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April 2011

April 30, 2011

Acetylene as dual fuel with diesel

Researchers from the College of Engineering at Anna University (India) are proposing the use of acetylene as a dual fuel with diesel in compression ignition engines. Dual-fuel operation with acetylene induction coupled with cooled EGR resulted in lowered NOx emissions and improved part load performance.

  Acetylene Hydrogen Diesel
Formula C2H2 H2 C8–C20
Density kg/m3 1.092 0.08 840
Auto ignition °C 305 572 257
Stoichiometric air fuel ratio 13.2 34.3 14.5
Lower calorific value (kJ/kg) 48,225 120,000 42,500
Lower heating value of stoich. mix (kJ/kg) 3396 3399 2930
Source: Lakshmanan and G. Nagarajan (2009)

Acetylene (C2H2) is the simplest alkyne, featuring a triple carbon bond between the two carbon atoms. This bond stores substantial energy that can be released as heat during combustion; combustion with oxygen achieves a flame temperature of 5,580° F (3,087° C), releasing 1,470 BTUs per cubic foot.

Lakshmanan and Nagarajan used timed manifold injection (TMI) of the gaseous fuel, controlled electronically to precisely monitor the induction of fuel to overcome the preignition problem in the intake.

In a study published in the journal Energy, they injected acetylene in the intake manifold in a single cylinder diesel engine, with a gas flow rate of 240 g/h, start of injection time of 10° aTDC and 90° CA (9.9 ms) duration, operating in dual fuel mode. In order to decrease the NOx emissions from acetylene–diesel engine, cooled EGR was employed.

In the study, they achieved 21% maximum diesel replacement, and suggest that acetylene could be commercialized as a fuel for diesel engines in the future.


April 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ballard to provide 1MW fuel cell system to Toyota for California campus

Ballard Power Systems will deploy a one-megawatt fuel cell generator that will provide peak electrical power and heat at the Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc. (TMS) sales and marketing headquarters campus in Torrance, California.

The CLEARgen fuel cell system will utilize hydrogen produced by steam-reformation of renewable bio-gas generated at a landfill. Deployment of the CLEARgen system will enable Toyota to satisfy peak and mid-peak power needs using electricity from either the fuel cell system or from the power grid.

CLEARgen will be used to provide power to a number of locations on the multi-building campus, including Toyota and Lexus headquarter buildings, data center operations building and employee fitness centre. It is estimated that the system will facilitate reduced consumption of peak grid power and avoidance of up to 10,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

The TMS headquarters campus houses 5,000 associates over 125 acres. The ability to offset peak electricity usage with an emission-free fuel cell system will create significant savings, while reducing our environmental footprint.

—Mark Yamauchi, TMS Facilities Operations Manager

Heat created by the fuel cell system will also be utilized to provide hot water and space heating in the Toyota employee activity center and in the Lexus headquarter building within the office campus. Use of this heat will offset natural gas consumption on campus, thereby avoiding as much as a further 28 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

The system is expected to be commissioned in 2012. Project funding is being provided through California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). A stationary fuel cell power generation platform currently under development at Ballard and financially supported by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), an arm’s-length, not-for-profit corporation created by the Government of Canada, will be used in the TMS campus system.

April 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Direct oxidation of methane to methanol derivative

Researchers at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology have demonstrated a system for the direct selective oxidation of methane to a methanol derivative, methyl trifluoroacetate. Methyl trifluoroacetate can be readily hydrolyzed to produce methanol and trifluoroacetic acid. Methanol is a versatile chemical that can produce a range of polymers and fuels.

Their paper appears in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Methyl trifluoroacetate is the only liquid product of the system, and its highest yield could be obtained at 80–100 °C. The reaction product can be easily separated from the reaction system, using the difference of boiling points.

The activation and functionalization of methane, which is the most abundant hydrocarbon, has attracted much attention, because of its high abundance in natural gas and its low reactivity. Indirect reaction routes for obtaining methanol from methane via syngas have already been adopted; however, the production of syngas is an energy-intensive and cost-intensive process.

Because of its energy- and cost-effectiveness, direct, low temperature oxidation of methane to methanol becomes promising. Many catalysts have already been developed to improve the yield and selectivity of methanol or its derivatives.

...Here, we demonstrate a Pd(OAc)2/BQ/H5PMo10- V2O40 system for the direct oxidation of methane to methanol (in the form of CF3COOCH3 that can be hydrolyzed later) in CF3COOH at low temperature, in which the catalysts can be regenerated by molecular oxygen.

The team found that the addition of perfluorooctane could improve the yield of methyl trifluoroacetate significantly.


