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April 2010

April 30, 2010

Turbine Truck Engines and Beijing Royal Aerospace Facilities Co., Ltd. Sign Cooperative Agreement

Turbine Truck Engines and Beijing Royal Aerospace Facilities Co., Ltd. (ROYAL) have signed a Cooperative Agreement in which Royal will coordinate further funding, design, testing, technical evaluation, and other matters regarding building engineered prototype units of the Detonation Cycle Gas Turbine (DCGT) engine for the heavy duty trucking industry in China. (Earlier post.)

Royal will be the exclusive partner for this application in China and will apply for government funding through an Energy Saving and Lower Emission Project Grant awarded to innovative green technology companies throughout China.

With these resources, Aerospace Mechanical and Electrical Equipment Company Co., Ltd. (AMEC), a strategic ally of TTE, and Royal would then work jointly to develop 300 to 600 horsepower versions of the DCGT to be used in heavy-duty trucks.

April 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

ClipperCreek and Silver Spring Networks Develop Level 2 EVSE Smart Charging Station

ClipperCreek, Inc., a leading producer of plug-in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and Silver Spring Networks, a leading Smart Grid solutions provider, have jointly developed the first fully integrated, Level 2 Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) smart charging station.

The companies are currently working with a variety of utilities to develop hardware and software needed to effectively manage the smart charging of electric vehicles.

The ClipperCreek EVSE is fully integrated with the Silver Spring Smart Energy Platform and enables end-to-end connectivity from the utility back office to the smart charging station. Utilities and municipalities looking to roll out electric vehicle charging infrastructure can now integrate ClipperCreek’s Smart Grid-networked charging stations into their demand management systems.

Connecting charging stations to the Smart Grid will enable utilities and consumers to intelligently manage the charging load, keeping costs low and reduce the need to build additional generation capacity.

ClipperCreek produced more than 2,000 chargers in 2009 and is the exclusive provider of EVSE chargers for BMW’s Mini-E and for Tesla Motors’ Level 2 EVSE charging stations. ClipperCreek also provides chargers to power Mercedes, GM and Nissan vehicles.

Silver Spring’s Smart Energy Platform is based on open, Internet Protocol (IP) standards, allowing continuous, two-way communication between the utility and devices on the grid. Silver Spring has numerous deployments with leading utilities in the US and abroad, including Florida Power & Light, Pacific Gas & Electric, Pepco Holdings, Inc., Jemena Electricity Networks Limited and United Energy Distribution, among others.

April 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Researchers Discover Inexpensive Catalyst That Generates Hydrogen from Buffered Water or Sea Water

[(PY5Me2)Mo(CF3SO3)]1+ reacts with water to form
[(PY5Me2)MoO]2+ and H2. Credit: Nature, Karunadasa et al. Click to enlarge.

A team of researchers with the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley has discovered an inexpensive metal catalyst that can effectively generate hydrogen gas from water at neutral pH or from sea water.

The new proton reduction catalyst is based on a molybdenum-oxo metal complex that is about 70 times cheaper than platinum—currently the most widely used metal catalyst for splitting the water molecule—according to Hemamala Karunadasa, one of the co-discoverers of this complex and lead author of a paper describing the work published 29 April in the journal Nature.

In addition, our catalyst does not require organic additives, and can operate in neutral water, even if it is dirty, and can operate in sea water, the most abundant source of hydrogen on earth and a natural electrolyte. These qualities make our catalyst ideal for renewable energy and sustainable chemistry.

—Hemamala Karunadasa

The electrolytic production of water requires a water-splitting catalyst. Plants uses hydrogenases during photosynthesis; however, these enzymes are unstable and easily deactivated when removed from their native environment. Human activities seem to demand a stable metal catalyst that can operate under non-biological settings.

Metal catalysts are commercially available, but they are low valence precious metals the high costs of which make their widespread use prohibitive. For example, platinum, the best of them, costs some $2,000 an ounce.

The basic scientific challenge has been to create earth-abundant molecular systems that produce hydrogen from water with high catalytic activity and stability. We believe our discovery of a molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water without the use of additional acids or organic co-solvents establishes a new chemical paradigm for creating reduction catalysts that are highly active and robust in aqueous media.

