October 31, 2011
AllCell consortium launches Jordan solar EV project with Nissan
A consortium of cleantech companies, led by AllCell Technologies, unveiled an off-grid solar charging station in Amman, Jordan. The station, which can simultaneously charge both a Nissan LEAF and multiple light electric vehicles, is completely off-grid and includes a lithium-ion energy storage system that is protected from the heat of the Jordanian sun by AllCell’s passive thermal management system.
The station consists of a 3 kW solar canopy from Sun Phocus, AllCell’s 25 kWh lithium-ion energy storage system, and DBT’s Level II charging station. Nissan provided an all-electric Nissan LEAF vehicle while Matra contributed two electric scooters, two electric bikes, and a pair of electric GEM cars (each GEM car is also equipped with a solar roof).
Net Energy handled construction and project management and will be in charge of ongoing operations, and will be supported by USAID funds to support the training of Net Energy employees. The station is located at the El-Hassan Science City, and will be open for public tours and educational programs in the near future.
Jordan lacks fossil fuel resources and imports more than 90% of its energy. Largely untapped to date, Jordan is blessed with exceptional solar resources, and the project was designed as a proof-of-concept for a large-scale infrastructure project to meet the government’s goal of 10% renewable energy by 2020.
A123 Systems, Hydro-Quebec, and the University of Texas settle lithium metal phosphate battery chemistry patent dispute
A123 Systems, Hydro Québec, and the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System, on behalf of the University of Texas at Austin (UT) have settled their patent disputes regarding lithium metal phosphate technologies, entering into a Settlement Agreement and related Patent Sublicense Agreement that will resolve the existing litigations and create licenses going forward. All litigations will be dismissed and a license under these patents will be granted to A123, as agreed by the parties, under the settlement.
In July 2011, Hydro-Québec, Süd-Chemie, Université de Montréal and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), created an alliance which resulted in the formation of LiFePO4+C Licensing AG, a Swiss-based entity, to promote the broad-based global marketing and licensing of technologies related to lithium metal phosphates, including the lithium metal phosphate patents involved in the present dispute. The alliance has previously granted four sublicenses to these technologies. (Earlier post.)
Under the terms of the Patent Sublicense Agreement, A123 receives rights to lithium metal phosphate patents developed at UT, a family of electrode material carbon-coating patents, and several lithium metal phosphate patents licensed to Hydro-Québec by Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (NTT). In return, LiFePO4+C Licensing AG receives rights to two recent battery material patents from A123. The A123 patents cross-licensed in this agreement are separate from the original Nanophosphate patents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which are not included as part of this settlement. The financial terms of the settlement are not being disclosed at this time.
The market has recognized the ability of phosphate-based lithium ion technology to meet the growing demand for reliable, high-performance energy storage in transportation, grid and commercial applications. We believe this agreement represents a win-win for the entire industry by paving the way for faster adoption.—Dave Vieau, CEO of A123 Systems
New recycling solution introduced to treat Marcellus Shale flowback frac water
A new joint partnership between Casella Waste Systems, Inc. based in Rutland, VT, and Altela, Inc., a privately held water desalination company in Albuquerque, NM, is seeking to provide a solution to the environmental issues surrounding the treatment of mineral‐laden brackish water from Marcellus Shale drilling.
Brackish, salty water produced from drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale basin until recently was often discharged into area rivers, with little or no treatment for hard‐to‐remove salt contaminants. The newly formed joint partnership, “Casella‐Altela Regional Environmental Services, LLC,” or “CARES,” will recycle brackish oilfield and natural gas wastewater into clean distilled water for future use by the industry. The cleaned water is the same quality as rainwater and can be recycled and reused by the oil and gas industry, the partners say.
As part of the joint partnership, Altela will provide the technology to clean the brackish water to a quality higher than state and federal standards, while Casella will provide the working infrastructure and operational facilities for the treatment facility. Altela uses a low‐energy thermal distillation method that mimics nature’s method of producing rain, and neither electricity nor pressure drives the process.
The first water treatment facility will be located at the Casella‐owned landfill located in McKean County, PA. The placement of the treatment facility at the McKean landfill provides a platform to provide a full suite of resource solutions to the drilling companies, including storage for brackish and clean water.
The water treatment facility will be powered by biomethane gas captured from the landfill.
Since the McKean site is adjacent to an existing rail spur, the facility will enable both the transport of large volumes of frac flowback water to the site, and then clean treated water back to its customers throughout Pennsylvania and New York. This will minimize truck traffic to the facility, and reduce truck traffic throughout PA.
Altela announced that this is the first of many facilities planned throughout the Northeast to combine the synergies of landfill waste energy with Altela’s reclamation of pure water from frac flowback water using low‐grade heat—not expensive electricity. Further locations will be announced in the near future.
ECOtality installs first DC fast charger in Tennessee
ECOtality and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store unveiled the first Blink Direct Current (DC) Fast Charger in Tennessee at the Lebanon Cracker Barrel location. This is the first of 12 Cracker Barrel locations statewide that will install DC Fast Chargers as a part of The EV Project. The stations are able to charge a battery to 80% capacity in under 30 minutes.
