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November 2011

November 30, 2011

California gasoline consumption down 1.7% in August, diesel consumption up 11.1%

California gasoline consumption fell 1.7% in August 2011, while diesel fuel consumption rose 11.1%, according to figures from the State Board of Equalization.

California’s gasoline consumption declined 1.7% to 1.27 billion gallons in August 2011 compared to 1.29 billion gallons used in August 2010. In California, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in August 2011 rose 63 cents to $3.82, a 20% increase compared to August 2010 when the average price was $3.19 per gallon of gasoline. Nationally, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in August 2011 was up 92 cents to $3.70 per gallon, a 33% increase over the average price of a gallon of gasoline of $2.78 in August 2010.

California’s diesel consumption increased 11.1% for a total 228 million gallons in August 2011 compared to the total of 205 million gallons of diesel consumed in August 2010. The average price of diesel fuel in California was up 85 cents to $4.01 per gallon in August 2011, a 27% increase over the average price of a gallon of diesel of $3.16 in August 2010. Nationally, the average price of a gallon of diesel was up 90 cents to $3.86 in August 2011, a 30% increase over the average US price of a gallon of diesel of $2.96 in August 2010.

Gasoline and diesel fuel figures are net consumption that includes the California State Board of Equalization’s audit assessments, refunds, amended and late tax returns, and the California State Controller’s Office refunds. Figures for September and third quarter 2011 are scheduled to be available at the end of December 2011.

November 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Nexen and CNOOC finalize JV for deepwater exploration in Gulf of Mexico

Canada-based Nexen Inc. and China-based CNOOC Limited have finalized a joint venture that will give CNOOC a working interest in up to six deepwater exploration wells in the Gulf of Mexico. CNOOC is China’s largest producer of offshore crude oil and natural gas and one of the largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies in the world.

Among the prospects included in the deal are the Kakuna well, which is currently drilling, and the Angel Fire well, which is expected to spud in 2012. CNOOC Limited will participate in Kakuna, Angel Fire, and Cypress with a 20% working interest. CNOOC Limited may also participate in three additional exploration wells with a 10% to 25% working interest. The venture does not include any interest in Nexen’s Appomattox discovery or related Norphlet formation prospects.

This agreement is the culmination of an extensive process to recognize some of the value our exploration team has created in the Gulf of Mexico. We are seeing a gradual return to normal activity in the Gulf and this deal is a reflection of the fact that the basin remains a very exciting one for deepwater exploration prospects.

Nexen’s strategy in the Gulf of Mexico is to mature prospects at a high working interest, and then utilize joint venture agreements like this one to reduce our interest to our target level of 25%-30%, while recognizing the potential of our exploration portfolio.

—Marvin Romanow, Nexen’s President and CEO

Nexen currently produces approximately 20,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the top leaseholders in the deepwater Gulf. The discovery at Appomattox contains at least 250 million barrels of contingent recoverable resource; Nexen is currently drilling its first appraisal well. Nexen has a 20% interest in Appomattox, the remainder is held by Shell, who is the operator.

CNOOC Limited has also become Nexen’s partner on the Long Lake project in Alberta’s Athabasca oil sands following the transaction to purchase OPTI Canada Inc. (Earlier post.)

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

Nissan begins Japan sales of new quick charger for EVs; targeting sales of 5K units by March 2016

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. has begun selling its new quick charger at Nissan parts companies throughout Japan. (Earlier post.) The newly-developed quick charging unit retains the high performance of the current quick charger manufactured by Nissan, but is nearly half the size (by volume).

The new quick charger offers many safety features for safe charging, such as monitoring against a potential short circuit when the charging unit is interfacing with the EV. It complies with CHAdeMO protocol and is compatible with Nissan EVs as well as EVs manufactured by other companies.

With the adoption of new electric circuit technology developed in cooperation with Nagaoka University of Technology and by leveraging technology used in Nissan manufacturing and R&D, the new unit costs ¥598,500 (US$7,700) including tax for the base grade, which is below half the price of the current unit. Customers can apply to a government incentive system for charging units to be reimbursed for approximately half the cost (without tax) of a unit. The actual cost is would then be upwards of ¥318,500 (US$4,100).

