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October 2007

October 31, 2007

Chevron and NREL to Collaborate on Research to Produce Transportation Fuels, Including Jet Fuel, using Algae

Chevron Corporation and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have entered into a collaborative research and development agreement to study and advance technology to produce liquid transportation fuels using algae.

Chevron and NREL scientists will collaborate to identify and develop algae strains that can be economically harvested and processed into finished transportation fuels, such as jet fuel. Chevron Technology Ventures, a division of Chevron USA, will fund the initiative.

The new research project announced today is the second under a five-year strategic biofuels research alliance between Chevron and NREL announced in October 2006. The first involves bio-oil reforming, a process by which bio-oils derived from the decomposition of biological feedstocks are then converted into hydrogen and biofuels. (Earlier post.)

We are extremely pleased to join Chevron in this path-breaking research. NREL operated the Aquatic Species Program for the Department of Energy for nearly 20 years, giving us unique insights into the research required to produce cost-effective fuels from algal oils or lipids. Our scientists have the advanced tools and the experience to rapidly increase the yield and productivity of key species of algae. In Chevron we have found an ideal research partner with the skills and knowledge to transform these algal lipids to cost-competitive fuels and to distribute those fuels to consumers.

—NREL Director Dan Arvizu

Chevron believes that nonfood feedstock sources such as algae and cellulose hold the greatest promise to grow the biofuels industry to large scale.

—Don Paul, VP and Chief Technology Officer, Chevron Corporation

Algae are considered a promising potential feedstock for next-generation biofuels because certain species contain high amounts of oil, which could be extracted, processed and refined into transportation fuels using currently available technology. Other benefits of algae as a potential feedstock are their abundance and fast growth rates. Key technical challenges include identifying the strains with the highest oil content and growth rates and developing cost-effective growing and harvesting methods.

Although NREL’s past research on algal biofuels was done with a view toward using the microalgal oil to make conventional biodiesel, the lab has been interested in the possibilities of using refinery-based hyrdoprocessing with microalgal oil to produce a kerosene-like fuel very similar to petroleum-derived commercial and military jet fuels or into a fuel designed for multi-purpose military use. Research priorities in this application area include:

  • Applying current strain selection, screening, and genetic engineering technology to increase lipid yields.

  • Genetically manipulating the mechanism by which microalgae switch back and forth between normal growth and lipid production to maintain high rates for both.

  • Optimizing the lipids produced for hydroprocessing into jet fuels or multi-purpose military fuels.

  • Working with oil refiners to tailor hydroprocessing to use for converting microalgal oil to premium diesel or jet fuel.

Resources

October 31, 2007 in Aviation, Biomass, Fuels | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Fisker and Quantum Preview High-End Plug-In Hybrid

Fisker
Fisker Automotive plug-in hybrid electric four-door sports sedan.

Fisker Coachbuild, LLC and Quantum Technologies provided initial details on the $80,000, four-door plug-in hybrid premium sports sedan that will debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January. (Earlier post.)

The car is the first production vehicle to come from Fisker Automotive, Inc. Initial deliveries will commence in the 4th quarter of 2009 with annual production projected to reach 15,000 cars.

Certification, testing and drivetrain development will be conducted by joint venture partner Quantum Technologies. The car is being designed to offer a full 50 miles (80 km) all-electric range. A gasoline or diesel engine will extend the range of the Fisker plug-in to more than 620 miles (1,000 km). The battery pack will sit at the center of the vehicle between the two axles.

This positioning provides optimal vehicle driving dynamics, maximum safety, proportionate design as well as industry standard performance figures within this car class.

—Henrik Fisker, CEO of Fisker Automotive, Inc.

Quantum has invested in and is partnering with Advanced Lithium Power Ltd. (ALP) in the development and application of lithium-ion battery packs and management systems for plug-in hybrids.

Additionally, Fisker Automotive announced that it had appointed former BMW engineer Thomas Fritz as Director of Engineering.

October 31, 2007 in Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (37) | TrackBack

VW Launching Jetta TDI Diesel Race Series in US

Volkswagen of America, is launching the Jetta TDI Cup series at select racetracks in North America in 208. The series will be sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Pro Racing Inc., and will appear at up to eight major racing venues.

