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August 2010

August 31, 2010

California To Extend HOV Access To Up To 40,000 PHEVs

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill (SB 535) into law that extends HOV-lane access to qualifying plug-in hybrid vehicles starting in 2012.

SB 535 will allow up to 40,000 new HOV plug-in hybrid access stickers to be issued prior to 31 December 2014. In order to be eligible for PHEV HOV access under SB 535, vehicles must meet the California Air Resources Board’s Enhanced AT-PZEV standard.

This bill is good public policy because it creates a very strong incentive for the next generation of plug-in vehicles and will encourage more California drivers to plug in and reduce oil consumption.

—Jay Friedland, Legislative Director of Plug In America

August 31, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Propel Fuels Launches San Francisco Bay Area’s First Network of Renewable Fuel Stations; $10.9M Grant for 75 Stations Statewide Over 2 Years

California Energy Commissioner Anthony Eggert, Director of California Governor Schwarzenegger’s Office of Economic Development (GoED) Joel Ayala, and officials from Propel Fuels, CALSTART, and East Bay Clean Cities, formally launched Propel’s San Francisco Bay Area operations, which will include more than 20 stations across the Bay, with up to 10 open by the year’s end.

A Propel Clean Fuel Point. Click to enlarge.

The event also announced a $10.9 million grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and California Energy Commission (CEC) to build and operate 75 retail renewable fuel stations throughout California over the next two years.

The station development project, known as the Low Carbon Fuel Infrastructure Investment Initiative (LCFI3), has the potential to displace 39 million gallons of petroleum and 187,500 tons of CO2 emissions per year. Propel will match this grant with $16 million in private investment to accelerate the build-out of its statewide network of Clean Fuel Points.

Approximately $6.9 million of the project funding was awarded by the US DOE Clean Cities’ Petroleum Reduction program, with another $4 million granted through the state of California’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology program.

Along with the new station build-out, alternative fuel education and community outreach are a piece of LCFI3. Propel will work with community partners CALSTART and East Bay Clean Cities to educate consumers and fleets on the wide spread benefits of low carbon, alternative fuels available today and those next generation fuels coming in the future.

Propel has already begun construction of the station locations in major markets across California, with the network of 75 stations funded by this project to be complete by the end of 2011. Currently there are three locations open in the Bay Area (Fremont, Oakland, South San Jose) with additional sites planned for Downtown San Jose, North San Jose, Berkeley, Palo Alto, Redwood City, Livermore, and Concord in the coming months. More information on current and future Propel locations can be found at www.propelfuels.com.

August 31, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

First Drivable Chevy Volts Arrive in China

The first drivable Chevrolet Volts have arrived in China; China is one of the initial markets outside the United States to receive the Volt. The extended range electric vehicle will go on sale locally next year.

GM delivered two Chevrolet Volts to the Shanghai Expo Bureau for use as part of its VIP transportation fleet at World Expo 2010 Shanghai. The Volt will shuttle special guests to and from Shanghai’s Expo Park.

The Volt will be available in China with the OnStar in-vehicle safety, security and communication service. Chevrolet and OnStar developed the smartphone application system that will allow Volt owners to set the charge time, start their vehicle, track mileage, unlock doors and much more from a smartphone or home computer on a 24/7 basis.

August 31, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Pike Forecasts Grid Stationary Energy Storage Market to Reach $35B by 2020; Significant Opportunity for CAES, Li-ion and Flow Batteries

According to a new report from Pike Research, worldwide installed revenues for stationary energy storage systems for the electricity grid will grow at a strong pace in the coming decade, increasing from $1.5 billion in 2010 to $35.3 billion annually by 2020.

Worldwide installed revenue opportunity by energy storage on the grid (ESG) technology, 2010-2020. Source: Pike Research. Click to enlarge.

Demand is being driven by several key trends including the proliferation of renewable energy from variable sources such as wind and solar, the expansion of utility smart grid initiatives, and the introduction of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, Pike says.

Energy storage on the grid addresses several pressing market needs. Today, applications for energy storage include load following, renewable energy grid integration, and renewable energy time shifting. In the coming years, the number of applications for energy storage on the grid will expand to include the opportunity for utilities to defer transmission and distribution (T&D) capital upgrades, time of use energy cost management for the commercial and industrial (C&I) segments, and conventional energy time shifting.