The company plans to install the new charging units at about 400 of its dealerships nationwide by the end of fiscal year 2011 (March 2012), which will be double the number of units which have already been installed.

Nissan is also proactively seeking partner companies for sales as part of its efforts to aim to sell 5,000 of the new quick chargers by the end of fiscal year 2015 (March 2016).

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

Honeywell to support development of AliphaJet process for renewable jet fuel

Honeywell will invest engineering services and equipment to accelerate the deployment of AliphaJet’s catalytic method for making jet biofuel from renewable products such as plant and animal triglycerides and/or fatty acids. (Earlier post.)

AliphaJet will use Honeywell Controls, Instrumentation and Advanced Solutions, including its Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS) and UniSim process simulators and field instrumentation.

Unlike other smaller scale technologies, the AliphaJet process removes all of the oxygen from the renewable oils without the need for massive amounts of expensive hydrogen gas or co-location at a traditional oil refinery. AliphaJet says that its process offers significant CAPEX and OPEX advantages including those obtained by deploying processing plants close to the feedstock sources.

The AliphaJet process can also produce renewable drop-in diesel fuel, gasoline and other hydrocarbon molecules usually derived from fossil fuel oil.

The AliphaJet process can use a variety of renewable oil feedstocks obtained from plants, animal processing or emerging oil production methods such as algae and genetically modified organisms: seeds/vegetables (camelina, pennycress, palm, soy, corn), animal fats (beef, chicken), algae (Sapphire, Solazyme), GMO (Amyris, LS9, Genomatica).

AliphaJet is a collaborative venture between SynGest Inc. and Unitel Technologies, Inc. The development of the AliphaJet process was led by Dr. Ravi Randhava in collaboration with Dr. Paul Ratnasamy at the University of Louisville.

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

Sharklet-fitted Airbus A320 successfully completes first flight-test; targeting 3.5% reduction in fuel burn

Airbus has completed the first flight of the Sharklet wing-tip devices on the company’s A320 development aircraft (MSN 001). Sharklets will replace the aircraft’s current wingtip fence. Offered as an option on new-build aircraft, Sharklets have been specially designed for the Airbus A320 Family to reduce fuel burn by up to an additional 3.5%, corresponding to an annual CO2 reduction of around 700 tonnes per aircraft.

Unveiled in 2009, the large Sharklets (so-named because of their resemblance to a shark’s first dorsal fin) wing-tip devices provide aerodynamic improvements that result lower fuel burn, reduced emissions, increased range and payload, better take-off performance and rate-of-climb, higher optimum altitude, reduced engine maintenance costs and higher residual aircraft value.

The Sharklets measure 2.4 meters in height, with their 200-kg. installed total weight offset by weight savings being introduced throughout the A320 Family airframe.

The first flight marks the start of the early flight-test campaign to capture data for fine-tuning the flight laws, as well as for certification and performance validation.

A standard fit on the A320neo Family, which on its first anniversary after launch has attracted almost 1,500 orders and commitments from 26 customers, the Sharklets will contribute together with the new engines to 15% in fuel savings.

Airbus forecasts the world’s single-aisle airliner fleet to double to more than 23,000 aircraft by 2030, with an average annual fleet growth of 3.4%. This expansion will require around 19,200 new single-aisle aircraft deliveries for replacement and growth.

November 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Panasonic Group confirms it will supply Li-ion batteries for Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

The Panasonic Group will supply the lithium-ion batteries for Toyota Motor Corporation’s Prius Plug-in Hybrid. (Earlier post.) This will be the first time for the Panasonic Group to supply its lithium-ion batteries for a mass production plug-in hybrid vehicle.

Sanyo111128_phv_lithium_01
Li-ion cell for Prius PHV. Click to enlarge.