By strategically placing Blink charging stations, we are collecting the data needed to build a commercial infrastructure which will untether drivers from their garages. We identified destination locations like Cracker Barrel as ideal for charging stations—places where people can grab a meal, charge up and go.—Jonathan Read, CEO of ECOtality
ECOtality worked closely with Cracker Barrel during the site selection process, and took into account factors ranging from traffic patterns, retail destinations and input from other regional partners. “The Tennessee Triangle,” a 425-mile stretch of interstate highway connecting Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga, is the preferred location for Cracker Barrel’s 12 DC Fast Chargers, which are suited for high-traffic commercial locations and major transportation corridors.
In addition to the fast chargers, Cracker Barrel stores will also be equipped with Blink Pedestal chargers that EV drivers may use to “top off” while shopping and dining.
With two CHAdeMo-compliant EV charging connectors, the dual-port DC fast charger provides an intuitive connector dock for storage and protection. Additionally, the UL-certified charger features two interactive touch screens and a 42” color display for media and messaging. With real time communication capabilities, the Blink DC Fast Charger supports energy usage data evaluation with an internal energy meter.
ECOtality is the project manager of The EV Project and will oversee the installation of approximately 14,000 commercial and residential charging stations in 18 major cities and metropolitan areas in six states and the District of Columbia. The project will provide an EV infrastructure to support the deployment of 8,300 EVs.
The project is a public-private partnership, funded in part by the US Department of Energy through a federal stimulus grant and made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
GM investing $385M in Romulus Engine plant to prepare for production of new fuel-efficient engine program
General Motors will invest approximately $385 million to prepare the Romulus Engine plant in Michigan for production of an all-new, fuel-efficient engine program.
The plant, which currently has about 840 employees on two shifts, produces a variety of V6 and V8 engines that power GM full-size vans, SUVs and pickups, including the Chevrolet Express, Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban and Colorado, GMC Savana, Sierra, Yukon, Canyon, and Cadillac Escalade. Romulus-built engines also are used for marine and industrial applications.
The investments will support tooling and equipment upgrades. Details about program timing and applications for the new engine will be released later.
Honda adjusting production at North American plants due to flooding in Thailand; auto production at 50% through 10 November
American Honda Motor will temporally adjust automobile production at all six Honda auto plants in the US and Canada due to the disruption of the flow of parts from Honda suppliers in Asia because of the ongoing flooding in Thailand. (Earlier post.)
Honda anticipates that this situation will require adjustments for the next several weeks.
Auto production will be at approximately 50% of the original plan through 10 Nov. 10. Subsequent adjustments will be announced as they are determined based on the parts supply situation.
Additionally, all Saturday overtime work will be canceled through November, and a non-production day is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 11.
The December on-sale date of the all-new 2012 Honda CR-V could potentially be delayed by several weeks. The on-sale date will be announced in the near future. In 2010, 87% of the Honda and Acura automobiles sold in the United States were produced in North America. While the majority of parts and materials used to produce these products are purchased from suppliers in North America, a few critical electronic parts are sourced from Thailand and other regions of the world, Honda said. Honda is working closely with its suppliers in Thailand and throughout its global network to reestablish the flow of parts for the products made in North America.
California gasoline consumption down 2.2% in July, diesel fuel consumption increased 1.9%
In California, gasoline consumption declined 2.2% in July 2011, while diesel fuel consumption increased 1.9%, according to figures from the State Board of Equalization.
California’s gasoline consumption decreased 2.2% to 1.25 billion gallons in July 2011 compared to 1.27 billion gallons used in July 2010. In California, average gas prices in July 2011 for a gallon of gasoline rose 67 cents to $3.84, a 21.1% increase compared to July 2010 when the average price was $3.17 per gallon of gasoline. Nationally, average gas prices for a gallon of gasoline in July 2011 were up 93 cents to $3.71 per gallon, a 33.5% increase over the national average price of a gallon of gasoline of $2.78 in July 2010.
California’s diesel consumption increased 1.9% for a total 223 million gallons in July 2011 compared to the total of 219 million gallons of diesel consumed in July 2010. The average price of a gallon of diesel fuel in California was up 99 cents to $4.11 per gallon in July 2011, a 31.7% increase over the average price of a gallon of diesel of $3.12 in July 2010. Nationally, the average price of a gallon of diesel was up $1.00 to $3.91 in July 2011, a 34.4% increase over the average US price of a gallon of diesel of $2.91 in July 2010.
Figures for August 2011 are scheduled to be available at the end of November 2011. Figures for third quarter 2011 are scheduled to be available at the end of December 2011.
Researchers develop co-catalyst system for lower cost conversion of CO2 to CO; syngas for synfuels
A team from the University of Illinois and startup Dioxide Materials has developed an electrocatalytic system for the reduction of CO2 to CO—a key component of artificial photosynthesis and thus an enabler for the conversion of CO2 to synthetic fuels—at overpotentials below 0.2 V. The co-catalyst system relies upon an ionic liquid electrolyte to lower the reduction barrier. A silver cathode catalyzes formation of the final products.