—Christopher Chang, co-author

The molybdenum-oxo complex that Karunadasa, Chang and Jeffrey Long discovered is a high valence metal named (PY5Me2)Mo-oxo. In their studies, the research team found that this complex catalyzes the generation of hydrogen from neutral buffered water or even sea water with a turnover frequency of 2.4 moles of hydrogen per mole of catalyst per second.

The work shows that high-valency metal-oxo species can be used to create reduction catalysts that are robust and functional in water, the authors said, a concept that has broad implications for the design of ‘green’ and sustainable chemistry cycles.

This metal-oxo complex represents a distinct molecular motif for reduction catalysis that has high activity and stability in water. We are now focused on modifying the PY5Me ligand portion of the complex and investigating other metal complexes based on similar ligand platforms to further facilitate electrical charge-driven as well as light-driven catalytic processes. Our particular emphasis is on chemistry relevant to sustainable energy cycles

—Jeffrey Long

This research was supported in part by the DOE Office of Science through Berkeley Lab’s Helios Solar Energy Research Center, and in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.


  • Hemamala I. Karunadasa, Christopher J. Chang & Jeffrey R. Long (2010) A molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water. Nature 464, 1329-1333 doi: 10.1038/nature08969

April 30, 2010 in Catalysts, Hydrogen Production | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Successful Engineering Validation Flight of US Commercial Jet Using 40:60 Synthetic Jet Fuel Blend

United Airlines has conducted a successful engineering validation flight using Rentech’s certified synthetic jet fuel (RenJet).

The validation flight was conducted using a 40:60 mix of Rentech’s synthetic jet fuel with conventional Jet A fuel in one of two engines on an Airbus 319 aircraft. The aircraft departed Denver International Airport and climbed to an altitude of 39,000 feet where the onboard team collected data on the performance of the fuel during several maneuvers, including taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, auxiliary power unit start, descent and approach.

The synthetic jet fuel, derived from natural gas and converted to liquid fuel through the Rentech Fischer Tropsch process, is approved by the ASTM International for use on passenger flights.

Captain Joseph Burns, United Airlines managing director, technology and flight test, led a team of 19 engineers and observers on board the flight. Definitive results and analysis of the performance of the synthetic jet fuel and the aircraft are expected within the next 10 days.

In December 2009, United, along with twelve other domestic and international passenger and cargo carriers, signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding that is intended to serve as a framework for a future definitive supply agreement from two different producers of synthetic jet fuel: AltAir Fuels LLC and RenTech Inc. (Earlier post.)

The synthetic jet fuel used in today’s engineering validation flight was produced at Rentech’s Product Demonstration Unit, in Commerce City, Colorado. This facility is designed to produce more than 400 gallons per day of ultra-clean burning synthetic jet fuel, aviation fuel, ultra-low sulfur diesel, and specialty waxes and chemicals and is scalable for greater output.

Rentech and ClearFuels Technology Inc. (ClearFuels) have been selected to receive up to $23-million grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to construct a 20 ton-per-day biomass gasifier at RETC. (Earlier post.) The gasifier will be integrated with Rentech’s PDU for the production of renewable synthetic fuels from biomass. This joint demonstration of an integrated bio-refinery will lead to the final design basis for commercial facilities that are expected to use the combined technologies.

This flight confirms our assumptions about how this fuel performs on a commercial aircraft in a variety of situations and represents the next step in our effort to stimulate competition in the aviation fuel supply chain, promote energy security through economically viable alternatives that also demonstrate environmental benefits and contribute to the creation of green jobs.

—Joseph Kolshak, United Airlines senior vice president of operations

In August 2009, United was among eight airlines who signed a multi-year agreement with Rentech for up to 1.5 million gallons per year of renewable synthetic diesel (RenDiesel) for ground service equipment operations at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) beginning in late 2012, when Rentech’s Rialto Renewable Energy Center is scheduled to go into service.

April 30, 2010 in Aviation, Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL), Coal-to-Liquids (CTL), Fuels, Gas-to-Liquids (GTL), Gasification | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

North American Countries Target “Super” Greenhouse Gases Through Strengthened Ozone Treaty

The US, Canada, and Mexico have submitted a proposal to strengthen climate protection under the Montreal Protocol— the international treaty that phases out the production of a number of substances responsible for ozone depletion. The proposal targets the production and use of HFCs, a group of “super” greenhouse gases.

Climate protection from the Montreal and Kyoto protocols. Source: IGSD. Click to enlarge.