  • Jiongliang Yuan, Lanlan Wang, and Yan Wang (2011) Direct Oxidation of Methane to a Methanol Derivative Using Molecular Oxygen. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research Article ASAP doi: 10.1021/ie1018113

April 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BAF bi-fuel CNG-gasoline system for F-250/350 pickups and 3-250/350 vans available next month

BAF’ proprietary bi-fuel CNG-gasoline system for the Ford F-250/350 pickup and the E-250/350 vans will be available on 1 May 1, 2011. This bi-fuel system will carry EPA OBD-II certification and will be fully compliant with FMVSS 303 (crash-tested).

BAF is Ford’s only certified Quality Vehicle Modifier (QVM) for gaseous fuel systems. The bi-fuel CNG F-250/350 pickups will be available with either 10 or 20 Gasoline Gallon Equivalents (GGE) of CNG. The bi-fuel E-250/350 vans will come standard with 10 GGE of CNG. Additional CNG capacity will also be available on both the E- and F-series vehicles.

BAF has established Dejana as an authorized installer for the sale, installation and service of BAF’s dedicated and bi-fuel CNG fuel system conversions through Dejana’s six manufacturing facilities in the Northeastern United States.

April 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 29, 2011

DOE says novel water cleaning technology could lessen environmental impacts from shale gas production

A novel water cleaning technology currently being tested in field demonstrations could help significantly reduce potential environmental impacts from producing natural gas from the Marcellus shale and other geologic formations, according to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

ABSMaterial’s Osorb technology, which uses swelling glass to remove impurities, has been shown to clean flow-back water and produced water from hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells. Produced waters are by far the largest volume byproduct associated with oil and gas exploration and production. Approximately 21 billion barrels of produced water, containing a wide variety of hydrocarbons and other chemicals, are generated each year in the United States from nearly one million wells.

Two pilot-scale Osorb-based water treatment systems have been built to date: a non-regenerating skid-mounted system which handles inputs of up to 4 gallons per minute, and a 60-gallon-per-minute trailer-mounted system that included a mechanism for Osorb regeneration. ABSMaterials has used these systems on numerous water samples including flow back water from the Marcellus, Woodford, and Haynesville shale formations and produced water from the Clinton and Bakken formations.

In independent testing, the skid-mounted system was found to remove more than 99% of oil and grease, more than 90% of dissolved BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes), and significant amounts of production chemicals. Concurrent testing was performed using the trailer-mounted 60-gallon-per-minute system on produced water streams. One major oil services company conducted a full pilot test in the field using produced water from the Clinton formation in Ohio in July 2010 and March 2011. These tests showed that total petroleum hydrocarbon levels were slashed from 227 milligrams per liter to 0.1 milligrams per liter.

The results of this project have led to commercial interest from several global energy companies and future collaborative efforts. ABSMaterials also plans to deploy a trailer-mounted, 72,000-gallons-per-day water purification system for field use in North America in mid 2011.

A number of existing treatment techniques separate dispersed oils from water, taking advantage of the density difference between oil and water. However, very few technologies effectively address dissolved hydrocarbons, slicking agents, and polymers that prevent flow-back water from being recycled or discharged.

Osorb rapidly swells up to eight times its dried volume upon exposure to non-polar liquids. The swelling process is completely reversible—with no loss in swelling behavior even after repeated use—when absorbed species are evaporated by heating the material.

The ABSMaterials project was funded through the federal government’s Small Business Innovation Research Program. It is the second project under FE’s Oil and Natural Gas Program to show significant success treating produced or flow-back water. Several other projects will be conducting demonstrations focusing on other water treatment technologies during the remainder of fiscal year 2011.

April 29, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

LaunchPoint receives $500K NSF grant to further development of magnetic valve actuator

LaunchPoint’s Magnetic Valve Actuator. Click to enlarge.

LaunchPoint Technologies Inc. has been awarded a $500,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant (No. IIP-1058556) to continue the development of a novel magnetic valve actuator. Once fully developed, the actuator will enable the implementation of electronically-controlled variable valve timing in camless internal combustion engines.

The advantages of magnetic valve system (MVS) technology originate from the nature of the magnetic spring actuator that provides efficient control of the valve position and speed during valve opening and closing events. The Launchpoint valve actuator is based on the patented magnetic spring technology (US Patent# 7,265,470) originally developed by LaunchPoint for an aerospace application.

Several superimposed switching curves collected during the Phase I experiments with the valve actuator traversing an 8 millimeter trajectory in 3 milliseconds. The data reveal consistent switching trajectories and very smooth landings with speeds less than 0.3 m/sec and almost no oscillations. Source: LaunchPoint. Click to enlarge.

A bench-top prototype developed during the Phase I effort demonstrated outstanding performance characteristics. Test results showed that the actuator was able to traverse an 8mm stroke distance in 3 milliseconds with consistent switching trajectories and very soft landings.

