January 31, 2009
Report: Toyota’s Operating Loss Will Widen to US$4.5B
The Nikkei reports that Toyota Motor Corp.’s group operating loss for the year ending March 31 is likely to jump to ¥400 billion (US$4.5B) from the ¥150 billion it projected last month (earlier post).
With the global economy quickly weakening, the automaker has been unable to halt the slide in auto sales and is heading into its first net loss since the year ended November 1963, when it started publishing net results. Sales are expected to undershoot its previous forecast of 21.5 trillion yen [US$329 billion], which would have been an 18% drop on the year.
Toyota group firms see their own earnings sharply deteriorating because of output reductions by the parent. As a result, their contributions to the automaker’s consolidated profits are expected to decrease.
Toyota has filed a shelf registration of ¥200 billion (US$2.2 billion) in straight bonds, with issuance expected as the current fiscal year ending March 31. The funds would be used mostly for capital spending on development of technologies and new products.
Biosyncrude Gasification Process Could Produce Motor Fuel at Cost of Around $3/gallon
|Overview of the Bioliq process. Source: Henrich et al. Click to enlarge.|
The Bioliq biosyncrude gasification process (earlier post) used in a large plant with a capacity of > 1 Mt/a can produce biosynfuel for about €1.04 per kg or €0.8 per liter (US$3.08/gallon US), according to an analysis by researchers at Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Germany, which is co-developing the process with Lurgi.
With ±30% estimate error, this is between €0.56 and €1.04 per liter (US$2.72-5.03/gallon US), they note in a paper published in the journal Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining. A crude oil price of US$100/bbl results in an approximate cost of €0.56/L (US$2.72/gallon US) without tax for conventional motor fuel.
|Energy flow in the bioliq process based on the stoichiometric reaction equations. Source: Henrich et al. Click to enlarge.|
Bioliq is a three-stage process, envisioning the use of distributed fast pyrolysis (FP) plants in combination with a large centralized gasification and fuel production facility. Biomass is pyrolized to a pyrolysis oil. The pyrolysis oil is mixed with pyrolysis coke from the process to create a biocrude slurry for transport and subsequent gasification to syngas and subsequent catalytic conversion to chemicals and/or fuels.
A key technology in the process is the centralized oxygen-blown, slagging-entrained flow gasifier operating at high pressure above the downstream synthesis pressure to avoid expensive intermediate syngas compression, according to FZK. The reaction chamber is enclosed by a membrane wall, cooled with pressurized water and can accommodate feed with much ash. Because of the high gasification temperature (above ca. 1,200 °C), the raw syngas is practically tar-free and has a low CH4 content; thus simplifying downstream syngas cleaning.
In principle, they note, any pumpable fluid feed, which can be pneumatically atomized with oxygen and has a heating value above 10 MJ/kg, is suited as the feed for the entrained flow gasifier feed. The pre-conversion of biomass into the biosyncrude slurry via the distributed FP plants increases the feedstock flexibility considerably. The biosyncrude is well suited for energy-dense storage and transport, resulting in lower transportation costs and large biomass delivery areas.
Because of the complex technology to be applied, BTL plants for biosynfuel production can only be economic in large facilities, the researchers say. Furthermore, given the limitations on biomass conversion to biosynfuel, the FZK team sees an ongoing role for coal and natural gas derived synthetic fuels, likely combined with BTL in very large integrated XTL complexes.
The energy efficiency of biomass conversion to biosynfuel via syngas as intermediate is only about 40%. A substitution of the present 2008 global motor fuel consumption of 2 Gtoe/a would therefore require a biomass harvest of 4 Gtoe/a. This is four times the present global bioenergy consumption of 1 Gtoe/a and will probably be at the limit of a sustainable level. In view of the still-growing motor fuel consumption and many other competitive uses of biomass, a complete substitution of fossil motor fuels by biosynfuel is not only rather unlikely but almost impossible. A sufficient and sustainable long-term supply with liquid hydrocarbon fuels seems possible only for special applications where liquid fuels are hard to replace e.g., as aviation fuel. This sustainable level probably is less than a quarter of the future transportation energy consumption.
It is therefore likely, that during the inevitable development and transition to new transportation techniques, the still-abundant coal and also natural gas reserves will play an important intermediate role for several decades. Corresponding CTL and GTL technologies for oil substitution are available already today and can be combined with BTL technology in huge and more economic mixed XTL complexes.
