system

Modine Manufacturing Company, a specialist in thermal management systems and components, has introduced a fuel-cell idle-reduction (idle-off) air-conditioning and heating system that uses carbon dioxide (CO2) for cooling.

The new idle-off system can be used for both cooling and heating the sleeper cabin in a long-haul heavy-duty truck, thus eliminating the need for idling during mandatory off-duty periods. The Department of Energy estimates that currently more than one billion gallons of fuel are consumed each year while trucks idle in these conditions.

The fuel cell in the CO2 idle reduction system begins operation as soon as the diesel engine shuts off. The electricity from the fuel cell powers a compressor that compresses CO2 into a hot, high-pressure gas. A heat exchanger cools the CO2 to near ambient temperatures, and then the gas is expanded into a cold liquid-gas mixture. This enters an evaporator which cools a water-glycol mixture which circulates throughout the cabin, cooling the air.

For heating, the process uses the hot side of the CO2 loop.

The new CO2 air-conditioning and heating system was designed internally by Modine at its research and development facility in Racine, Wisconsin. General Hydrogen Corporation supplies the fuel-cell power pack, which was specifically designed for a truck auxiliary power unit application to produce electrical energy continuously for more than 10 hours. The thermal management system was designed and built by Modine’s fuel cell products group.

Our engineers are working on cutting-edge technologies in various areas, including fuel cells, CO2, and HVAC. This product gives us an opportunity to combine these technologies in one package. It’s something that no one has done before. We’re showing our customers, fleet operators, and the trucking industry that Modine stands for innovation and finding solutions that are both environmentally friendly and make good economic sense.

—Dr. Jonathan Wattelet, Modine Director of Research and Development

July 31, 2006 in Fuel Cells, Fuel Efficiency, Hydrogen, Vehicle Systems | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Results of Trial of Supercritical Fluid Process for Hydrolysis of Biomass for Cellulosic Ethanol Production

Phase diagram for CO2. Source: Los Alamos National Lab

Globex, a waste-to-cellulosic ethanol startup, announced that trials of its new supercritical fluid (SCF) technology have demonstrated a lignin removal of more than 50% at ambient temperatures into a SCF 4-liter pressure vessel. The material used in the trial was common wood chips.

The SCF-based pre-treatment process seems to be effective in converting an important part of hemicellulose to sugars and thereby leaves the cellulose ready to be treated by hydrolytic enzymes, according to the company.

Cellulosic biomass contains approximately 45% of cellulose (which can be converted to fermentable glucose), 30% hemicellulose (also convertible) and 15 to 20% of lignin (a non-fermentable phenyl-propene).

Before hydrolytic enzymes can access the cellulose inside the biomass, some form of pre-treatment is required. Steam explosion is an approach used by SunOpta, for example. (Earlier post.)

Globex’ approach uses highly pressurized CO2 as the chemical reagent, which is recovered at a high rate in a closed loop system. There is no use of acid or base chemical reagent and thus waste treatment costs are minimized.

Supercritical fluids (SCF) are liquids or gases used in a state above their critical temperature and pressure (critical point). In this state, the SCF has unique properties different from those of either gases or liquids, offering a combination of liquid-like density and solvency, with gas-like viscosity, diffusivity, compressibility and lack of surface tension.

As a result, supercritical fluids can rapidly penetrate porous and fibrous solids, offer good catalytic activity and can dissolve and extract a wide range of chemicals. Carbon dioxide is commonly used as a supercritical fluid.

The solvent properties are strongly pressure-dependent in the vicinity of the critical point, making supercritical fluids highly tunable, and giving them an important emerging role in new chemical processes.

For example, in 2004, Professors Charles Eckert and Charles Liotta at the Georgia Institute of Technology received a Green Chemistry Award from the EPA for their work on novel, benign, tunable solvents—especially supercritical CO2, nearcritical water and CO2-expanded liquids—to create a paradigm for sustainable development: benign solvents and improved performance.


July 31, 2006 in Biomass, Cellulosic ethanol, Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Potential Leakage and Toxicity Problems with CO2 Sequestration

Cross-well seismic difference tomogram of the Frio Brine project shows the CO2 plume.

Results from a field test on CO2 sequestration in an old brine-filled oil reservoir suggest that the mixture of CO2 and brine dissolves minerals in the rock walls, including carbonate, that could lead to pathways in the rock through which the gas could escape.

In a paper published in the July edition of Geology, the researchers in the Frio Brine Pilot also note the potential for the mobilization of toxic trace metals and toxic organic compounds.