If accepted by the other Montreal Protocol Parties, the proposal would deliver climate mitigation equivalent to preventing more than 100 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions. This is 10 to 20 times the mitigation under the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period assuming full compliance.

The Federated States of Micronesia submitted a similar proposal on HFCs as well. This is the fourth year in a row the tiny island nation has lead efforts to strengthen climate protection under the Montreal Protocol.

HFCs are a big target that can be eliminated through the world’s best environmental treaty, and at a very low cost—maybe $4 billion. The North American Parties know that eliminating one of the six Kyoto gases will give us the fast mitigation we need to avoid passing tipping points for abrupt and potentially catastrophic climate impacts. That would be one down, and five to go. But first we need to bring the rest of the Parties on board

—Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

The Montreal Protocol has already phased out nearly 100 dangerous gases and chemicals, reducing climate emissions by up to 222 billion tonnes of CO2-eq. Because HFCs have the same uses as earlier chemicals controlled by the Montreal Protocol, the treaty is equipped to ensure a cost-effective, efficient, and orderly phase-down of HFCs. HFC emissions controlled under the Kyoto Protocol would not be affected by either the North American or Micronesia proposal.

The phase-down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is essential for achieving the science-based goal of more than 100 countries to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to 350 ppm and limit temperature increases to a global average of 1.5 °C, says IGSD.

Uncontrolled growth of HFCs will offset the benefits of reducing carbon dioxide. The only way we can gain ground is by phasing down HFCs and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases and aerosols, along with aggressive CO2 cuts.

—Durwood Zaelke

More than 40 Parties expressed their support for taking action on HFCs by joining a declaration by Micronesia at the last Montreal Protocol meeting in November 2009. However, a series of challenges kept the Parties from reaching consensus on the HFC proposals.

Last year, the HFC phase-down was considered premature by some Parties, who wanted to first agree on the funding for the accelerated HCFC phase-out agreed to in 2007. Earlier this month, the funding issue was resolved when guidelines were agreed upon for releasing the $490 million for phasing out HCFCs. The decision was made by the Executive Committee of the Montreal Protocol’s funding mechanism, known as the Multilateral Fund.

The Multilateral Fund also agreed to pay a 25% premium for climate benefits when phasing out HCFCs, above and beyond the ozone-only cost-effective thresholds, where the project will provide climate benefits. This provides an incentive for countries to choose energy efficient, low-global warming potential (GWP) replacements instead of high-GWP HFCs when phasing out HCFCs. This is the first time any treaty has taken this approach.

This year, there is also more information available about a growing choice of alternatives for at least half of HFC use, including for mobile air conditioning, representing one-third of global HFC use, and foams, representing one-fifth of use.

Another issue last year was the insistence by some Parties that a phase-down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol should wait for the Copenhagen climate negotiations to play out, IGSD said.

This could be the single biggest climate play this year. Passing it up would be Planetary negligence. The US has taken the first big step in the right direction, but success will require follow-through, including Presidential leadership in the run-up to the annual meeting in November.

Carbon dioxide is the long-term bad guy, and rightfully deserves attention, but we won’t even have the chance to fight that battle if we ignore the near-term forcers.

—Durwood Zaelke


  • Mario Molina, Durwood Zaelke, K. Madhava Sarma, Stephen O. Andersen, Veerabhadran Ramanathan and Donald Kaniaru (2009) Reducing abrupt climate change risk using the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory actions to complement cuts in CO2 PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.0902568106

April 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

BYD Picks Los Angeles for US Headquarters

BYD Company Limited, one of China’s fastest growing auto manufacturers, will establish the US headquarters of three separate operating divisions in the City of Los Angeles.

Company officials estimate its new offices would create 50 jobs initially with plans to increase its assembly work force to 2,000 employees over the next three years. BYD expects to invest more than $100 million in construction, which has the potential to create approximately 1,600 construction-related jobs. The automotive industry has a rich multiplier effect, so such a development could result in numerous additional jobs being created in the County.

BYD sold nearly 450,000 vehicles in 2009, up 170% from a year earlier. This year, the company expects to reach 700,000 in vehicle sales. In addition to its conventional vehicles, BYD introduced the F3DM dual-mode electric vehicle in 2008, and will soon officially launch the e6 electric vehicle.

In addition to being North America’s largest consumer market for electric vehicles, Southern California was seen as a strategic outpost for BYD because of its proximity to major infrastructure including Los Angeles International Airport, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and several railways, and is home to major operations of other car companies such as Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Suzuki, and Mitsubishi.