Electroreduction of CO2 has largely been stymied by the impractically high overpotentials necessary to drive the process, note Rosen et al. in a paper on their work published in the journal Science. However, with the new system, the team first observed formation of gaseous CO at an applied voltage of 1.5 V, just slightly above the minimum (i.e., equilibrium) voltage of 1.33 V. The system continued producing CO for at least 7 hours at Faradaic efficiencies of more than 96%.
Twenty years ago, Bockris and co-workers proposed that high overpotentials are needed to convert CO2 because the first step in CO2 conversion is the formation of a “CO2−” intermediate. In this context the term “CO2−” is not necessarily a bare CO2− anion. Instead it is whatever species forms when an electron is added to CO2. The equilibrium potential for “(CO2)−” formation is very negative in water and in most common solvents. Consequently, it is necessary to run the cathode very negative (i.e., at a high overpotential) for the reaction to occur. This is very energy inefficient.
The objective of the work described here was to develop a co-catalyst that would lower the potential for formation of the “CO2−” intermediate, which then subsequently reacts with H+ on the silver cathode to produce CO. If Bockris’ proposal is correct, the overpotential for CO2 conversion into useful products should decrease upon lowering the free energy of formation of the “CO2−”...Although there would still be a barrier to form the final products of the reaction, the overall barrier to reaction would be reduced.—Rosen et al.
The researchers used an electrochemical cell as a flow reactor, separating the gaseous CO2 input and oxygen output from the liquid electrolyte catalyst with gas-diffusion electrodes. The cell design allowed the researchers to fine-tune the composition of the electrolyte stream to improve reaction kinetics, including adding ionic liquids as a co-catalyst.
A weakness of the current system is that the observed rates are lower than what is needed for a commercial process, the team noted in their paper. Commercial electrochemical processes typically run at a turnover rate of about 1-10 per second; by contrast, the new system has a rate of 1 per second or less.
Further development of the reactor configuration and exact operating conditions, e.g., to overcome some mass transport issues, is expected to increase the turnover number. Indeed a rate of 60 turnovers per second is observed with a rotating disk electrode at a cathode potential equivalent to that observed when the cell potential is about 2 V.
Also, scale-up needs to be done. Presently our cathode only has an electrochemical surface area of 6 cm2 compared to in the order of 109 cm2 in a commercial electrochemical cell for the chlor-alkalai process. At 2 V our cell only produces about a micromol/min of CO, while commercial processes require thousands of moles per minute per cell.—Rosen et al.
Dioxide Materials. Dioxide Materials, the university Research Park, was founded by retired chemical engineering professor Richard Masel. The company has technology in two areas:
Processes that convert the carbon dioxide produced by homes and businesses back to transportation fuels, further lowering the carbon footprint, and creating a viable source of renewable fuels; and
Advanced controls that allow a building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to use less energy, saving money and lowering the building’s carbon footprint.
The company’s patent-pending Dual-Electrocat (DuElCat) process converts a mixture of carbon dioxide and water back to synthesis gas for subsequent processing into synthetic fuels.
Brian A. Rosen, Amin Salehi-Khojin, Michael R. Thorson, W. Zhu, Devin T. Whipple, Paul J. A. Kenis, and Richard I. Masel (2011) Ionic Liquid–Mediated Selective Conversion of CO2 to CO at Low Overpotentials. ScienceDOI: 10.1126/science.1209786
USDA awarding $44.6M to 156 biofuel producers
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $44.6 million in payments for 156 advanced biofuel producers across the country to support the production and expansion of advanced biofuels.
The funding is being provided through USDA’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels program. Under this program, payments are made to eligible producers to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels. Payments are based on the amount of biofuels a recipient produces from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch.
Eligible examples include biofuels derived from cellulose; crop residue; animal, food and yard waste material; biogas (landfill and sewage waste treatment gas); vegetable oil, and animal fat.
Honda Automobile Thailand uncertain as to when production will resume; flood impact rippling out to other Honda plants
Honda Automobile (Thailand) Co., Ltd. (HATC), the Honda automobile production subsidiary in Thailand (headquarter in the Rojana Industrial Park, Ayutthaya), issued a statement saying that it does not have a clear outlook for when production will resume as flooding on its facilities has continued since 8 October 2011. HATC suspended production on October 4, due to parts supply disruptions.
The flooding in Thailand has been the the worst in 50 years.
Thai Honda Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (Thai Honda), Honda’s motorcycle and power products production subsidiary in Thailand (headquarter in Bangkok), does not have any flood water on its property, but has been suspending its motorcycle production since 11 October, and power products production since 6 October, due to parts supply disruptions. Thai Honda is scheduled to suspend its production until 4 November. Concerning production from 7 November onward, Honda will make decisions while monitoring the situation.
Other Honda plants in Asia have been making adjustments to production volume or suspending production due to the limited parts supply from Thailand.
In Japan, Honda's automobile production operations at the Suzuka and Saitama Factories will begin production adjustments on 7 November, due to the limited parts supply from Thailand. Honda is making progress in procuring alternative parts, and the timing to normalize production will be determined while monitoring the situation in the future.
Honda operations in other regions also are being impacted by the limited parts supply from Thailand. Each operation is carefully examining the situation.