Given the growing public concern for conserving the environment and escalating oil prices, the demand for rechargeable batteries for eco-friendly vehicles is expected to grow rapidly. In response to this, the Panasonic Group is enhancing its development abilities and strengthening its business for rechargeable batteries for vehicles.

The Panasonic Group is already supplying nickel-metal hydride batteries and systems for hybrid vehicles to a number of automobile makers globally and is also carrying out joint development of lithium-ion battery systems for hybrid vehicles with other car manufacturers.

The Panasonic Group intends to accelerate the development and commercialization of high performance rechargeable batteries for vehicles and further expand its rechargeable battery business globally.

November 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dynamotive, IFP Energies nouvelles, Axens, complete binding heads of agreement for commercial development of pyrolysis oil upgrading

Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation, IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN), Axens and Dr. Desmond Radlein completed heads of agreement for the development, scale-up and commercialization of the company’s proprietary pyrolysis oil upgrading process to produce second-generation biofuels. (Earlier post.)

Renewable Oil Corporation Pty Ltd. (ROC) is a further counterpart of the agreement. ROC rights and participation are subject to completion of certain conditions precedent between the parties.

Under the terms of the agreement IFPEN would continue the development of the process at its facilities in France. Axens would contribute to the final stages of the process development and would commercialize the process once it reaches commercial stages.

Process Highlights:

  • The bio-oil is deoxygenated to a sufficient degree to render it miscible with typical refinery feeds, minimizing investments and operating costs.

  • Its oxygen content is substantially reduced so that any further hydrogen requirements related to post-treatment in a refinery are strongly decreased to a level suitable with conventional petroleum product upgrading processes.

  • The product is essentially water-free as the residual water forms a separate phase.

  • The corrosiveness of the product is strongly decreased since most of the organic acids remain in the water phase.

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

MIT researchers developing algorithms to predict more accurately which cars are likeliest to run red lights

Researchers at MIT are devising algorithms for more accurately estimating driver behavior at road intersections—i.e., whether or not an oncoming car is likely to run a red light—and validating them using real traffic data.

The team has introduced two classes of algorithms that can classify drivers as “compliant” or “violating”. These are based on i) Support Vector Machines (SVM) and ii) Hidden Markov Models (HMM)—two very popular machine learning approaches that have been used successfully for classification in multiple disciplines. However, existing work has not explored the benefits of applying these techniques to the problem of driver behavior classification at intersections, the team says.

A paper describing work will be published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems. The team presented the work earlier this year at the 2011 IEEE Intelligent Vehicles Symposium in Germany.

In 2008, road accidents in the US caused 37,261 fatalities and about 2.35 million injuries. An estimated 45% of injury crashes and 22% of roadway fatalities in the US are intersection-related, according to NHTSA. A main contributing factor in these accidents is the driver’s inability to correctly assess and/or observe the danger involved in such situations.

Half of the people killed in such accidents are not the drivers who ran the light, but other drivers, passengers and pedestrians, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

This research is focused on developing algorithms that infer driver behaviors at road intersections, and validating them using naturalistic data. The resulting algorithms can be applied to either vehicle-based systems or infrastructure-based systems. Inferring driver intentions has been the subject of extensive research.

...More specifically, the modeling of behavior at intersections has been studied using different statistical models. These studies showed that the stopping behavior depends on several factors including driver profile (e.g., age and perception reaction time), yellow-onset kinematic and geometric parameters (e.g., vehicle speed and distance to intersection).

...This paper develops two novel classes of algorithms based on distinct branches of classification in machine learning to model driver behaviors at signalized intersections. It also successfully validates these algorithms on a large naturalistic dataset. First, it describes the driver behavior inference problem and the different factors involved in the decision making. Then, it introduces the two classes of algorithms, a discriminative approach based on Support Vector Machines (SVM), and a generative approach based on Hidden Markov Models (HMM), along with the traditional approaches that they are compared to. Next, it describes the implementation process of the different algorithms. Finally, it evaluates their performance on intersection data collected in Christiansburg, VA as part of the DOT Cooperative Intersection Collision Avoidance System for Violations (CICAS-V) initiative.

—Aoude et al.