The Frio Brine Pilot was the first test of closely monitored CO2 injection in a brine formation in the United States, and was funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) under the leadership of the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) at the Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, with major collaboration from GEO-SEQ, a national lab consortium led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

The researchers injected 1,600 metric tons of CO2 1,500 meters down into a sandstone site representative of a target for large-volume storage. The sandstones of the Oligocene Frio Formation are part of a thick, regionally extensive sandstone trend that underlies a concentration of industrial sources and power plants along the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Monitoring strategy at Frio.

The team then measured and monitored the CO2 plume using a diverse suite of technologies in three intervals: the injection zone, the area above the injection zone, and the shallow near-surface environment.

Each monitoring strategy used a preinjection and one or more postinjection measurements. Wireline logging, pressure and temperature measurement, and geochemical sampling were also conducted during injection, and at follow-up intervals subsequent to the injection.

While the sequestration to-date has been successful—there have been no detected CO2 leakages—the researchers conclude in their latest published assessment of on-going findings and analysis that the chemistry of the process might prove problematic.

Fluid samples obtained from the injection and observation wells before CO2 injection showed a Na-Ca-Cl–type brine with 93,000 mg/L total dissolved solids (TDS) at near saturation with CH4 at reservoir conditions.

Following CO2 breakthrough, samples showed sharp drops in pH (6.5–5.7), pronounced increases in alkalinity (100–3,000 mg/L as HCO3) and Fe (30–1,100 mg/L), and significant shifts in the isotopic compositions of H2O, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), and CH4.

Geochemical modeling indicates that brine pH would have dropped lower but for the buffering by dissolution of carbonate and iron oxyhydroxides.

This rapid dissolution of carbonate and other minerals could ultimately create pathways in the rock seals or well cements for CO2 and brine leakage. Dissolution of minerals, especially iron oxyhydroxides, could mobilize toxic trace metals and, where residual oil or suitable organics are present, the injected CO2 could also mobilize toxic organic compounds.

Environmental impacts could be major if large brine volumes with mobilized toxic metals and organics migrated into potable groundwater.


July 31, 2006 in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

July 30, 2006

Report: South Africa May Crack Down on SUVs and Off-Road Vehicles

Sunday Independent. The South African government may consider imposing penalties to slow the rapid growth in sales of SUVs and off-road vehicles, which have continued to rise despite soaring fuel prices, according to Nhlanhla Gumede, the chief director of hydrocarbons in the department of minerals and energy.

The government had considered instituted a combined program of surcharges on fuel guzzlers and rebates for fuel-efficient cars two years ago, but opted not to intervene in the market, according to Gumede.

“One would have thought that rising fuel prices would see more people buying cheaper vehicles that would use up to six litres of petrol per 100 kilometres [39 mpg US], but many opt for vehicles that use 22 litres per 100 kilometres [11 mpg US],” he said.

Unleaded gasoline in South Africa ranges from R7.04 to R6.80 per liter (US$3.87 to US$3.74 per gallon US).

Annual sales of small SUVs in South Africa have more than tripled from 4,192 in 2001 to 12,835 in 2005. An estimated 500,000 drivers now own 4x4s and SUVs in South Africa.

John Salters, the managing director of the market research firm Synovate, said that despite the petrol price increases, awareness and adoption of alternative fuel engine technologies remained low.

Synovate surveyed 4,568 respondents in nine countries, including South Africa, assessing their familiarity with hybrid electric vehicles, direct-injection diesel and alternative fuel source vehicles. [Earlier post.]

“Globally, hybrid electric vehicles are the least familiar to consumers, with only 1 percent of those surveyed currently or previously owning such a vehicle,” he said.

July 30, 2006 in Africa, Fuel Efficiency | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Report: Chiyoda, Toyo Engineering To Build Pearl GTL Facilities In Qatar

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reports that Japanese engineering firms Chiyoda Corp. and Toyo Engineering Corp. have each won orders from the Royal Dutch Shell Plc group to build gas-to-liquid (GTL) production facilities for the Pearl GTL project in Qatar—one of the largest GTL projects currently planned.

Shell and partner Qatar Petroleum launched the Pearl GTL project—which is designed to produce 140,000 barrels per day of synthetic fuels and chemicals—earlier in the week. (Earlier post.)

The Japanese engineering companies are scheduled as early as Tuesday to sign contracts with Royal Dutch Shell for the orders, according to the paper. Chiyoda and Toyo Engineering are each teaming up with South Korean firms to fill orders to build separate portions of the facilities by 2010.

Chiyoda will work with Hyundai Heavy Industry to construct the gas processing portion, while Toyo Engineering is joining forces with Hyundai Engineering & Construction to build refining facilities. The Japanese are partnering with the South Korean companies, which have become a growing force within the field, in a effort to lower costs.