The Phase II development effort, led by Principal Investigator Mike Ricci, VP of Engineering, will be aimed at reducing the switching interval even further while improving robustness of the design. During this phase LaunchPoint engineers will design, construct, and test on an experimental engine, a second generation of the magnetic valve actuator integrated into a complete engine subsystem. This Magnetic Valve System (MVS) will comprise the magnetic valve actuator, an integrated sensor, a control unit, and a power amplifier, which together provide electronic control of the valve timing.

Variable valve timing is the Holy Grail of internal combustion control. The advantages of our technology stem from the inherent nature of the nonlinear magnetic spring used as the primary valve actuator. The nonlinear spring provides most of the energy required to open or close the valve while also ensuring a soft landing. The low-power electromagnetic actuator is used only to “throw” or “catch” the valve at the beginning or the end of the stroke.

—Dr. Maksim Subbotin, Systems Engineer and Principal Investigator for Phase I

Magnetic valve actuators can be applied to a wide variety of internal combustion engines. Actuators of this type would eliminate the numerous engine components required for a typical camshaft drive, thereby decreasing manufacturing and maintenance costs and increasing reliability.

Magnetic actuators could be designed into new engines as well as retrofitted to existing engines. They could enable implementation of emerging advanced combustion technologies such as Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition and Compressed Air Hybrids. The widespread adoption of these actuators would substantially decrease petroleum usage and the associated production of greenhouse gases and air pollution, the company suggests.

LaunchPoint Technologies Inc. is an engineering services and contract R&D firm with expertise in electromagnetics; control theory; motor and generator design and development; medical device design and development; CFD optimization, and prototyping. LaunchPoint works with government agencies, companies, and entrepreneurs to develop new technologies, secure IP, and procure funds for commercialization efforts.

April 29, 2011 in Engines, Vehicle Systems | Permalink | Comments (29) | TrackBack

California gasoline consumption up 2.7%, diesel up 1.4% in January

California gasoline consumption was up 2.7% in January, and diesel consumption rose 1.4%, compared with last year, according to figures from the California State Board of Equalization (BOE).

California’s gasoline consumption increased 2.7% in January when Californians used 1.20 billion gallons of gasoline, compared to 1.17 billion gallons the same month last year. California’s average price of gasoline rose 10.4% in January to $3.39 a gallon, up 32 cents compared to January last year when California gasoline prices averaged $3.07 per gallon. The US average price for a gallon of gasoline jumped 13.7% in January to $3.15 per gallon, up 38 cents compared to a year earlier when the US average price for gasoline was $2.77.

Diesel sold in California during January totaled 191 million gallons or 1.4% more than the previous January when Californian’s used 189 million gallons. Diesel prices rose 56 cents higher to $3.56 per gallon in California during January, or 18.7% higher than the previous January when diesel was averaging $3.00 per gallon. The US average price for a gallon of diesel rose 18.9% in January to $3.39 per gallon, up 54 cents compared to a year earlier when the US average price for diesel was $2.85.

April 29, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

CAMISMA project developing new composites for lighter cars

Evonik, three other industrial partners (Johnson Controls GmbH, Jacob plastics GmbH and Toho Tenax Europe GmbH) and the University of Aachen (Institute for textile technology [ITA] and Automotive Institute [IKA]) are developing a novel lightweight construction concept for auto bodies that partially replaces both steel and lightweight metals. The project is called CAMIMSA (translated from the German: carbon fibre/amide/metal-based interior structural elements in a multi-material system approach) and is developing cost-competitive, carbon fibre reinforced polymers with metallic inserts.

The German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is providing funding for the project, which belongs to the WING call (material innovation for industry and society). The project began early April 2011 and is set for the coming three years.

CAMIMSA addresses multi-material systems, which will lead to future lightweight designs. Thus far, lower weight was realized by adjusting existing systems, such as thinner steel sheets; these solutions are approaching their natural limits, Evonik says. In this context, fibre reinforced polymers or composites (FRP), especially those based on carbon fibres, have received wide attention.

Currently employed in the aeronautical sector, this group of materials with their high specific mechanical strength and formation freedom offer the possibility of new lightweight construction concepts. However, for mass production in the automotive sector, they are still too expensive. This essentially lies twofold for FRP: high raw material costs and a very time intensive production. Furthermore, the connection of FRP elements to metal-based frames has yet not been satisfactorily solved.

CAMIMSA will cover a complete solutions approach to allow the entrance of economically priced carbon fibre composites for multi-material systems. To determine the feasibility of this concept, an exemplary Seat Panel Structure will serve as a guide for the development, production and testing. The overall goal is to reduce the weight of a standard metallic system by 40%.