...In a BTL plant, practically all biocarbon can be converted into biosynfuel in an environmentally safe way, if the required additional H2 is supplied from other sources, e.g., via coal gasification, and the produced fossil CO2 is completely disposed of with little additional technical effort. The biosynfuel production can at least be doubled in this way and the huge XTL complex can contribute via the economy of scale. The Karlsruhe bioliq concept is well suited for large XTL concepts with mixed feedstock.—Henrich et al. (2009)
Edmund Henrich, Nicolaus Dahmen and Eckhard Dinjus, (2009) Cost estimate for biosynfuel production via biosyncrude gasification. Biofuels, Bioprod. Bioref. 3:28–41 doi: 10.1002/bbb.126
ATCO and Praxair Developing H2 Infrastructure for Oil Sands
ATCO Energy Solutions and Praxair Canada Inc. are pursuing the development of hydrogen storage and pipeline infrastructure in Alberta, focusing on opportunities northeast of Edmonton where the growth in heavy-oil processing in Alberta has created an increased demand for hydrogen. Hydrogen is used to remove sulfur so that the end-product fuels are cleaner-burning and meet environmental standards.
In addition to hydrogen storage, ATCO Energy Solutions and Praxair are assessing an expansion of Praxair’s hydrogen pipeline network in the Alberta Industrial Heartland to support the significant projects planned for the area. Currently, Praxair owns and operates the only existing hydrogen pipeline network in Alberta.
ATCO Energy Solutions provides value added infrastructure and services to both municipal and industrial customers including pipelines, water and wastewater treatment, high voltage industrial systems and hydrocarbon storage, including hydrogen.
Praxair, a leading global hydrogen supplier, also operates a 500 km hydrogen pipeline complex—one of the world’s largest—along the US Gulf Coast. Integrated into the complex is the industry’s first and only commercial hydrogen storage cavern, which allows Praxair to meet customers’ planned and unplanned peak demand.
Separately, Dynamic Fuels, LLC, a joint venture between Tyson Foods, Inc. and Syntroleum Corporation awarded Praxair a contract for hydrogen supply for use in producing renewable fuels from non-food-grade animal fats produced or procured by Tyson Foods, using Syntroleum’s bio-synfining technology. (Earlier post.)
Dynamic Fuels’ $138 million plant is currently scheduled to begin production in 2010, with a total capacity of 75 million gallons of fuel per year.
Washington Governor and Legislators Introduce Climate Action Plan; $419M for Transportation Projects
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire and legislative leaders have introduced a Green Jobs and Climate Action legislative package that proposes investments totaling $455 million in the next biennium for energy-reducing transportation projects, energy efficiency projects, green buildings and clean-energy technology.
Of the $455 million:
$419 million goes to transportation projects and programs such as: investments in HOV lanes; bike and pedestrian safe projects; park and ride lots; more vanpool vehicles; expanded commute reduction programs; biodiesel fuel for ferries; ramp metering; express lane system automation.
$20 million is in additional capital funding for the expansion of allowable Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) activities to include clean technology.
$10 million goes to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in public facilities and publicly funded housing.
$6 million is allocated for the Energy Freedom Program to support biomass energy projects such as anaerobic digesters and biofuels processing equipment.
Also included in the plan is:
Legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions and create market incentives that will drive reductions in climate-changing greenhouse gas pollution through a cap-and-trade system designed last year by the seven states (including Washington) and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative.
Legislation providing a new state sales tax exemption to encourage Washington residents to purchase new plug-in hybrid electric passenger cars, light duty trucks, and medium duty passenger vehicles. The tax exemption starts on July 1, 2009 and extends to January 1, 2014.
A proposed partnership with the state’s clean technology industries to identify actions needed to ensure that Washington remains at the cutting edge of the green energy future.
Asking the State Building Code Council to improve building energy efficiency by 30 percent beyond the 2006 standards.
The governor and legislators said that the new legislation and investments are necessary for Washington to reach the greenhouse gas reductions called for in state law, which are: shrinking greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels by 2020; and cutting greenhouse gases to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Without the new legislation, Washington’s climate action policies will achieve only 45% of the reductions the state needs to meet by 2020.
Turbine Truck Engines Enters Strategic Alliance With China Corporation; Two New Engine Designs to Result
Turbine Truck Engines, Inc. (TTE), the developer of the concept Detonation Cycle Gas Turbine (DCGT) for heavy-duty vehicle applications (earlier post), has signed a strategic alliance agreement with China-based Aerospace Machinery & Electric Equipment Company, Ltd. (AMEC).
Details of the agreement call for the two companies to collaborate on the development and commercialization of the DCGT specifically for application opportunities in China. AMEC and TTE will collaborate on modifying and applying the DCGT engine technology to create two new engine designs: a 150 hp (112 kW) engine for automobiles and a 400 hp (298 kW) engine for buses.