The first algorithm (SVM-BF) combines a Support Vector Machines classifier with a Bayesian filter to discriminate between compliant drivers and violators based on vehicle speed, acceleration and distance. The second, an HMM-based classifier, uses an Expectation-Maximization (EM) algorithm to develop two distinct Hidden Markov Models for compliant and violating behaviors.

The MIT team designed the algorithms to maximize true positive rates while keeping false alarm rates below a 5% threshold. They validated the two algorithms on more than 10,000 intersection approaches collected in Christiansburg, VA as part of the US Department of Transportation CICAS-V initiative.

Compared to three popular traditional approaches (time to intersection (TTI)-based; required deceleration parameter (RDP)-based; and speed-distance regression (SDR)-based), the MIT algorithms showed consistent and significant improvements, ranging from a minimum of 10% increase in true positive rates to more than 20% increase when issuing a warning 1 and 2 seconds in advance, respectively.

Compared to similar safety-prediction technologies, the group found that its algorithm generated fewer false positives. Jonathan How, the Richard Cockburn Maclaurin Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, says this may be due to the algorithm’s ability to analyze multiple parameters. He adds that other algorithms tend to be “skittish,” erring on the side of caution in flagging potential problems, which may itself be a problem when cars are outfitted with such technology.

The challenge is, you don’t want to be overly pessimistic. If you’re too pessimistic, you start reporting there’s a problem when there really isn’t, and then very rapidly, the human’s going to push a button that turns this thing off.

—Jonathan How

How says “smart” cars of the future may use such algorithms to help drivers anticipate and avoid potential accidents.

If you had some type of heads-up display for the driver, it might be something where the algorithms are analyzing and saying, “We’re concerned”. Even though your light might be green, it may recommend you not go, because there are people behaving badly that you may not be aware of.

—Jonathan How

How says that in order to implement such warning systems, vehicles would need to be able to communicate with each other, wirelessly sending and receiving information such as a car’s speed and position data. Such vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, he says, can potentially improve safety and avoid traffic congestion. Today, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) is exploring V2V technology, along with several major car manufacturers—including Ford Motor Company, which this year has been road-testing prototypes with advanced Wi-Fi and collision-avoidance systems. (Earlier post.)

The researchers are now investigating ways to design a closed-loop system to give drivers a recommendation of what to do in response to a potential accident and are also planning to adapt the existing algorithm to air traffic control, to predict the behavior of aircraft.

The research was funded in part by the Ford-MIT Alliance whose initial funding led to the seedling of the ideas in this paper, and the continued funding of Scientific Systems Company, Inc. (SSCI) and Le Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies (FQRNT) Graduate Award.

Resources

  • Georges S. Aoude, Vishnu R. Desaraju, Lauren H. Stephens, and Jonathan P. How (2011) Behavior classification algorithms at intersections and validation using naturalistic data. Intelligent Vehicles Symposium (IV), 2011 IEEE doi: 10.1109/IVS.2011.5940569

November 30, 2011 in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Safety | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Study finds higher gasoline taxes do not disproportionately impact the poor, especially in developing countries

Although increased gasoline taxation has been proposed as a very effective instrument to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a common argument against such a measure is that it is regressive—i.e., it hits poor people the hardest. However, a new study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) finds that middle- and high-income earners are generally affected the most by gasoline taxes, especially in poor countries, rather than poor people.

Petrol taxes are effective and actually don’t affect poor people disproportionally. Powerful lobbyists have tried to undermine the whole idea of petrol taxes, claiming that the effects are too hard on the poor. Our results contradict this view, especially with respect to developing countries.

—Thomas Sterner, Professor of Environmental Economics at the University of Gothenburg

Sterner is lead author in the UN climate panel’s (IPCC) working group Mitigation of Climate Change. Sterner is also the editor of the new book Fuel Taxes and the Poor, The Distributional Effects of Gasoline Taxation and Their Implications for Climate Policy, authored by 35 researchers.