—David Link, Pike Research senior analyst

Traditional options for long-duration energy storage include pumped hydroelectric storage, compressed air energy storage (CAES), and sodium sulfur (NAS) batteries. Other more nascent energy storage technologies are lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries and flow batteries. While there is room for a variety of technologies, Pike Research forecasts the most significant growth opportunities for CAES, Li-ion batteries, and flow batteries.

Pike Research’s report, “Energy Storage on the Grid”, provides a detailed examination of the applications that will drive energy storage adoption between now and 2020, as well as the technologies that will enable them. It examines the business models, policy and regulatory factors, technology issues, and underlying economics that will define the rapidly expanding energy storage market. The report includes profiles and SWOT analysis for 30 key industry players, as well as global market forecasts, segmented by world region and technology, for the period from 2010 to 2020.

August 31, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

New Process for Production of Biodiesel Directly From Wet Algal Biomass Could Reduce Energy and Financial Costs

Process flow diagram for biodiesel production through intracellular lipid hydrolysis and supercritical in situ transesterification (SC-IST/E) using ethanol (EtOH). Credit: ACS, Levine et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed and demonstrated the feasibility of a two-step hydrolysis-solvolysis process to produce biodiesel directly from wet algal biomass. Their process eliminates the need for biomass drying, organic solvent extraction, and catalysts, and provides a mechanism for nutrient (e.g., N, P, and glycerol) recycling. A paper on the process was published 30 August in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

Levine et al. reported that a cursory investigation of the influence of some key process variables resulted in crude biodiesel and FAEE (fatty acid ethyl esters) yields as high as 100 and 66%, respectively, on the basis of lipids within the hydrolysis solids. Considering that about 80-90% of lipids in the original algal biomass were retained in the solids recovered after hydrolysis, the authors noted, the total process yield was somewhat lower.

...dewatering and drying remain energy- and cost-intensive processes. A recent life-cycle assessment (LCA) of algal biodiesel production from Chlorella vulgaris indicated that drying and hexane extraction accounted for up to 90% of the total process energy. These data indicate that drying algal biomass and treating it as a substitute for terrestrial oilseeds in traditional solvent extraction and subsequent transesterification processes is not likely to be a net energy positive route toward sustainable biodiesel production.

A biodiesel production process that obviates biomass drying and organic solvent use for oil extraction could lead to significant energy and cost savings...Herein we propose a two-step, catalyst-free biodiesel production process involving intracellular lipid hydrolysis coupled with supercritical in situ transesterification (SC-IST/E).

—Levine et al.

The team used the alga Chlorella vulgaris as the lipid-rich feedstock (53.3% lipids as FAEE). In the first step of the process, the wet algal biomass (ca. 80% moisture) reacts in subcritical water to hydrolyze intracellular lipids, conglomerate cells into an easily filterable solid that retains the lipids, and produce a sterile, nutrient-rich aqueous phase.

In the second step, the wet fatty acid-rich solids undergo supercritical in situ transesterification (SC-IST/E) with ethanol to produce biodiesel in the form of fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs).

Longer time, higher temperature, and greater ethanol loading tended to increase crude biodiesel and FAEE yields, which ranged from about 56-100% and 34-66%, respectively, on the basis of lipid in the hydrolysis solids.

More remains to be understood regarding how whole cells, hydrothermally processed algal biomass, and intracellular constituents influence SC-IST/E and potentially contribute to nonester components in the final fuel product. Additional research and process optimization are likely to improve yields and reduce process inputs (e.g., ethanol), thereby minimizing the overall environmental impact of algal biodiesel production. To be economically viable, biodiesel yields must be above 95% and preferably higher than current norms achieved with alkali-catalyzed processes (~97%).

—Levine et al.


  • Robert B. Levine, Tanawan Pinnarat and Phillip E. Savage (2010) Biodiesel Production from Wet Algal Biomass through in Situ Lipid Hydrolysis and Supercritical Transesterification. Energy Fuels, Article ASAP doi: 10.1021/ef1008314

August 31, 2010 in Algal Fuels, Biodiesel, Biomass | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Mitsubishi Motors to Premiere the European-spec i-MiEV at the 2010 Paris Motor Show

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) will introduce the European-spec version of its i-MiEV electric vehicle at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. Compared with the Japanese market version, the European-spec i-MiEV includes specific features such as:

  • new design to the front and rear bumpers to meet EU regulations,
  • re-arranged center stack in the instrument panel,
  • improved interior comfort.