Both parties also anticipate that, pursuant to satisfactory participation and performance by AMEC, they will enter into a Joint Venture agreement whereby TTE will grant AMEC the exclusive rights to manufacture, market and sell the DCGT engines in China. Currently TTE is testing a fifth-generation prototype clean-air engine specifically designed for trucking industry applications, using alternative fuels.
January 30, 2009
Risø DTU Developing Electrochemical Method for Diesel Exhaust Treatment
Risø, the National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), is developing an electrochemical method for purifying exhaust, especially exhaust gases from diesel engines. The four-year project has received DKK 17 million (US$2.9 million) from the Danish Council for Strategic Research (the Programme Commission on Sustainable Energy and Environment).
Electrochemical exhaust treatment is based on selective membrane processes, where only an electrical current is used as a reagent. The electrochemical membrane consists of an electrolyte that separates a set of porous electrodes, similar to a fuel cell. The electrolyte can conduct ions, but not electrons. The electrodes act as catalysts for the electrochemical reactions.
|A small filter unit in a test installation of a 0.5-liter diesel engine at Dinex Emission Technology A/S. Click to enlarge.|
Research on the electrochemical reduction of pollutants has been underway since 1975, when Pancharatnam et al. used a zirconia-based oxide ion conducting electrolyte to reduce NO to elemental nitrogen and oxide anions on a Pt-electrode. The main obstacle with this technique, according to Risø, is that the presence of oxygen lowers the activity of this type of system towards the reduction of NO and thereby increases the current consumption.
Dinex Filter Technology A/S, a participant in Risø project, has demonstrated the electrochemical oxidation of soot. Dinex captures the soot in a porous structure consisting of an oxide ionic conducting electrolyte and a pair of electronic conducting ceramic electrodes. Reactive oxide anions are pumped to the anode where they react with the soot particles forming CO2.
The electrochemical oxidation of hydrocarbons in an all solid state electrochemical cell has been studied by several authors. The main problem is that not all the hydrocarbons are converted to CO2, but that CO and partially oxidized hydrocarbons also are formed.
In principle, says Risø, it is possible to combine all the processes in one porous filter built with alternating layers of electrodes and electrolyte. The driving force for the reactions (see diagram at top) is an external potential difference imposed between the top and the bottom of the filter.
Such electrochemical exhaust gas treatment has a number of advantages over existing filters making it attractive to target this research at the car industry, Risø says. Purification of carbon particles, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and unburned hydrocarbons from the exhaust can all happen in the same filter unit.
Existing diesel exhaust aftertreatment solutions generally require the installation of particulate filters and either an SCR catalyst (Selective Catalytic Reduction), a NOx absorber, or use recirculation of the exhaust gas. This leads to additional cost.
Another advantage of using electrochemical methods, according to Risø, is that it is not necessary to add other substances to the fuel. Conventional SCR technology typically uses nitrogen-containing urea as a reducing agent to remove NOx from the exhaust. Also, the filter can be produced without the use of precious metals.
The treatment of exhaust gas is conducted independently of the engine operation, potentially leading to fuel savings compared with the leading alternative technologies. The technology could also be applied in the purification of flue gas from power plants, and possibly in the shipping industry.
The project intends to develop the technology into a prototype for use under realistic conditions in a diesel engine.
The project is led by Kent Kammer Hansen, Senior Scientist in the Fuel Cells and Solid State Chemistry Division at Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, the Technical University of Denmark. Also participating in the project are the Department of Mechanical Engineering at DTU and the company Dinex Emission Technology A/S.
USDA, DOE to Provide Up To $25M for Biomass Research and Development
The US Departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) will provide up to $25 million in funding for research and development of technologies and processes to produce biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value bio-based products, subject to annual appropriations.
USDA and DOE are issuing a joint funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for several types of projects aimed at increasing the availability of alternative renewable fuels and bio-based products. The projects will aim to create a diverse group of economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass. Advanced biofuels produced from these types of sources are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50%.
The FOA will fund projects in the following three technical areas specified in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008:
- Feedstocks development;
- Biofuels and bio-based products development; and,
- Biofuels development analysis.
Award amounts are planned to range from $1 million to up to $5 million with project periods up to four years, subject to annual appropriations. Eligible applicants include institutions of higher education, national laboratories, federal research agencies, state research agencies, private sector entities, non-profit organizations, or a consortium of two or more of those entities.