The researchers studied data from 25 different countries to investigate the concern that gasoline taxes affect poor people the most. The team included leading researchers from China, India, Indonesia, USA, Latin America, as well as many countries in Africa and Europe.

The reason why the global climate negotiations are so slow has to do with global justice. Poor nations have not caused climate change and they want to be compensated rather than being forced to pay for adaptation and mitigation; they want their share of the atmospheric commons. Our research shows however, that increased fuel taxes are not, per se, incompatible with sustainable growth, reduced poverty and an improved climate.

—Thomas Sterner

The researchers conclude that although in some high-income countries, particularly the US, gasoline taxes may indeed be regressive and affect the poor more, in most countries, and particularly in the poor, it is the middle-and high-income earners who are generally hit harder.

India, China and many African countries are examples where cars and fuels are luxury products. In many European countries such as Sweden, the gasoline tax is roughly neutral.

Sterner emphasizes that international climate negotiators should emphasize global justice and pay attention to distributional effects. “An increased petrol tax effectively reduces emissions of greenhouse gases from the transport sector, at the same time as it exemplifies these justice aspects.

Resources

  • Fuel Taxes and the Poor, The Distributional Effects of Gasoline Taxation and Their Implications for Climate Policy (2011) Published by RFF Press with Environment for Development initiative. Edited By Thomas Sterner.

November 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

European, North American, and Japanese heavy-duty vehicle and engine manufacturers call for global cooperation in promoting regulatory harmonization

At the Global Commercial Vehicle Industry Meeting in Tokyo, the world’s leading manufacturers of heavy-duty commercial trucks and engines called for further progress in regulatory harmonization and closer cooperation among European, North American, and Japanese regulators in order to improve energy efficiency and reduce fuel consumption associated with on-road freight transport.

At the meeting, the chief executives of more than ten global truck and engine manufacturers discussed key issues facing the industry, including fuel efficiency improvements, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, diesel fuel specifications, and issues related to heavy-duty engine and vehicle regulation and certification.

Chaired by Satoru Takeuchi, President of UD Trucks Corporation and Chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association’s Heavy Vehicle Committee, this was the chief executives’ ninth meeting to discuss global issues and recommend solutions to the critical challenges facing commercial vehicle manufacturers.

In addition to their successful efforts to overcome the economic crisis, heavy-duty engine and vehicle manufacturers are also making clear progress in exhaust emission reductions and fuel efficiency improvements. We confirmed that accelerating efforts aimed at harmonization of test procedures and standards are needed to advance the global objective of GHG reductions. The best approach to reach this objective is for governments and industry to work together.

—Satoru Takeuchi

Summarizing the meeting, Mr. Takeuchi stated “”

Advancing the progress made at previous meetings, the chief executives discussed issues related to:

  • Adoption of the worldwide heavy-duty emissions certification procedure (WHDC);
  • Harmonization of diesel fuel specifications and regulations;
  • The development of a certification procedure for heavy-duty hybrids; and
  • Fuel efficiency improvements and reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Points agreed on at this ninth gathering of the industry leaders included:

  • The need for global cooperation in expanding WHDC;
  • The need for further discussions on diesel fuel specifications including bio components;
  • Early action for the introduction of globally harmonized fuel efficiency metrics and test procedures for heavy-duty vehicles;
  • To promote global harmonization of heavy-duty hybrid certification procedures; and
  • Stronger administrative function in support of the activities of the Global Commercial Vehicle Industry Meeting.

The leaders of the assembled companies: a) agreed to work with their governments not only to expand WHDC but also to support the United Nations in the establishment of a globally harmonized hardware-in-the-loop simulation (HILS) procedure for use in heavy-duty hybrid certification; b) referred to the progress made so far in UN discussions on the development of global diesel fuel specifications, reconfirming the need to continue those discussions; and c) emphasized the need for concerted global action for GHG emissions reductions.

Agreeing to advise their regional secretariats to organize joint experts’ meetings to that end, they also affirmed that trans-national/trans-regional cooperative efforts between industry and governments toward global harmonization can serve to promote improvements for customers and the global environment.

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

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