The Jetta TDI Cup is designed to showcase the power and performance of VW’s new advanced diesel technology, available in the upcoming 2009 Jetta TDI sedan and SportWagen. Up to 30 Jetta TDIs will compete.

The Jetta TDI Cup racecars will be optimized for track performance and safety. To focus on the skill of the young drivers and to ensure performance parity, proper maintenance and safety standards, all vehicles will be owned and maintained by Volkswagen. The heart of the Jetta TDI Cup racing vehicle will be the all-new, 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI diesel engine rated at 170 hp (127 kW) and nearly 300 lb-ft (407 Nm) of torque in racing trim.

The Jetta TDI race vehicles will be outfitted with a six-speed automatic DSG transmission, electro-mechanical power rack-and-pinion steering system, and advanced multi-link fully independent race-tuned suspension, driver airbag supplemental restraint system, and four-wheel ABS racing brakes.

The Jetta TDI Cup series will be certified as CarbonFree by Carbonfund.org. Additional program details will be available at www.vwmotorsportusa.com by mid-November 2007.

October 31, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Recycled Scrap Tire Rubber Can Be Used to Create Novel Thermoplastic and Thermoset Compounds

Lehigh Technologies’ PolyDyne recycled tire rubber powder can be used to create novel thermoplastic and thermoset compounds that can be produced and manufactured in large volumes, according to new research by the company. The small rubber particles in the range of 105 through 44 microns offer a much higher surface area providing easier incorporation into polymer alloys, or rubber and plastics, via improved polymer-particle interaction.

Research on the process was performed by Carl McAfee of McAfee Consulting, LLC and Mike Grubb, Director of Plastics & Specialty Materials at Lehigh Technologies, Inc.

Efforts have been underway over the past 30 years in many areas to try to reuse scrap tires in polymer applications, including rubber-modified asphalt and tire-derived fuel. (Earlier post.) Although many of these projects have met with various degrees of success, they have all been limited by the ultimate particle size of the scrap tire rubber particle.

The new study shows that incorporating ultra-fine, rubber powder into the manufacture process can further enhance various compatibilization techniques, both reactive and non-reactive. The results of the research were presented at American Chemical Society’s Rubber Division’s 172nd Technical Meeting and Business Summit held 16-18 October.

This research shows how smaller particle size rubber particles have a very positive effect on physical properties. We have discovered improved physical properties and performance characteristics with the use of active and non-reactive compatibilizers. This is an exciting time for the plastics industry and for companies looking for new ways to find cost savings, without sacrificing performance all while maintaining a foundation for sustainability.

—Carl McAfee

Additionally, these very small rubber particles can be reintroduced back into thermoset rubber applications with little or no loss of performance properties.

A greenhouse gas inventory and lifecycle analysis of PolyDyne rubber powders by Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., a leading environmental engineering firm, released earlier this year found that on average, for every 10 pounds of recycled rubber powder used over synthetic polymers, companies who use Lehigh’s rubber powder will prevent 10 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. At the same time, on average they will reduce primary energy consumption by the amount corresponding to a gallon of crude oil. The actual amount of carbon and oil saved will depend on the specific synthetic being replaced.

These savings are achieved due to both a reduction in the amount of new synthetic materials that must be created and through Lehigh’s manufacturing process, which generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires less electricity than comparable recycling or manufacturing technologies.

Shortly after the release of the study in July, Lehigh Technologies launched a certification campaign for manufacturers who replace petroleum-based chemicals with recycled rubber powder in their products.

Resources

October 31, 2007 in Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Zipcar and Flexcar to Merge

Car-sharing providers Zipcar and Flexcar will merge. The combined company will operate under the Zipcar brand and be headquartered in Cambridge, MA, led by Zipcar Chairman and CEO, Scott Griffith.

Zipcar and Flexcar currently operate car sharing programs, providing members with on-demand access to a diverse fleet of vehicles located throughout major metropolitan areas. To use the service, members reserve a vehicle online or via a mobile device, use a smartcard to open the doors, take their trip, and then return the car at the end of the reservation. An hourly or daily fee covers gas, insurance, maintenance, parking and 24-7 emergency service.

The merger comes at a time when car sharing is increasingly acknowledged as a smart urban lifestyle choice and transportation alternative. With growing competition within the industry, and more than 30 independent car sharing companies operating in the US alone, the combined Zipcar will have a stronger base from which to compete—particularly against leading car rental firms’ product introductions targeted at the car-sharing industry.