BYD plans to take advantage of LA’s various incentives and programs aimed at attracting and retaining cleantech companies such as the Port of Los Angeles’ proposed “ZERO Emission Vehicle Tariff Measure” that would reduce the wharfage rate for Battery Electric Vehicles by 15%. The “ZERO emission” tariff measure will be the first of its kind in the port industry.

April 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mitsubishi and Tokyo Institute of Technology Developing EV Smart Charging from Wind Turbines

Nikkei. Mitsubishi Corp. and the Tokyo Institute of Technology are developing a smart charging system to exploit wind power produced at night to charge electric vehicles.

Power companies buy windmill electricity generated during the daytime and resell it to households, factories and buildings. But they often are not interested in buying power produced at night because of weak demand. In order to store electricity generated at night, windmill operators need to install sodium-sulfur battery systems, which are as costly as power generators.

The technology developed by the alliance is expected to help reduce this investment burden, which has prevented a wider adoption of wind power generation. It collects data both on power generation and electric vehicle recharging. Power supplied to a charging vehicle can be stopped and restarted in increments of one second. A field test of the system has been conducted in Hokkaido.

A large windmill with an output power of 3,000 kW could 200-300 electric vehicles a night. Mitsubishi reportedly is looking to commercialize the technology for locations with small grids such as remote islands by setting up electric-vehicle charging stations near windmills.

April 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Porous Power Signs $1.41M CRADA with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to Commercialize a New Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturing Process

Porous Power Technologies LLC, a developer of highly porous, laminable separator membranes for lithium-ion batteries, has signed a $1.41 million cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to accelerate the SYMMETRIX production process. (Earlier post.)

The SYMMETRIX production process reduces the cost of free-standing separator membranes by coating SYMMETRIX separator film directly on to electrodes. In addition to reducing overall battery cost, this film can:

  • Extend the life and high-power capacity of lithium-ion batteries.
  • Minimize heat generation in batteries so more energy is available for application use, which enables the batteries to operate at a safer, cooler temperature.
  • Allow batteries to charge 50% faster than equivalent batteries with traditional separators.

Porous Power has paired its separator material with a new manufacturing technique that will enable companies to produce dozens of batteries in the same time it currently takes to produce a single cell.

This dramatically alters the cost equation and paves the way for mass production of more affordable lithium-ion car batteries. This project with Oak Ridge will accelerate the development of the patent-pending SYMMETRIX production process and confirm the safest, most cost-effective materials to use in these batteries.

—Tim Feaver, Porous Power’s CEO

ORNL selected this project, in part, because it answers all four of the key technology barriers cited in the DOE Vehicle Technologies Program 2008 Annual Progress Report: cost, performance, abuse tolerance and battery life.

April 30, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Deepwater Horizon Incident Declared Spill of National Significance; Attempts to Apply Dispersants at Source 1,500 Meters Below Surface

Deepwater Horizon trajectory map 30 April. Click to enlarge.

The Obama Administration has declared the Deepwater Horizon incident a Spill of National Significance (SONS). A SONS is defined as “a spill that, due to its severity, size, location, actual or potential impact on the public health and welfare or the environment, or the necessary response effort, is so complex that it requires extraordinary coordination of federal, state, local, and responsible party resources to contain and clean up the discharge” and allows greater federal involvement.

Estimates of the release rate increased to 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day based on surface observations and reports of a newly discovered leak in the damaged piping on the sea floor. (Earlier post.) Projections are that the oil slick will reach Louisiana shoreline areas today.

IXTOC I: 3 Jun 1979 to 23 Mar 1980
On 3 June 1979, the 2-mile deep exploratory well, IXTOC I, blew out in the Bahia de Campeche, 600 miles south of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. The IXTOC I was being drilled by the SEDCO 135, a semi-submersible platform on lease to Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX).
The oil and gas blowing out of the well ignited, causing the platform to catch fire. The burning platform collapsed into the wellhead area hindering any immediate attempts to control the blowout.
The well began spilling oil at a rate of 10,000 to 30,000 barrels per day. By the time the well was brought under control in 1980, an estimated 140 million gallons of oil had spilled into the bay.
IXTOC I well blowout. Click to enlarge.
Although the response team was eventually able to activate the BOP, the pressure of the hydrocarbons began rupturing the valves, and the BOP was reopened. Two relief wells were eventually drilled to relieve pressure and allow the capping of the well on 23 March 1980.
The IXTOC I incident is currently #2 on the all-time list of largest oil spills of all-time, eclipsed only by the deliberate release of oil, from many different sources, during the 1991 Gulf War.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is assisting the Unified Command in evaluating a new technique to apply dispersants to oil at the source 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) below the surface. If successful, this would keep plumes and sheens from forming.