These projects will be among many Obama Administration investments that will help strengthen our economy and address the climate crisis. A robust biofuels industry—focused on the next generation of biofuels—is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing our addiction to foreign oil and putting Americans back to work—Secretary of Energy Steven Chu
The FOA will be available online at www.grants.gov. The closing date for pre-applications is 6 March 2009, which must be submitted electronically. A minimum recipient cost-share of at least 20% of total project cost for research and development projects and 50% of total project cost for demonstration projects is required.
JAL Conducts Successful Test Flight With Drop-in Biofuel Derived Primarily from Camelina
Japan Airlines (JAL) became the first airline to conduct a demonstration flight using a biofuel primarily refined from the energy crop camelina. (Earlier post.) It was also the first demo flight using a combination of three sustainable biofuel feedstocks—camelina (84%), jatropha (less than 16%), and algae (less than 1%)—as well as the first one using Pratt & Whitney engines.
|“We have proven that we can produce renewable jet fuel from sustainable resources that is a drop-in replacement eliminating the need for costly changes to the fuels infrastructure and transportation fleet. This technology can be utilized to begin making an impact on the aviation fuel supply in as little as three years.”|
—Jennifer Holmgren, General Manager of UOP Renewable Energy and Chemical
The approximately one and half-hour demo flight using a JAL-owned Boeing 747-300 aircraft, carrying no passengers or payload, took off from Haneda Airport, Tokyo at 11:50am (JST). A blend of 50% biofuel (synthetic paraffinic kerosene, SPK) and 50% traditional Jet-A jet (kerosene) fuel was tested in the No.3 engine (middle right), one of the aircraft’s four Pratt & Whitney JT9D engines. No modifications to the aircraft or engine were required for biofuel, which is a drop-in replacement for petroleum-based fuel.
The JAL cockpit crew onboard the aircraft checked the engine’s performance during normal and non-normal flight operations, which included quick accelerations and decelerations, and engine shutdown and restart. A ground-based preflight test was conducted the day before the flight to ensure that the No. 3 engine functioned normally using the biofuel/traditional Jet-A fuel blend.
Data recorded on the aircraft will now be analyzed to determine if equivalent engine performance was seen from the biofuel blend compared to typical Jet A fuel. The initial analysis of the data will take several weeks and will be conducted by team members from Boeing, Japan Airlines, and Pratt & Whitney.
The fuel for the JAL demo flight was successfully converted from plant-based crude oil to SPK, then blended with typical jet fuel by Honeywell’s UOP, a refining technology developer, using proprietary hydro-processing technology. Subsequent laboratory testing by Boeing, UOP, and several independent laboratories verified the biofuel met the industry criteria for jet fuel performance.
Sustainable Oils, Inc. sourced the camelina used in the JAL demo flight. Terasol Energy sourced and provided the jatropha oil, and the algae oil was provided by Sapphire Energy. Nikki Universal, a joint venture of UOP and JGC, supplied the biofuel used in the flight, which had been produced in the US by UOP.
Also known as gold-of-pleasure or false flax, camelina is good candidate for a sustainable biofuel source, given its high oil content and ability to grow in rotation with wheat and other cereal crops. The crop is mostly grown in more moderate climates such as the northern plains of the US and Canada, and originally hails from northern Europe and Central Asia. Test plots are also underway in Malaysia, South Korea, Ukraine and Latvia.
Azure Dynamics Balance Hybrid Electric Shuttle Bus Completes Altoona Testing
Azure Dynamics’ Balance Hybrid Electric shuttle bus on the Ford E-450 chassis (earlier post) has been certified by Altoona testing, thereby enabling purchasers of these hybrid vehicles to apply for financial assistance from the federal government.
Altoona testing subjects vehicle to a lifetime of usage in just a few months time at the Altoona, PA accelerated durability test center where harsh road conditions mimic real-world conditions endured by a commercial shuttle bus over a seven-year, 200,000 mile cycle.
The successful completion of this test qualifies Ford E-450 shuttle buses built with Azure’s Balance Hybrid Electric drive train system for Federal Transit Authority (FTA) programs of up to 80% funding when purchased by public transit agencies across the United States.
In addition to FTA programs, the Balance hybrids may qualify for up to a US$3,000 Federal tax credit and/or numerous individual state and agency programs.
The E-450 shuttle bus with Azure’s Balance Hybrid System, along with Azure’s series hybrid HD Senator CitiBus (earlier post), are the only hybrid shuttle buses that have completed this significant Altoona durability testing.