Zipcar currently operates in New York, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto and London while Flexcar operates in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington DC Both companies provide car sharing on college campuses where traffic congestion and limited parking are frequent challenges.

Under the combined organization, members will access the vehicles through Zipcar’s Z3D technology. The proprietary platform fully connects the information flow between vehicles, members and Zipcar.com. Zipcar membership will enable the self-service reservation of any vehicle in any city in the combined Zipcar, Flexcar network simply by using the Zipcar.com website or mobile interface.

All members will be covered under an insurance plan with limits of $300,000 per accident.

National studies show that each shared car can replace up to 20 privately owned vehicles. Car sharing members report driving significantly less and are more likely to walk, bike, and use public transportation. Members also report savings of $500 or greater per month compared to the average cost of owning and operating a car in the city, and businesses have saved thousands of dollars by eliminating company fleets or augmenting their transportation offerings with car sharing programs.

October 31, 2007 in Car Sharing | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Raser and FEV to Develop Plug-in Hybrid Demo Vehicle Using Symetron Motor

Raser Technologies has appointed FEV Engine Technology as the integrator for an advanced plug-in-hybrid electric demonstration vehicle that incorporates a Raser Symetron electric motor and power electronic drive powertrain technology. The vehicle is targeted to achieve more than 100 mpg for the typical American driver.

Symetron is an umbrella label for several Raser innovations in motors and controllers that increase power, torque and efficiency. The Symetron technology, which can be applied in a range of packages, AC or DC, can deliver the high torque of a permanent magnet motor without the use of permanent magnets—in essence, enabling the production of smaller, more powerful and less expensive motors. (Earlier post.)

In 2006, Raser Technologies unveiled a new 100kW AC induction-based electric motor design called the Symetron P-100. The P-100 is designed to double the performance of the company’s award-winning P-50 integrated starter alternator, and is targeted at plug-in hybrids and EVs, among other applications. (Earlier post.)

October 31, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Dutch Nuon Solar Team Winds Panasonic World Solar Challenge Race

The Nuna4 solar car from the Dutch Nuon Solar Team tool top spot in the Panasonic World Solar Challenge in Australia, a 3,000-kilometer (1,870-mile) cross-continent, Darwin to Adelaide race. The Dutch team completed the race in 33 hours with an average speed of 90.87 km/h (56 mph).

The solar challenge, in its 20th Anniversary year, featured three classes of vehicles. Challenge Class solar cars had to be newly built for the 2007 event, and had to meet current requirements as set down by the International Solar Car Federation (ISCF). The Nuna4 car is a Challenge Class vehicle.

Adventure Class vehicles did not have to meet these current requirements, but had to meet previous versions of ISCF standards. The Adventure Class winner was the Tiga from the Ashiya University Solar Car Project in Japan, with a time of 32 hours, 03minutes. The Greenfleet Technology Class was a third class of participants and was a display fleet of energy-efficient vehicles and driving. Winner in the Greenfleet class was an Audi A3 Sportback 1.9e diesel, with fuel consumption of 3.3 l/100km (71 mpg US).

October 31, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Avantium to Deliver Flowrence Reactor Systems to Shell

Avantium Technologies, a spin-off from Shell, has signed an agreement with CRI/Criterion Inc, a catalyst technology company within the Royal Dutch Shell group, for the sale and delivery of multiple Avantium Flowrence Research platforms to CRI/Criterion or its affiliates to enhance its research capabilities.

Flowrence is a proprietary system developed by Avantium from existing "Nanoflow" technology originating from Shell, which was transferred to Avantium at its foundation in 2000. Many improvements by Avantium, including proprietary pressure regulation, reactor design, robust automation, data-storage, optimal size and increased number of reactors were implemented in the Flowrence reactor system.

The system consists of a parallel fixed bed reactor system with 16 reactors suited for gas and liquid phase, as well as trickle flow operation. Flowrence enables users to test catalytic materials for a range of chemistries under industrial processing conditions, including high-temperature and high-pressure reactions.

Avantium has providing R&D services and its proprietary, high-throughput R&D technology to more than 70 companies worldwide, including many of the world’s largest energy, chemicals and pharmaceutical companies. The company recently engine-tested its furan-based biofuels, or “furanics.” Furanics are heteroaromatic compounds derived from the chemical intermediate HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural. (Earlier post.)