Work continues on a piping system designed to take oil from a collection dome at the sea floor to tankers on the surface; this technique has never been tried at these depths. Drilling of a relief or cut-off well is still planned, but will not be complete for several months.

Dispersants are still being aggressively applied, with more than 100,000 gallons having been applied. The small test burn earlier in the week was successful and approximately 100 barrels of oil were burned in about 45 minutes. Additional efforts are planned contingent on good weather.

With shore impacts looming, sensitive shorelines are being pre-boomed. More than 180,000 feet of boom have been deployed, and another 300,000 feet are forward staged. NOAA efforts have included: getting pre-impact samples surveys and baseline measurements, planning for open water and shoreline remediation, modeling the trajectory and extent of the oil, supporting the Unified Command as it analyzes new techniques for handling the spill. Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) activities are also underway.

The State of Louisiana is allowing shrimpers to start an early season to get ahead of oil impacts.

April 30, 2010 in Oil | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

SABIC Innovative Plastics Introduces New Portfolio of Materials Targeted at Hybrid and EV Battery Packs

SABIC Innovative Plastics used Chinaplas 2010 in Shanghai as the venue to introduce a new portfolio of advanced Noryl and Valox automotive resins targeted for use in battery packs for hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and battery electric vehicles (BEV). SABIC Innovative Plastics is a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), one of the world’s top five petrochemicals manufacturers.

To reduce the additional weight burden of large battery packs—up to 300 kg (approx. 661 lbs.) on a mid-sized car—plastics can replace steel in different applications such as battery housings, an approach that is already being taken with some auto manufacturers.

Noryl polyphenylene oxide (PPO) and Valox polybutadiene terephthalate (PBT) resins from SABIC Innovative Plastics are choices for battery components, including frames and housings. These resins also offer significant weight reduction, chemical and temperature resistance, dimensional stability and flame retardance.

Unlike traditional automotive lead-acid batteries, new higher energy density battery packs are composed of many separate battery cells, and the structure around these cells and their electronic control systems must maintain stringent dimensional stability. With so many stacked components in limited spaces, even a little instability could potentially cause misfits, leakage or possible damage due to limited clearances.

SABIC Innovative Plastics’ Noryl and Noryl GTX resins offer lower initial mold shrink and warp; lower moisture uptake that minimizes dimensional and mechanical property changes; and a lower and more stable coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE). These high-end properties help keep the performance of the battery pack system stable regardless of potential changes in environment such as temperature, humidity, and load.

Noryl resin is an amorphous polymer that can maintain its stiffness across a broad temperature range. This ensures better dimensional stability without the use of glass or other fillers that are needed in crystalline resins like polyamides, which may result in dimensional control issues of a part due to anisotropic shrink/growth. The cost-effective Noryl resin family can provide these benefits without compromising chemical resistance to common battery coolant fluids such as ethylene glycol.

Battery electric vehicles are also becoming more attractive with the advancement of new lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries that have higher power and energy density. In general, batteries operate best at controlled temperatures, requiring vital temperature management of the battery packs. To cool them, liquid cooling often replaces air-cooling for greater efficiency. As a result, these liquids require chemically resistant, high-performance engineering thermoplastic materials. Further, if power is withdrawn from a battery, it will heat up, thus requiring materials with appropriate heat resistance.

SABIC Innovative Plastics offers a number of materials with these properties, including Ultem polyetherimide (PEI) resin with high heat resistance and inherent flame retardance, and Valox PBT resin with high heat and chemical resistance.

In HEVs, the higher the voltage, the more important electromagnetic interference/radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI) shielding becomes to control the potential interference from the different electronic components such as inverters, electronic control units and battery management system. LNP Faradex compounds from SABIC Innovative Plastics provide exceptional EMI/RFI shielding properties without the heavy weight of metal layers or the environmental risks of metallization.

April 30, 2010 in Batteries, Plastics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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