Chiyoda’s order is worth about ¥200 billion (US$1.8 billion), while Toyo Engineering’s is believed to total around ¥170 billion (US$1.5 billion), according to the report.

July 30, 2006 in Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 29, 2006

SIAM Proposing Testing for CNG-Hydrogen Vehicles in New Delhi

Business Standard. The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has submitted a proposal to the ministry of non-conventional energy sources to conduct pilot testing of vehicles running on a blend of CNG and 10% hydrogen in New Delhi.

SIAM, which represents the major automakers in India, will collaborate with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) on the project to evaluate the fuel efficiency of the fuel blend. Indian Oil launched India’s first Hydrogen-CNG (HCNG) fueling station at its R&D Centre at Faridabad near Delhi in 2005 to test blends from 5% to 30%. (Earlier post.)

The government will ultimately decide which type of vehicles will be used in the test, although it is likely that both commercial and non-commercial vehicles will be included.

Talking to Business Standard about the project, Dilip Chenoy, director-general of Siam, said, “The project is a joint initiative of the association and other partners to ensure that the usage of alternative fuels assumes dynamic proportions in the next few years.”

The wheels to frame the project were set in motion in 2005 when Ratan Tata and Anand Mahindra proposed the use of hydrogen in blend with other fuels as an alternative to petrol.

Subsequently, in a core meeting with Finance Minister P Chidambaram, it was decided that hydrogen would be explored not as an alternative but as a supplement to CNG.

“The use of hydrogen effectively means that the amount of nitrogen oxide being emitted with the burning of CNG would reduce at least 10 per cent. Another favorable factor is that hydrogen also has the advantage of being a renewable source compared with CNG,” said Chenoy, while expressing his confidence in the government implementing the project in the coming months.

The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity (AVTA)—managed by Idaho national laboratory—has tested a number of different vehicles using different blends of hydrogen and CNG.

The AVTA testing on an unmodified Dodge RAM CNG van burning a 15% hydrogen-CNG blend found that vehicle exhibited reduction in all measured pollutants, with the sole exception of NOx. The increased NOx emissions occurred only during certain phases of the test cycle, and pointed to the need to modify and to optimize the engine to burn the hydrogen-CNG blend.

DOE’s Natural Gas Vehicle Technology Forum is supporting a project to develop heavy-duty HCNG engines and transit buses. Engines optimized for HCNG (20% hydrogen, 80% CNG mole fraction) engines demonstrated lower emissions, including a 50% reduction in NOx, than similar engines fueled with CNG alone with no significant change in fuel efficiency.

SIAM is also working with IOC, Mahindra and Mahindra and Ashok Leyand on developing the use of biodiesel as a fuel. The association has also undertaken modular research on straight vegetable oil to be used in automobiles.


July 29, 2006 in Hydrogen, India, Natural Gas | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

California ARB Awards Grants for Three Hydrogen Stations; Selects a Range of Hydrogen Vehicles

The California Air Resources Board is awarding grants to three proposals for new Hydrogen Highway fueling stations in California.

The demonstration stations, the first to be co-funded by California, will help build hydrogen infrastructure. Criteria for the stations include a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases and 20% use of renewable energy to produce and distribute the hydrogen. The criteria also require no increases in smog-forming emissions, compared to average gasoline vehicles and infrastructure.

The 50% co-funding was made available through legislation adopted in 2005 (Senate Bill 76).

The selected proposals include:

  • California State University, Los Angeles. The electrolyzer station will be located on the eastern edge of the college campus, utilize 100% renewable wind power and have over 60 kg of storage capacity.

  • Pacific Gas and Electric. The station will use steam methane reformation to generate 10 kg/day of hydrogen, use solar photovoltaic cells to supply the renewable energy component, and be co-located at the compressed natural gas fueling station in San Carlos, south of San Francisco.

  • San Diego City Schools. The 100% renewable electrolyzer station will be located off Interstate 15, adjacent to the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School and Alliant International University campuses in Scripps Ranch. The station will be powered by a 600 kW solar photovoltaic array to be installed at the middle school.

The next step in the grant process will be contract negotiation, followed by, outreach, permitting, site preparation, and construction. Station commissioning is likely in late 2007.

ARB also selected three hydrogen vehicle proposals for integration with state fleets or for placement with universities for evaluation and outreach. The selected proposals, which represent fuel-cell, hydrogen combustion engine (ICE) and hydrogen ICE-electric hybrid vehicles, include:

  • One hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) from General Motors;

  • Four Toyota Prius hybrid hydrogen/internal combustion engine passenger cars from Quantum;

  • Two hydrogen internal combustion engine shuttle buses from Ford.

July 29, 2006 in Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (35) | TrackBack

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