April 29, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Amyris’ first Biofene commercial production facility complete and operational

Amyris, Inc., a renewable chemicals and fuels company, today announced the completion of the first industrial-scale facility for the production of Biofene, Amyris’s renewable farnesene. Biofene may then be sold directly into industrial applications or put through simple chemical finishing steps to form a broad range of renewable products including squalane, base oil and finished lubricants and diesel.

The production facility is located in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil at a facility owned by Biomin do Brasil Nutrição Animal Ltda., a company focusing on animal nutrition. Amyris will operate the production facility and expects to begin Biofene production in May. To produce Biofene, Amyris feeds sugar cane syrup into three dedicated 200,000 liter fermentors containing Amyris proprietary yeast. The yeast digest the syrup feedstock and produce farnesene, which is then separated and purified.

To achieve production at full industrial scale, Amyris has developed an integrated scale-up process which connects ongoing advances in Amyris research with industrial-scale production. By miniaturizing process conditions found in production-scale fermentors, Amyris says it has been able to translate yeast performance successfully from discovery to production. Amyris further controls scale-up by testing performance in its pilot plant in Emeryville, Calif., followed by vetting in a second pilot plant and a demonstration facility in Amyris’s operations in Campinas, Brazil.

Earlier this year, Amyris tested its yeast strains and process in several runs at 100,000 and 200,000 liter scale and generated results that were consistent with previous runs at smaller scale.

With this milestone, we are demonstrating that engineered yeast may be used to produce high-value hydrocarbon molecules on a commercial scale. This achievement reinforces our goal of providing No Compromise renewable alternatives to petroleum to transform the chemicals industry, extend the world’s fuel supply and contribute to the betterment of our environment.

—John Melo, CEO of Amyris

Amyris is scaling its production through contract agreements with manufacturers located in Brazil, Europe and the United States, and has five production agreements in place including contract agreements with Antibioticós S.A., Biomin, Paraíso Bioenergia S.A., Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas, Inc., an affiliate of Tate & Lyle PLC, and a joint venture with Usina São Martinho S.A., one of the largest sugar and ethanol producers in Brazil. Amyris has also established finishing capabilities with Glycotech, Inc.

April 29, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Siemens building HVDC transmission system with record capacity of 2,000 MW

Siemens is building power converter stations for a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system with a record capacity of 2 x 1,000 megawatts. Beginning in 2013, the new HVDC PLUS technology will transmit 2,000 MW as direct current over a distance of 65 kilometers underground.

This system, which is being partially funded by the EU, connects the French and Spanish grids between Baixas and Santa Llogaia. At present the two countries’ grids are linked only by low-capacity lines.

Power grids will have to be substantially upgraded throughout Europe before more renewable energy can be used, Siemens says. The Desertec power generation project (earlier post) for the climate-friendly production of electricity in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, in particular, will require high-performance electricity highways.

Alternating current is commonly used for overhead lines, but it isn’t suitable for transmitting high capacities over long distances underwater or underground. In non-overhead systems, losses would be very high due to the charging and discharging of the cable capacities. In an HVDC system, on the other hand, transmission losses are 30 to 40% lower than in a comparable three-phase alternating current transmission line.

By 2013, developers at Siemens Energy will have constructed a system that can transmit 1,000 MW through each of two cables. The power will be transmitted at the highest voltage possible for today’s cables: +/-320 kilovolts. The new HVDC PLUS power converter stations use VSC-MMC (voltage-sourced-converter in modular multilevel-converter configuration) technology, which is not only more flexible and robust than today’s systems, but also less prone to faults.

At the heart of the new system is a converter that uses insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs), which are semiconductor devices that convert alternating current into direct current and vice-versa. The system is very flexible since IGBTs can be switched at any time, no matter how high the voltage. A reactive power exchange is possible between each power converter and the three-phase alternating current network, which helps to stabilize overloaded grids.

In addition, MMC technology causes few high-frequency faults, which diminish voltage quality, so there is no need for high frequency filters. The system also has a black start capability, which means the grid doesn’t require external assistance to gradually restart after a blackout. Another advantage of the system is that the energy converters don’t have to change their polarity if the direction of the transmission is reversed, thus reducing wear and tear.

A 1,000-MW HVDC cable was recently put into operation along a 260-kilometer underwater line between the Netherlands and the UK. The first HVDC system in VSC-MMC technology also recently commenced commercial operation: the HVDC Plus installation with the project name Transbay, likewise erected by Siemens Energy, transmits 400 MW of electrical output at a transmission voltage of ±200 kV with low losses and high energy efficiency via an 88-kilometer marine cable link from Pittsburg, California, to San Francisco.

HVDC systems are part of Siemens’ environmental portfolio, with which the company generated about €28 billion (US$41.6 billion) in sales in 2010.

April 29, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

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