October 31, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UK Department for Transport Introduces Framework to Deliver New Low Carbon Transport System

Dti
Growth in UK GDP and transport kilometers. Click to enlarge.

UK Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly introduced a new framework to deliver a transport system to support the UK economy and to reduce carbon emissions. The framework, Towards a Sustainable Transport System, is the Department for Transport’s response to both the Eddington Transport Study and the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change. (Earlier post.)

The discussion document argues that forcing the pace of technological improvements and removing the obstacles to behavioral change will be key to ensuring transport makes a substantial contribution to the goal of at least a 60% reduction of CO2 by 2050.

A fundamental goal of transport policy must be to ensure that the transport sector plays its proper role in our fight to tackle climate change. Professor Sir Nick Stern argued that this does not have to be an either/or choice. A well-designed strategy can support economic growth and tackle carbon emissions.

Fundamentally, we need to get the prices right to cover the environmental and congestion costs of transport, to encourage technological innovation, to promote behavioural change, and to be smart with our investment decisions. If we do that, we can support people’s desire for mobility, whilst still ensuring that transport contributes to the overall reduction in emissions which the Government will enshrine in legislation through the Climate Change Bill.

—Rt. Hon. Ruth Kelly

The document has three aims. First, it describes how the department is responding to the recommendations made in the Eddington Transport Study and the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change. Second, it sets out department policy and spending plans for the period to 2013/14. Third, it proposes a new approach to the longer term transport strategy and explains how the department will engage with passengers, users, the transport industry and other stakeholders as we develop and implement that process.

The UK government’s agenda, as expressed in the framework, consists of five broad goals:

  1. To maximize the competitiveness and productivity of the economy. The challenge is to improve the performance of the existing network, focusing on the most unreliable, congested and crowded sections in order to improve ‘predictable end-to-end journey time’ for travel to work, and for domestic and international business trips and goods movements.

  2. To address climate change, by cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

  3. To protect people’s safety, security and health.

  4. To improve quality of life, including through a healthy natural environment.

  5. To promote greater equality of opportunity.

The document demonstrates how this new approach to planning will be underpinned by long term funding. The recent Comprehensive Spending Review means that the Department for Transport now has a long term funding guideline to 2019 and that spending on transport will be double what it was twenty years previously.

Given that transport spending takes time, investment plans up to 2013/14 are largely set and funding over the next six years will be focused on the most congested routes.

Beyond 2014 the document shows that more than £20 billion (US$41.1 billion) of Government funding could still be allocated to specific improvements up to 2019. This funding, when combined with further private sector investment, would give the opportunity to make substantial further improvements to the country's transport network.

Resources

October 31, 2007 in Climate Change, Fuel Efficiency, Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 30, 2007

Study: Refineries’ Hydrogen Consumption Will Climb 40% in Next 5 Years

Global environmental regulations and the inferior quality of today’s sour crude feedstock available for refineries will drive consumption of hydrogen in excess of 40% over the next five years, according to a new report from SRI Consulting (SRIC).

SRIC’s 2007 Hydrogen report estimates that globally 630.8 billion cubic meters (52.6 million metric tons) of hydrogen were consumed in 2006. Approximately 96% of all hydrogen is from fossil fuels, with natural gas being the most frequently used at an estimated 49%, followed by liquid hydrocarbons with 29%, coal with 18% and electrolysis and other sources at about 4%.

The severe environmental regulations on sulfur in diesel are responsible for the increased consumption. The process of removing sulfur consumes hydrogen, and it is estimated in the future that diesel production will increase relative to gasoline.

—Bala Suresh, Senior Consultant at SRIC

The increasing use of hydrogen deficient heavy crude as feedstock material in refineries is expected to also contribute to the growing hydrogen consumption. In addition, oil-sands processing, gas-to-liquids, and coal gasification projects that are ongoing, all require enormous amounts of hydrogen and will boost the size of the market significantly.

Consulting firm Wood McKenzie predicts that unconventional oil and gas sources such as tar sands will constitute 20% of the world’s production by 2020 compared with 10% currently, according to a report in EnergyTechStocks.com.

October 30, 2007 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

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