Furthermore, safety—both active and passive—has been improved with the addition of Active Stability Control (ASC), as well as side and curtain airbags, all standard equipment.

MMC plans to successively roll out the European-spec i-MiEV from December of this year in 14 countries including France, the United Kingdom, Germany and further expand the European rollout from fiscal year 2011.

The price of the European-spec i-MiEV will differ by country but will be set to around €33,000 – €35,000 (US$41,900 - US$44,400) or equivalent so that the final cost to the customer after government incentives (where applicable) remains under €30,000 (US$38,000) or equivalent in a majority of the countries in which it is sold.

Mitsubishi recently told the BBC that it expects the i-MiEV—and other EVs—will depreciate more rapidly than conventional vehicles. Combined with the high purchase price, Mitsubishi calculated, the total running costs of the i-MiEV could exceed those of the Fiat 500 1.2 gasoline vehicle.

MMC will display a total of 12 vehicles at its stand, including:

  • The recently introduced ASX (RVR in Japan) compact crossover equipped with MMC’s all-new 4N13 diesel engine,
  • The Lancer Sportback (Galant Fortis Sportback in Japan) now featuring the same 150 ps (148 hp, 110 kW) 1.8 DiD engine, and
  • The new Outlander 2.2 DiD mid-size crossover, the 177 ps (175 hp, 130 kW) unit of which is a further derivative (4N14) of this same family of diesel powerplants.

August 31, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

California Gasoline Demand Down 0.1%, Prices Up 24% in May

California’s gasoline consumption declined 0.1% compared with the same month last year although the average price at the pump increased 24% to $3.14 per gallon, according to figures from the state’s Board of Equalization (BOE).

Gasoline consumption edged down 0.1% in May 2010 when Californians consumed 1.290 billion gallons of gasoline compared to 1.291 billion gallons consumed in May 2009. California drivers paid an average price at the pump of $3.14 per gallon for gasoline in May 2010, which is an increase of 24% compared to May 2009 when the average price at the pump for gasoline was $2.53.

Diesel consumption in May 2010 shows that Californians used 205 million total gallons, which is a 2.1% decline from May 2009’s total of 209 million gallons of diesel used in California. Diesel prices in California in May 2010 were $3.20 per gallon, which is an increase of 36% compared to May 2009 when California diesel prices were $2.35 per gallon. Diesel consumption generally follows economic activity and is especially closely related to construction and transportation of goods.

The BOE is able to monitor gallons through tax receipts paid by fuel distributors. The figures reported monthly are net consumption that includes BOE audit assessments, refunds, amended and late tax returns, and State Controller’s Office refunds. Figures for June 2010 are scheduled to be available at the end of September 2010.

August 31, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

KBR Awarded Contract by Chemetall Foote Corp. for Lithium Hydroxide Operation Expansion

KBR’s Downstream business unit has been awarded a contract to provide engineering and procurement services to Chemetall Foote Corp. (a subsidiary of Rockwood Holdings, Inc.) for the addition of lithium hydroxide production at its current operation in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The project is funded in part by a $28.4-million grant from the US Department of Energy to expand and upgrade the production of lithium materials for advanced transportation batteries.

The award of this contract follows the execution by KBR of various development services from Front-End Loading Feasibility through the current stage of the project. KBR will work in support of Chemetall Foote to help the company meet its goal of increasing lithium hydroxide production in response to an increase in demand and forecasted growth of electric vehicles. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2011.

The DOE grant funding is provided under the Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative (DE-FOA-0000026) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) that provides up to approximately $2 billion in federal stimulus funding to support the creation of American jobs while promoting the development of US-based advanced battery production for the EDV market.

KBR is a global engineering, construction and services company supporting the energy, hydrocarbon, government services, minerals, civil infrastructure, power and industrial markets. Chemetall Foote, a member of the Chemetall group headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany is the world’s leading manufacturer of lithium-based compounds and an innovative developer of metal-based fine chemicals for use in specialty applications.

Chemetall has lithium production facilities in the United States, Chile, Germany and Taiwan. Rockwood Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Chemetall, is a leading global specialty chemicals and advanced materials company.

August 31, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

University of Alberta Researchers Find That Oil Sands Industry Is Releasing More Pollutants Into Athabasca River System Than Previously Estimated

New research from a team at the University of Alberta, Canada, finds that Alberta’s oilsands industry is releasing more pollutants into the Athabasca River, its tributaries and its watershed than previously estimated. An open access article on their study was published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Contrary to claims made by industry and government in the popular press, the oil sands industry substantially increases loadings of toxic PPE [priority pollutants] to the AR and its tributaries via air and water pathways. This increase confirms the serious defects of RAMP, which has not detected such patterns in the AR watershed. Detailed long-term monitoring is essential to distinguish the sources of these contaminants and control their potential impacts on environmental and human health. A robust monitoring program to measure exposure and health of fish, wildlife, and humans should be implemented in the region affected by oil sands development.

—Kelly et al.

University of Alberta ecologist David Schindler and the research team analyzed 13 elements in river water and snow pack along the Athabasca and its delta. The pollutants found include mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium. The researchers say the releases are a clear violation of the federal fisheries act and provincial guidelines for protection of aquatic life.

Schindler says some of the metals interact with organic pollutants, making them more toxic. The combined impact of the toxins on the river is not fully understood.

The industry’s Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program and Alberta Environment’s monitoring have missed these releases and that’s a serious problem. We’ve repeatedly questioned RAMP’S findings and nothing has been done.

—David Schindler

Schindler says this study focused on toxic elements in the Athabasca, above and below the oil sands upgraders and included analysis of airborne pollutants in the snowpack. Last year the research team reported on organic pollutants from oil sands development and found carcinogens similar to those released by the recent BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill in Alaska.

We have to establish a robust long-term monitoring program on the Athabasca. The effects on human and environmental health must be accurate and made public.

—David Schindler


  • Erin N. Kelly, David W. Schindler, Peter V. Hodson, Jeffrey W. Short, Roseanna Radmanovich, and Charlene C. Nielsen (2010) Oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1008754107

August 31, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Colorado State University Professor Developing Anaerobic Digester With Lower Water Requirements; Targeted at US Western States

A Colorado State University professor is developing an anaerobic digester that turns animal waste into methane using much less water than conventional technology, making it more economically feasible and easier for use by feedlots and dairies in Western states.

Anaerobic digesters are often applied at large animal feeding operations elsewhere in the country, largely in the Midwest or on the East Coast, because of the abundance of water resources, said Sybil Sharvelle, assistant professor of civil engineering. High liquid content waste is required by existing technology to enable pumping and mixing of the waste in addition to stimulation of the growth of microorganisms that convert waste into methane.

In the arid West, you pay for water rights, so water use is very controlled and there’s a financial motivation for producers to conserve water, which is why management practices are different.

—Sybil Sharvelle

Sharvelle and her graduate student, Luke Loetscher, are collaborating with Fort Collins, Colo.-based Stewart Environmental Consultants Inc. and the university’s Agricultural Experiment Stations to evaluate the feasibility of anaerobic digestion at Colorado feeding operations. She has an Extension appointment to help tackle issues related to agricultural waste throughout the state of Colorado.

Stewart Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Stewart Environmental Consults in Fort Collins, is working to commercialize the process and has an exclusive option to license the process from the Colorado State University Research Foundation, or CSURF.

Sharvelle’s system separates the digestion process into two major steps. Water is trickled over dry waste in a vessel to capture organic materials and convert nearly 60% of the solid material into liquid organic acids. The liquid is put into another reactor which is heated to incubate the bacteria living in the digester. These bacteria then convert waste into methane.

That separation of processes also assists Western farming and ranching operations that must contend with rocks and sand in the waste when they scrape it from their lots. These materials are detrimental to operation of conventional anaerobic digestion technology. With Sharvelle’s system, remaining solids from the hydrolysis step are separated and can be composted.

Feedlots are huge and they produce a lot of manure, and the compost they produce is usually more than the area around them has demand for. Feedlots are often located in areas where there is not a lot of fertile farmland, so they’re ending up with this extra waste material that there’s nothing to do with.

—Sybil Sharvelle

August 31, 2010 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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