Marine Scientists Issue Monaco Declaration Calling for Immediate Action to Reduce Ocean Acidification
More than 150 leading marine scientists from 26 countries are calling for immediate action by policymakers to reduce CO2 emissions sharply so as to avoid widespread and severe damage to marine ecosystems from increasing ocean acidification—the “other CO2 problem”. They issued this warning in the Monaco Declaration, released on 30 January.
The scientists note that ocean acidification is already detectable, and that it is accelerating. They caution that its negative socio-economic impacts can only be avoided by limiting future atmospheric CO2 levels.
The Monaco Declaration is based on the Research Priorities Report developed by participants at last October’s 2nd international symposium on The Ocean in a High-CO2 World, organized by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP), with the support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and several other partners.
The chemistry is so fundamental and changes so rapid and severe that impacts on organisms appear unavoidable. The questions are now how bad will it be and how soon will it happen. The report from the symposium summarizes the state of the science and priorities for future research, while the Monaco Declaration implores political leaders to launch urgent actions to limit the source of the problem.—James Orr, Marine Environment Laboratories (MEL-IAEA) and chairman of the symposium
The ocean absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere at a rate of more than 20 million tons per day, thus removing one-fourth of the anthropogenic CO2 emitted to the atmosphere each year and reducing the climate-change impacts of this greenhouse gas. However, when CO2 dissolves in seawater, it forms carbonic acid. As this “ocean acidification” continues, it decreases both ocean pH and the concentration of carbonate ion, the basic building block of the shells and skeletons of many marine organisms.
The rate of current acidification is much more rapid that past natural changes. Surface ocean pH has already dropped by 0.1 units since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This rate of acidification has not been experienced by marine organisms, including reef-building corals, for many millions of years, notes the Research Priorities report. The future chemical changes that will occur in the ocean as a result of increasing atmospheric CO2 are highly predictable.
Across the range of IPCC SRES scenarios, surface ocean pH is projected to decrease by 0.4 ± 0.1 pH units by 2100 relative to preindustrial conditions (Meehl et al, 2007). A previous natural ocean acidification event that occurred approximately 55 million years ago at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is linked to mass extinctions of some calcareous marine organisms (Zachos et al., 2004). After the PETM’s relatively rapid onset of acidification, which could have lasted for many centuries or millennia, it exhibited a slow recovery period that spanned millions of years.
Today’s anthropogenic “acidification event” differs because it is human-induced and because it may be occurring much more rapidly. Previous natural acidification events may have been associated with the five major coral mass extinction events that are known to have occurred during Earth’s history (Veron, 2008). Recovery from the current large, rapid, human-induced perturbation, if left unchecked, will require thousands of years for the Earth system to reestablish even roughly similar ocean chemistry (Archer, 2005; Montenegro et al., 2007; Tyrrell et al., 2007; Archer and Brovkin, 2008), and from hundreds of thousands to millions of years for coral reefs to be reestablished, based on past records of natural coral-reef extinction events (Veron, 2008).—“Research Priorities”
According to the experts, ocean acidification may render most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050 if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase. It could lead to substantial changes in commercial fish stocks, threatening food security for millions of people as well as the multi-billion dollar fishing industry.
The Monaco Declaration is a clear statement from this expert group of marine scientists that ocean acidification is happening fast and highlights the critical importance of documenting associated changes to marine life.—Professor Sybil Seitzinger, Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP)
The Declaration urges policymakers around the world to develop ambitious, urgent plans to cut CO2 emissions drastically to prevent severe damages from ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification can be controlled only by limiting future atmospheric CO2 levels. So-called geo-engineering strategies that would not aim to restrict future atmospheric CO2 concentrations would not reduce ocean acidification. Mitigation strategies that aim to transfer CO2 to the ocean, for example by direct deepsea disposal of CO2 or by fertilizing the ocean to stimulate biological productivity, would enhance ocean acidification in some areas while reducing it in others.
Climate-change negotiations focused on stabilizing greenhouse gases must consider not only the total radiation balance; they must also consider atmospheric CO2 as a pollutant, an acid gas whose release to the atmosphere must be curtailed in order to limit ocean acidification. Hence, limits (stabilization targets) for atmospheric CO2 defined based on ocean acidification may differ from those based on surface temperature increases and climate change.—Monaco Declaration
In a paper in the journal Science published in July 2008, a team of researchers warned that the ecological and economic consequences of ocean acidification are difficult to predict but possibly calamitous, and that halting the changes already underway will likely require even steeper cuts in carbon emissions than those currently proposed to curb climate change. (Earlier post.)
Position Analysis: CO2 and climate change: ocean impacts and adaptation issues (Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre)