[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
Analysis finds air-quality justification for CNG vehicle conversion in developing cities, despite negative climate impact
December 03, 2013
|Impact pathway approach for modeling policy interventions in (a) air quality and (b) climate impacts. Credit: ACS, Zia and Tanzila. Click to enlarge.|
An analysis by a team in Bangladesh found large air quality and associated health benefits accruing to the residents of Dhaka (the capital of Bangladesh) as a result of the rapid conversion of the motor vehicle fleet to CNG. Around 2,045 avoided premature deaths in greater Dhaka can be attributed to air quality improvements from the CNG conversion policy in 2010, resulting in a saving of around US$400 million, they found.
However, CNG conversion was apparently detrimental from a climate change perspective, as CH4 emissions increased. (There is some uncertainty over the impact of ultrafine particulates.) As the greenhouse gas impacts (costs or benefits) are much smaller than the health benefits, the conversion of petroleum vehicles to CNG can be justified on the basis of local air pollution benefits alone, they concluded. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Mazda showcases CNG and hybrid Axela models in Tokyo; Mazda’s approach to environmental performance
November 22, 2013
At the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda is showcasing the recently-released Mazda Axela (known as Mazda3 overseas) with a variety of engine types at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, including a CNG concept and hybrid variants. (Earlier post.)
The Axela accounts for more than 30% of global sales; the latest Axela is the third generation. The new Axela range also introduces a hybrid vehicle, and marks the first time for a single model launched on the Japanese market to include gasoline, diesel, and hybrid power plants in its powertrain lineup.
Sandia partnering with MOgene on ARPA-E project for sunlight-assisted microbial conversion of methane to butanol
November 18, 2013
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories will use their expertise in protein expression, enzyme engineering and high-throughput assays as part of a two-year, $1.5-million award led by MOgene Green Chemicals (MGC, a wholly owned subsidiary of genomics services provider MOgene) targeting the sunlight-assisted conversion of methane to butanol.
The project is one of 15 selected for a total of $34 million in funding by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) as part of its Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy (REMOTE) program. (Earlier post.) MGC’s primary corporate objective is to engineer biocatalysts with novel functionality for production of molecules from non-food feedstocks that can be used for production of transportation fuel as well as commodity and specialty products.
Omnitek selects DD 12.7L Series 60 and Cat C15 engine models for diesel-to-gas conversion project at Port of Seattle
November 04, 2013
Omnitek Engineering Corporation has selected the 12.7 L Detroit Diesel Series 60 and the Caterpillar C15 engine models for the beginning of the second phase of a Puget Sound Clean Air Agency pilot project, which includes the development of diesel-to-natural gas engine conversion kits for these engine models and obtaining Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval.
Omnitek’s diesel-to-natural gas engine conversion system was selected as the best technology under the competitive grant process for the agency’s “Piloting Engine Upgrade Technologies in the Freight Mobility Sector” project. (Earlier post.)
MIT study cautions smaller nations on rushing to develop their natural gas resources; Cyprus as model
October 27, 2013
|Cyprus offshore hydrocarbon exploration blocks. Paltsev et al. Click to enlarge.|
Based on the interim results of a new study, MIT researchers are warning smaller nations to proceed with caution in pursuing the development of their natural gas resources. The study is a part of of a larger report that will further take into account the changing dynamics of the regional and global gas markets, giving a comprehensive view of the implications for the long-term development of natural gas in Cyprus and other like nations.
The interim report analyzed the economics of natural gas project development options in Cyprus with a focus on exports. (The authors noted that Cyprus will have sufficient resources for developing export capabilities regardless of the extent of domestic gas substitution in the coming years, given its rather small energy consumption profile.) The report explored three major options for monetizing the resource: an onshore LNG plant; a transnational undersea pipeline; and the deployment of a CNG marine transport system. The researchers expect to finish the larger report in August 2014; the study is sponsored by The Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation.
Clariant supplying SNG catalyst for methanation unit in Audi’s new “Power-to-Gas” plant
October 21, 2013
Clariant, a global provider of specialty chemicals, has supplied a proprietary CO2-SNG (synthetic natural gas) catalyst for the methanation unit of Audi’s new power-to-gas facility in Werlte, Germany. (Earlier post.)
The “e-gas plant” was started up in June this year and is part of Audi’s sustainability initiative. The plant, which can convert six megawatts of input power, will utilize renewable electricity for electrolysis, producing oxygen and hydrogen, the latter which could one day power fuel-cell vehicles. Because there is not yet a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, however, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 in a methanation unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas.
GM to introduce CNG-gasoline bi-fuel Chevrolet Impala in US next summer
October 16, 2013
|2015 Chevrolet CNG-Capable, Bi-Fuel Impala. Click to enlarge.|
General Motors will build a Chevrolet Impala sedan for retail and fleet customers that operates on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG), GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson announced today. This will be the only manufacturer-produced full-size bi-fuel sedan in the US, and is expected to go on sale next summer as a 2015 model.
Currently, the only natural gas vehicle from a major manufacturer on sale in the US is the Honda Civic Natural Gas. The Chevrolet Impala bi-fuel sedan features a factory-engineered and fully warranted powertrain that switches seamlessly from CNG to gasoline. Total range is expected to be up to 500 miles (805 km).
New thermoplastic-graphene nanoribbon composite could offer lighter, more effective natural gas storage for vehicles
October 11, 2013
|An electron microscope image shows graphene nanoribbons embedded in a block copolymer. Image by Changsheng Xiang. Click to enlarge.|
A new composite material created at Rice University is nearly impervious to gas and may lead to lighter and more efficient storage of compressed natural gas for vehicles. By adding modified, single-atom-thick hexadecyl-functionalized low-defect graphene nanoribbons (HD-GNRs) to thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), the Rice lab of chemist James Tour made the resulting material far more impermeable to pressurized gas and far lighter than the metal in tanks now used to contain the gas.
In an open access paper in the journal ACS Nano, Tour and his colleagues at Rice and in Hungary, Slovenia and India reported that nitrogen gas effective diffusivity of the TPU was decreased by three orders of magnitude with only 0.5 wt% GNRs.
Clean Energy Fuels to distribute biomethane vehicle fuel to fleets and public stations
October 03, 2013
Clean Energy Fuels Corp., North America’s largest provider of natural gas for transportation, is commercially offering a biomethane vehicle fuel—Redeem—made from waste streams such as landfills, large dairies and sewage plants directly to fleets around the country and at 35 public Clean Energy stations throughout California. Redeem will be available in either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) form.
Andrew J. Littlefair, president and CEO of Clean Energy, said that the company’s goal is to produce and to distribute 15 million gallons of Redeem in the first year. Clean Energy’s natural gas fueling infrastructure includes 400 fueling stations throughout the nation; the company is developing multiple biomethane production facilities that are expected to produce Redeem.
Chevrolet, GMC expand CNG truck and van offerings
October 02, 2013
Chevrolet and GMC will offer new bi-fuel versions of the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty trucks and all-new dedicated compressed natural gas versions of the 2014 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size passenger vans next year. The vehicles were announced at the Green Fleet Conference & Expo, which focuses on clean technologies and alternative-fuel vehicles for fleet operations.
The bi-fuel versions of Silverado HD and Sierra HD expand the range of available configurations to 2500HD and 3500HD pickup models in all cab styles and 2WD and 4WD drivetrains. The 2014 Express and Savana passenger vans join a dedicated CNG lineup that includes cargo versions of the vehicles.
$4M ARPA-E award to Lanzatech to improve design of bioreactors for waste-gas-to-fuels fermentation technology
September 23, 2013
LanzaTech, a producer of low-carbon fuels and chemicals from waste gases, was awarded a $4-million grant by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) as one of the 15 REMOTE projects (earlier post) receiving a combined $34 million to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation.
LanzaTech and its partners, The City College of New York (CUNY), Louisiana State University (LSU) and Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) will collaborate to extend LanzaTech’s core fermentation technology to unlock the potential of waste methane gases through novel and smaller-scale bioreactor design. The project will combine LanzaTech’s expertise in gas fermentation and reactor design with experimental reactor design expertise at the CUNY Energy Institute, and reactor modeling capabilities at LSU. LanzaTech and Michigan Tech will validate the economic and life cycle analysis impacts of this innovative technology as compared to the current state of the art.
ARPA-E awarding $3.5M to Berkeley Lab project to develop novel enzymatic gas-to-liquids pathway
September 22, 2013
On 19 September, the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded $34 million to 15 projects to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation. (Earlier post.) The largest award in the technical area of High-Efficiency Biological Methane Activation in the new program, (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy—REMOTE, earlier post), provides $3.5 million to a team led by Dr. Christer Jansson at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to work on a novel methylation process to convert natural gas to liquid transportation fuels.
The project, called “Enzyme Engineering for Direct Methane Conversion,” involves designing a novel enzyme—a PEP methyltransferase (PEPMase)—by engineering an existing enzyme to accept methane instead of carbon dioxide. This methylation process, which does not exist in nature, will be used as the basis for the gas-to-liquids pathway.
EPA proposes CO2 emission standards for new fossil fuel-fired power plants
September 20, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed Clean Air Act standards to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants (electric utility generating units, EGUs). For purposes of this rule, fossil fuel-fired EGUs include utility boilers, IGCC units and certain natural gas-fired stationary combustion turbine EGUs that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts (MW). In addition, EPA said it is working with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others to establish CO2 standards for existing power plants.
The proposed rulemaking establishes separate standards for natural gas and coal plants. The proposed limits for natural gas units are based on the performance of modern natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) units. New large (>850 mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small (≤850mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.
ARPA-E selects 33 projects for $66M in awards; advanced biocatalysts for gas-to-liquids and lightweight metals
September 19, 2013
The US Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is awarding around $66 million to 33 projects under two new programs. One program, Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy (REMOTE, earlier post), provides $34 million to 15 projects to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation.
The other program, Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advancements for Light-metal Systems (METALS, earlier post), provides $32 million to 18 projects to find cost-effective and energy-efficient manufacturing techniques to process and recycle metals for lightweight vehicles. The funding opportunity announcements for both programs were released earlier this year in March.
UT Austin team and partners report on extensive measurements of methane emissions during natural gas production
September 17, 2013
|Estimated inventories of methane emissions from the natural gas production sector, excluding processing and transmission. The findings of the new study are represented in the yellow bar at right, and are similar overall to EPA’s latest inventory. The relative contributions of different production components differ, however. Source: UT Austin. Click to enlarge.|
A new study from The University of Texas at Austin, published as an open access paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports on extensive measurements of methane emissions—including the first measurements for methane emissions taken directly at the well pad—during completion operations for hydraulically fractured wells (“fracked”).
Broadly, the study found that completion emissions are significantly lower than previously estimated; emissions from pneumatic controllers and equipment leaks are higher than EPA national emission projections; and estimates of total emissions (957 Gg ± 200 Gg) are similar to the most recent EPA national inventory of methane emissions from natural gas production (~1200 Gg). The 957 Gg in emissions for completion flowbacks, pneumatics and equipment leaks, coupled with EPA national inventory estimates for other categories, leads to an estimated 2,300 Gg of methane emissions from natural gas production (0.42% of gross gas production).
ETH Zürich team developing light-duty natural gas-diesel hybrid electric powertrain; 43 g/km CO2
September 12, 2013
|Consumption measurements of the dual-fuel natural gas-diesel engine as a function of speed and load. Source: Ott et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at ETH Zürich have developed a light-duty hybrid electric vehicle featuring a dual-fuel natural gas-diesel engine. In an open access paper in the journal Energies, they report that CO2 emissions can be reduced to as low as 43g/km in a subcompact car configuration using the dual-fuel hybrid electric powertrain on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). The dual-fuel engine can also serve in a non-hybrid application.
In the dual-fuel engine, the natural gas (usually a fuel for spark-ignited engines) is injected into the intake manifold of a compression-ignition diesel engine. Instead of using a spark plug for ignition, the premixed air-gas mixture is ignited with a small amount of directly injected diesel fuel. This approach—already being successfully commercialized in heavy-duty engines by Westport Innovations (e.g., earlier post) and Clean Air Power (e.g., earlier post)—delivers the high performance and efficiency of diesel with lower CO2 and tailpipe emissions.
Opel Monza Concept at Frankfurt features CNG extended range electric vehicle powertrain with new 1.0L 3-cylinder engine
September 10, 2013
|Monza Concept. Click to enlarge.|
Opel intends that its Monza Concept (earlier post), unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, serve as a role-model for next-generation Opel cars, with particular emphasis on design, maximum connectivity, and optimum efficiency, including advanced powertrain flexibility.
The Monza Concept is based on a modular design to allow highest-possible flexibility when selecting a propulsion system. A variety of sustainable powertrains based on increasing electrification of the automobile are conceivable, Opel noted. For the Monza Concept displayed at the Frankfurt show, engineers conceived an electric drive with a CNG (compressed natural gas) range extender—a further development of the Ampera’s technology.
Mercedes-Benz introduces latest E 200 Natural Gas Drive and E 220 BlueTEC BlueEFFICIENCY Edition
August 09, 2013
|E 200 Natural Gas Drive. Click to enlarge.|
Mercedes-Benz is introducing the latest version of the bivalent drive E 200 Natural Gas Drive (NGD) variant to the E‑Class family in Europe. The E200 NGD can run on either gasoline or natural gas; benefits of running the car on natural gas include a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions compared with comparable operation using gasoline, and much lower fuel costs. Mercedes-Benz also introduced the new diesel E 220 BlueTEC BlueEFFICIENCY Edition, with CO2 emissions of 114 grams/km.
The E 200 Natural Gas Drive uses 4.3 kg of natural gas per 100 kilometers (NEDC combined), which corresponds to CO2 emissions of 116 g/km. If the new E 200 NGD automatically switches to running on gasoline because the gas tank is empty, the new four-cylinder engine needs requires 6.3 liters of unleaded gasoline (NEDC combined) for every 100 kilometers (37.3 mpg US), with CO2 emission of 147 g/km.
New York launches $19M truck voucher incentive program; $9M for EVs, $10M for alt fuels
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $19-million New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program to encourage the purchase of battery-electric commercial trucks as well as other energy-efficient transportation, including hybrid and CNG (compressed natural gas) trucks. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) estimates that this program could encourage the purchase or retrofit of up to 1,000 low-emission trucks in areas of the state with the poorest air quality.
The truck voucher program will include two voucher funds: $9 million for battery-electric truck vouchers offered in 30 counties around the state that did not meet federal clean air standards, primarily downstate New York, the Capital Region and Western New York; and a $10-million alternative fuels voucher fund for New York City, which also includes compressed natural gas, hybrid-electric vehicles and retrofitting diesel engines with emission control devices.
Aviat, Aviation Foundation unveil concept CNG-fueled single-engine aircraft
July 31, 2013
|Aviat Husky CNG. Click to enlarge.|
Airplane manufacturer Aviat Aircraft, Inc. and Minneapolis-based Aviation Foundation of America, Inc. unveiled the first dual-fuel, piston-powered aircraft to operate on both compressed natural gas (CNG) and aviation gasoline. The Aviat Husky CNG is on display outside the Innovations Pavilion throughout AirVenture 2013 in Oshkosh, Wis. (29 July through 4 August).
The proof-of-concept Aviat Husky CNG, which flew more than 1,000 miles from Aviat’s headquarters in Afton, Wy., to be at AirVenture, can be powered by CNG or 100LL aviation gasoline with the flip of a switch. It is a mostly standard Aviat Husky A1-C that has been fitted with a 3600 psi (248 bar) CNG fuel tank in addition to its standard aviation gasoline tanks. The only modification made to the engine, a Lycoming IO-360-A1 D6, was the installation of new pistons to increase the compression ratio from 8.50:1 to 10:1.
Ford to offer 2014 F-150 with natural gas option
|CNG Ford F-150. Click to enlarge.|
Ford will offer the 2014 F-150 with the ability to run on compressed natural gas, making Ford the only manufacturer in the US with an available CNG/LPG-capable half-ton pickup. GM offers a CNG bi-fuel option for its HD pickups (e.g., Silverado 2500HD and 3500 HD and Sierra HD). (Earlier post.)
The 2014 Ford F-150 with 3.7-liter V6 engine will be available this fall with a factory-installed, gaseous-fuel prep package that includes hardened valves, valve seats, pistons and rings so it can operate on either natural gas or gasoline through separate fuel systems.
Lifecycle analysis of energy use and pollution from gasoline, CNG and electric vehicles in 6 southwestern states highlights variability of benefits
July 29, 2013
|Comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles in 2020, EVs by state power mix. Percentages are relative to gasoline baseline. Click to enlarge.|
A report for policymakers issued by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) has found that in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, electric vehicles offer the cleanest ride, while in New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming that’s not necessarily the case. SWEEP promotes greater energy efficiency in a six-state region that includes Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.
The report, “Transportation Fuels for the Southwest”, compared the well-to-wheels energy use and air pollution emitted by vehicles fueled by gasoline, compressed natural gas and electricity in order to determine which fuel is cleanest in each of the six southwestern states.
DOE releases draft of $8B loan guarantee solicitation for advanced fossil energy projects
July 03, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a draft for comment of an $8-billion loan guarantee solicitation for innovative and advanced fossil energy projects and facilities that substantially reduce greenhouse gas and other air pollution. The program is part of President Obama’s climate action plan. (Earlier post.)
The Advanced Fossil Energy Projects solicitation, authorized by Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 through Section 1703 of the Loan Guarantee Program, will be open for comments from industry, stakeholders, and the public until early September.
Audi opens power-to-gas facility in Werlte/Emsland; e-gas from water, green electricity and CO2
June 25, 2013
|Audi’s e-gas plant. Click to enlarge.|
The Audi e-gas plant, which can convert 6MW of input power, utilizes renewable electricity for electrolysis to produce oxygen and hydrogen. Because there is not yet a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 in a methanation unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas. The e-gas is virtually identical to fossil natural gas and will be distributed via an existing infrastructure—the German natural gas network—to the CNG filling stations beginning in Germany in fall 2013.
Navigant forecasts global natural gas fleet of 34.9M by 2020
June 20, 2013
|Cumulative natural gas vehicles in use by segment, world markets: 2013-2020. Source: Navigant Research. Click to enlarge.|
In a new report, Navigant Research forecasts that the number of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) on roads worldwide will reach 34.9 million by 2020. The increase is largely driven due to a combination of low-cost natural gas and sustained higher prices for gasoline and diesel in many countries, Navigant suggests.
Natural gas is about 41% the cost of gasoline, Navigant says, noting that compressed natural gas (CNG) equipment adds between 10% to 40% to the cost of the vehicle due to the CNG cylinders and engine equipment, while liquefied natural gas (LNG) adds 60% to 80% due to the more expensive storage tanks. The differential in the cost of the fuels determines the payback on this additional equipment (currently between 2.5 and 6 years, depending on the vehicle).
US Maritime Administration to fund projects on reducing emissions from marine vessels, study on LNG bunkering
June 15, 2013
The US Maritime Administration (MARAD) Office of the Environment has issued two funding opportunities; the first (DTMA-91-R-2013-0020) will award up to an estimated $900,000 for up to 2 projects that demonstrate criteria pollutant emissions of carbon emissions reductions from marine vessels through repowering, re-engining, or using alternative fuel/energy.
The second (DTMA-91-R-2013-0009) will award up to $500,000 for a comprehensive study on the issues associated with the bunkering (supplying a ship with fuel) of LNG for marine vessels. One of the largest obstacles to widespread take-up of LNG as ship fuel—and hence its viability as an option to meet ECA (Emission Control Areas) requirements—is the lack of a bunkering infrastructure, according to Lloyd’s Register. (Earlier post.)
SoCalGas, California agencies funding $9M RFP to develop ultra-low NOx heavy-duty natural gas engines
June 13, 2013
Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) are jointly funding a request for proposals (RFP) (P2013-22) issued by SCAQMD to support the development of ultra-clean natural gas engines for a variety of heavy-duty vehicle applications in the South Coast Air Basin (SCAB) and San Joaquin Valley Air Basin (SJVAB).
The initiative, funded up to $9 million by the participating agencies together with $500,000 in matching funds from SoCalGas, aims to demonstrate natural gas engines capable of achieving aggressive, near-zero emission standards for on-road, heavy-duty vehicle applications suitable for refuse, goods movement, drayage, transit, or school bus applications.
Calif. Energy Commission to award more than $44M for hydrogen refueling and alternative fuel vehicle projects
In two packages of awards, the California Energy Commission approved more than $44 million to expand the hydrogen fueling infrastructure and increase the number of alter alternative fuel vehicles on the road in the state.
These awards were made through the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, created by Assembly Bill 118. For the current fiscal year, the program is slated to invest approximately $90 million to encourage the development and use of new technologies, and alternative and renewable fuels, to help the state meet its climate-change goals. It is paid for through surcharges on vehicle and boat registrations, and smog check and license plate fees.
New EIA report boosts estimates of global recoverable shale oil resources 10-fold to 345 billion barrels
June 10, 2013
|Map of basins with assessed shale oil and shale gas formations, as of May 2013. Source: US EIA. Click to enlarge.|
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released a new report that estimates that shale oil and shale gas resources in the United States and in 137 shale formations in 41 other countries represent 10% of the world’s crude oil and 32% of the world’s natural gas technically recoverable resources—i.e., those that can be produced using current technology without reference to economic profitability.
Among the highlights in the 2013 report is a 10-fold increase in the estimate of technically recoverable shale / tight oil from 32 billion barrels (from the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2011) to 345 billion barrels. The report also estimates technically recoverable shale gas resources of 7,299 trillion cubic feet—10% higher than an estimate in an earlier 2011 report on recoverable shale gas resources.
Westport launches LNG tender product for locomotives; Canadian National Railway orders four
June 05, 2013
|Earlier CN testing of LNG using a tank-car (non-Westport)-based tender with two converted test locomotives. Click to enlarge.|
Westport Innovations Inc. launched a liquefied natural gas (LNG) locomotive tender product solution with an order for four tenders from Canadian National Railway (CN); CN is currently testing two Electro-Motive Diesel locomotives converted for operation on natural gas. (Earlier post.) The first tender to supply fuel to an adjacent natural-gas powered locomotive will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Westport is collaborating with INOXCVA, a leading manufacturer of cryogenic transportation equipment, on these tenders. Westport and INOXCVA have entered into an agreement for cryogenic systems to be able to rapidly meet the near-term demand in the rail industry.
“Project Volt Gas Volt” proposes long-term financing plan to support widespread implementation of power-to-gas systems
June 02, 2013
|Project Volt Gas Volt is based on a long-term financing plan and the use of existing technologies for the large-scale conversion of surplus renewable electricity to methane, with subsequent reuse. Diagram: Isabelle Plat. Click to enlarge.|
Corinne Lepage, Member of the European Parliament (and former French Minister of the Environment) and Professor Robert Bell, Brooklyn University, City University of New York, are proposing Project Volt Gas Volt (VGV) as a technology pathway for using renewable energy to “keep the lights on” on the broadest scale without disruption, together with a long-term financing proposal for the project. Although they are targeting an initial implementation France, they see it as broadly applicable.
Project VGV uses surplus electricity generated by renewable and nuclear sources to produce hydrogen via electrolysis. The hydrogen is combined with CO2 to produce methane, which is pumped into and stored in the existing natural gas grid and used like natural gas for use in power generation, transportation, or other thermal and industrial uses. The concept is the same embodied in Audi’s e-gas project (earlier post), to which the VGV proposal makes continued reference.
EPA proposes adding renewable diesel and naphtha from landfill biogas and butanol pathways to RFS
May 21, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rulemaking for modifications to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) program. The proposal also includes various changes to the E15 misfueling mitigation regulations (E15 MMR), ultra low sulfur diesel survey requirements as well as other technical amendments.
The proposed rules include various changes related to biogas, including changes related to the revised compressed natural gas (CNG)/liquefied natural gas (LNG) pathway and amendments to various associated registration, recordkeeping, and reporting provisions. It also adds new pathways for renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable electricity (used in electric vehicles) produced from landfill biogas.
California Energy Commission adopts $100M investment plan for 2013-2014 for green vehicles and fuels
May 09, 2013
The California Energy Commission unanimously adopted the 2013-2014 Investment Plan Update to support the development and use of green vehicles and alternative fuels. The update sets funding priorities for the approximately $100 million in annual state funds under the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuels and Vehicle Technology (ARFVT) Program, created by Assembly Bill 118.
Funding priorities through the ARFVT Program support fuel and vehicle development to help attain the state’s climate change policies. In addition, the program funds projects that assist in fulfilling Governor Brown’s Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) Action Plan, with a target of installing enough infrastructure to support 1 million ZEVs by 2020, and a 2025 target of having 1.5 million ZEVs on the state’s roads.
US DOE to award up to $20M for research on methane hydrates
May 08, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory has issued a solicitation (DE-FOA-0000891) for up to $20 million in funding for projects that focus on the following three technical topic areas: (1) characterization of methane hydrate deposits; (2) response of methane hydrate reservoirs to induced environmental change; and (3) response of methane hydrate systems to natural environmental change.
Selected projects will be intended to support program goals to determine the (1) likelihood of methane hydrates as a potential energy resource and (2) their role in the natural environment. The objective of the program is to fund research that significantly advances the current state of knowledge or technology with respect to methane hydrate science.
New USGS oil and gas assessment for Bakken and Three Forks formations boosts estimates of recoverable oil two-fold, natural gas three-fold
May 02, 2013
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) released an updated oil and gas resource assessment for the Bakken Formation and a new assessment for the Three Forks Formation in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana, resulting in a two-fold increase in the estimated technically recoverable oil, and a three-fold increase in estimated natural gas.
Technically recoverable resources are those producible using currently available technology and industry practices. USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of the US onshore and state waters.
Former president of Shell Oil calls for aggressive action on alternative fuels to break oil monopoly on transportation
April 30, 2013
John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Company and founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy (CFAE), is joining the Fuel Freedom Foundation (FFF) Advisory Board. Fuel Freedom is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to opening the fuel market to allow alternative fuels such as ethanol, methanol, natural gas and electricity fairly to compete with gasoline at the pump. CFAE’s mission is to educate citizens and government officials about pragmatic, non-partisan affordable energy solutions.
“The purpose and the focus [of FFF] is exactly in line with what I promoted as president of Shell and subsequently as the founder of CFAE,” Hofmeister said to Green Car Congress. “From [these organizations’ standpoints], the reason we have to get away from doing nothing is that the public doesn’t fully appreciate or understand the situation it faces with respect to fuels’ futures.”
EPA says methane emissions from natural gas production have dropped 36% from 2007-2011
April 29, 2013
In its recently released Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2011 (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that methane (CH4) emissions from the field production of natural gas have declined by 36% from 2007 to 2011 (from 83.1 to 53.4 Tg CO2 eq), after having increased by 43% from 1990 through 2006. Reasons the agency sited for this trend include factors such as increased voluntary reductions, as well as the effects of the recent global economic slowdown.
The finding may have an impact on future regulation of fracking for natural gas production, as opponents of the technology have pointed to higher rates of methane leak as being an argument against it.
PNNL solar thermochemical reaction system can reduce fuel consumption in natural gas power plants by about 20%; future potential for transportation fuels
April 11, 2013
|PNNL’s thermochemical conversion device is installed in front of a concentrating solar power dish. Photo: PNNL. Click to enlarge.|
A new concentrating solar power system developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) can reduce the fuel consumption of a modified natural-gas combined-cycle (NGCC) power plant by about 20%. The system converts natural gas into syngas—with higher energy content than natural gas—using a thermochemical conversion device installed in front of a concentrating solar power dish. The power plant then combusts the more energy dense syngas to produce electricity.
PNNL’s system uses a mirrored parabolic dish to direct sunbeams to a central point, where the thermochemical device uses the solar heat to produce syngas form natural gas. About four feet long and two feet wide, the device contains a chemical reactor and several heat exchangers. Concentrated sunlight heats up the natural gas flowing through the reactor’s channels, which hold a catalyst that helps turn natural gas into syngas.
Israel begins natural gas production from deepwater Tamar field in Eastern Mediterranean
March 31, 2013
|Map showing the location of Tamar, as well as the larger Leviathan field which is entering development. Source: Noble Energy. Click to enlarge.|
On Saturday, Israel’s Ministry of Energy & Water Resources reported that commercial natural gas production had begun from the deepwater Tamar field (c. 5,500 ft, 1,676 m) in the Eastern Mediterranean, 90 km (56 miles) west of Haifa. (Earlier post.)
Representing a $3.25-billion gross investment, according to operator Noble Energy (36% working interest), Tamar is entering operation 2.5 years from the sanction of the project, and four years after the discovery of the field. It uses the world’s longest subsea tieback—a 16-inch (41-cm), 93-mile (150 km) pipeline. The Tamar production platform is about 290 meters (951 ft) high and weighs (along with its subsea legs) about 34,000 tons.
Researchers develop high-rate, high-yield bacterial process to convert methane to methanol
March 22, 2013
|Cartoon of the process. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at Columbia University have developed a biological process utilizing autotrophic ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) for the conversion of methane (CH4) to methanol (CH3OH). A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
In fed-batch reactors using mixed nitrifying enrichment cultures from a continuous bioreactor, up to 59.89 ± 1.12 mg COD/L (COD = chemical oxygen demand, an indirect measurement of organic compounds in water) of CH3OH was produced within an incubation time of 7 h—approximately 10x the yield obtained previously using pure cultures of Nitrosomonas europaea. The maximum specific rate of CH4 to CH3OH conversion obtained during this study was 0.82 mg CH3OH COD/mg AOB biomass COD-d—1.5x times the highest value reported with pure cultures.
California Energy Commission awards more than $5.5M for green transportation projects and $1.8M for 20 energy research projects
March 21, 2013
The California Energy Commission (CEC) approved $5,580,773 for clean-energy transportation projects including biodiesel production, power control electronics for medium-and heavy-duty battery electric vehicles, and buydowns for propane vehicles. The awards were made through the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program.
In addition, CEC awarded $1,815,274 to fund 20 energy research projects in the areas of transportation, electricity, and natural gas. Funds for these projects—which span areas as diverse as a new crossover valve for the split-cycle Tour Engine (earlier post) to a new solar thermal storage device capable of integration with utility scale solar thermal power plants—come from Commission’s Energy Innovations Small Grant (EISG) program.
California ARB considering four new low-carbon fuel pathways; Neste renewable diesel and sugarcane molasses ethanol
March 20, 2013
California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted four new Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) pathways to the LCFS web site. (Earlier post.) Among the new pathways to be considered is the production of renewable diesel from Australian tallow at Neste Oil’s Singapore plant. Others are sugarcane molasses ethanol from Guatemala; mixed feedstock to biodiesel from Texas; and a new ARB-staff-developed pathway for North American landfill gas.
The Low Carbon Fuel Standard, approved in April 2009, requires that suppliers of transportation fuels meet an average declining standard of carbon intensity (CI) —expressed in grams of CO2 equivalent per megajoule of fuel energy (g CO2e/MJ)—that will provide a 10% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions for all fuels used in California by 2020. The CI of a fuel is determined by the sum of all greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, transportation, processing and consumption of a fuel (its pathway).
ARPA-E to award up to $20M to projects for bioconversion of methane to liquid fuels; seeking <$2/gge and ability to meet US demand for transportation fuels
March 17, 2013
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000881) for up to $20 million to fund the development of bioconversion technologies to convert methane into liquid fuels. (Earlier post.) This program envisions the development of transformative bioconversion technologies that are capable of producing liquid fuels economically from natural gas at less than $2 per gallon of gasoline equivalent and at levels sufficient to meet US demand for transportation fuels.
Of interest for the Reducing Emissions Using Methanotrophic Organisms For Transportation Energy (REMOTE) program are biological routes to improve the rates and energy efficiencies of methane activation and subsequent fuel synthesis, as well as approaches to engineer high-productivity methane conversion processes. REMOTE considers three technical categories:
SEAT introducing natural gas Mii Ecofuel with 79 g/km CO2
March 03, 2013
|The SEAT Mii Ecofuel. Click to enlarge.|
SEAT, a member of the Volkswagen Group, is expanding its Mii family with the introduction of the Mii Ecofuel, which runs on natural gas. The first model with a CNG engine to wear a SEAT badge, and making its debut at the Geneva Motor Show 2013 this coming week, the Mii Ecofuel offers average consumption of 2.9 kg CNG/100 km and CO2 emissions of 79 g/km. Given the fuel price in many countries, the running costs are approximately half those of a Mii with a gasoline engine.
The 1.0-liter, 68 PS (50 kW) engine is based on the three-cylinder gasoline unit found in the Mii with 60 PS (44 kW) and 75 PS (55 kW) outputs, but it’s been specifically developed for CNG operation. At an entry price of €12,050 (US$15,700) in Germany, the new SEAT Mii Ecofuel is also the most inexpensive CNG model on the market.
Audi to introduce natural gas A3 Sportback g-tron at year’s end; CO2-neutral e-gas
March 01, 2013
|Audi A3 Sportback g-tron. Click to enlarge.|
Audi will introduce the compact A3 Sportback g-tron—which can be powered by the CO2-neutral Audi e-gas, synthetic methane generated from eco-electricity in the Audi e-gas project (earlier post)—at the end of the year. The e-gas fuel will be produced in the power-to-gas plant in Werlte, Germany.
The five-door car consumes on average less than 3.5 kilograms per 100 km of compressed natural gas (CNG) or Audi e-gas. CO2 tailpipe emissions are less than 95 grams per km (153 g/mile) in gas mode. When the A3 Sportback g-tron is powered by Audi e-gas, no more CO2 is released than was chemically input in its production beforehand, creating a closed loop. When the energy required to build the e-gas facility and wind power generators is included in a comprehensive analysis, CO2 emissions under e-Gas operation are still less than 30 grams per km (48.28 g/mile).
Senators Sanders, Boxer propose legislation to institute GHG price on large stationary sources and remove support for fossil fuel industries
February 15, 2013
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would set an escalating fee on greenhouse gas emissions from large stationary sources to fund investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies and also provide rebates to consumers to offset increases in energy prices. The legislation also proposes numerous actions against financing and support for fossil fuel industries.
The proposal was drafted as two measures, the Climate Protection Act—which sets the carbon price and finance programs for sustainable technologies—and the Sustainable Energy Act—which ends federal support for fossil fuel companies and research and extends tax incentives for renewables. Among the financing provisions of the legislation are:
G2X Energy and EMRE sign methanol to gasoline technology license and license option agreements; plans for $1.3B natural gas to gasoline plant
January 18, 2013
|The ExxonMobil MTG process flow diagram. Source: EMRE. Click to enlarge.|
G2X Energy, Inc., a developer of natural gas to gasoline projects, entered into a licensing agreement to use ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company’s (EMRE’s) methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) technology (earlier post) in the development of a world-scale natural gas to gasoline project. (Earlier post.) G2X Energy is the first to secure a long term multi-site agreement with EMRE for natural gas based methanol to gasoline projects.
G2X Energy says will leverage its strategic partnership with the Proman Group, a leading process plant engineering and operating company, and EMRE’s MTG technology to create a platform to expand natural gas’ role in the existing transportation fuels market.
Tsinghua University provincial-level lifecycle study finds fuel-cycle criteria pollutants of EVs in China could be up to 5x those of natural gas vehicles due to China’s coal-dominant power mix
January 12, 2013
|Consumption-based power mixes and NG transmission distances by Chinese province in 2010. Credit: ACS, Huo et al. Click to enlarge.|
A province-by-province life cycle analysis of natural gas and electric vehicles by a team from Tsinghua University concludes that while, from the perspective of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) and criteria pollutant emissions, natural gas vehicles (CNGVs) are “an option with no obvious merits or demerits”, electric vehicles (EVs) are “an option with significant merits and demerits in this regard” due to China’s heavily coal-based electricity generation (national average of about 77%).
In regions where the share of coal-based electricity is relatively low, EVs can achieve substantial GHG reduction, the team reports in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology. However, the fuel-cycle PM10, PM2.5, SO2, and NOx emissions of EVs could be up to five times higher than those of ICEVs (internal combustion engine vehicles) and CNGVs. While the increases in PM10 and PM2.5 emissions are less important because of the low contribution of light duty vehicles to national PM10 and PM2.5 emissions, the NOx and SO2 increases are significant enough to notably change total national emissions, they conclude.
California Energy Commission to award up to $2.45M for renewable natural gas for transportation fuels
January 05, 2013
The California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) has released a Program Opportunity Notice (PON-12-506) for the award of up to $2.45 million to accelerate research, development and demonstration (RD&D) of advanced technologies to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) transportation fuels.
Examples of acceptable feedstocks include but are not limited to: waste-based biomass (both pre- and post-landfilled); agricultural residues; purpose-grown fuel crops; woody biomass and forest residues; animal manures; food waste; municipal solid waste (MSW); and sewage. Pathways by which renewable natural gas is to be derived for proposed projects can include fermentation; thermochemical processes, or any other means of producing RNG.
Univ. of Washington and partners working to engineer microbes for conversion of methane to lipids for processing into liquid intermediates for diesel or jet fuels
January 03, 2013
In a $4.8-million project funded by ARPA-E (earlier post), the University of Washington, the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Johnson-Matthey, and Lanza Tech are working to develop optimized microbes to convert methane found in natural gas into lipids for further processing into an intermediate liquid for diesel or jet fuel.
The University of Washington is taking the lead and focusing on genetically modifying the microbes. NREL will be in charge of fermentation to demonstrate the productivity of the microbes, both the natural organism and the genetically-altered varieties. NREL will also extract the lipids from the organisms and analyze the economic potential of the plan.
New catalyst for efficient bi-reforming of methane from any source for methanol and hydrocarbon synthesis; “metgas”
December 30, 2012
Researchers at the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute and Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California, have developed a new catalyst based on nickel oxide on magnesium oxide (NiO/MgO) that is effective for the bi-reforming with steam and CO2 (combined steam and dry reforming) of methane as well as natural gas in a tubular flow reactor at elevated pressures (5−30 atm) and temperatures (800−950 °C).
In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, they report that the bi-reforming effectively converts methane and its natural sources (natural or shale gas, coal-bed methane, methane hydrates) to what they call “metgas”, a 2/1 H2/CO mixture directly applicable for subsequent well-studied methanol synthesis with high selectivity. A typical single pass conversion at 7 atm is about 70−75%, which can be increased to 80−85% by adjusting the feed gas composition. Unreacted feed gases can be recycled.
San Diego MTS Board approves two major CNG bus procurements with combined value of up to $343.4 million
December 21, 2012
The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Board of Directors recently voted to approve two major bus procurements: up to 350 Gillig 40-foot low-floor CNG buses and up to 165 New Flyer 60-foot low-floor articulated CNG buses through 2017.
The total value of the contracts, if all options are exercised and future funding is available, is in excess of $343 million, inclusive of sales tax, licenses, fees and delivery. At the end of the contracts, more than 95% of MTS buses will run on cleaner compressed natural gas.
Topping-out ceremony for the Audi e-gas plant; synthetic methane production to begin in early 2013
December 13, 2012
|Components of the e-gas plant. Click to enlarge.|
Audi is celebrating progress on its e-gas plant under construction in Werlte, Germany with a topping-out ceremony. End products from the plant will be hydrogen and synthetic methane (Audi e-gas), to be used as fuel for vehicles such as the new Audi A3 Sportback TCNG. (Earlier post.)
The Audi e-gas plant, which can convert six megawatts of input power, will utilize renewable electricity for electrolysis, producing oxygen and hydrogen, the latter which could one day power fuel-cell vehicles. Because there is not yet a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, however, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 in a methanation unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas. Chemically speaking, this e-gas is nearly identical to fossil-based natural gas. As such, it can be distributed to CNG stations via the natural gas network and will power vehicles starting in 2013.
California Energy Commission to award up to $3M for advanced natural gas engine R&D for Class 3–7 vehicles
December 11, 2012
The California Energy Commission (CEC) has issued a funding notice (PON-12-504) for advanced natural gas engine research and development concepts for light heavy-duty vehicles (LHDV) and medium heavy-duty vehicles (MHDV) (Classes 3–7) operated in fleets throughout California.
There is $3 million available from this PON, with the possibility of additional funding from related program sources. The Energy Commission anticipates selecting at least three projects for funding.
Iveco to supply 115 natural gas Daily Vehicles to TNT Express Italy
December 07, 2012
|Iveco Daily Natural Power vehicles awaiting delivery. Click to enlarge.|
Iveco contracted to deliver 115 Daily Natural Power light commercial vehicles to TNT Express Italy by 2013. The methane gas-powered vehicles will be used by TNT for its express courier activities in the Rome area as well as other parts of Central Italy.
The New Daily Natural Power is equipped with a 100 kW, 3.0L, in-line 4-cylinder Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FPT) Industrial CNG engine with three-way catalytic converter, using a stoichiometric combustion regime that results in exhaust emissions well below the European EEV limits. The system can detect the composition of the gas used and is able to adapt the actual air/fuel ratio accordingly, in order to maintain low emissions without sacrificing performance.
Volkswagen’s 1.0L eco up! natural gas vehicle offers 79g CO2/km
December 05, 2012
|The eco up! natural gas vehicle. Click to enlarge.|
Volkswagen has launched the eco up! natural gas vehicle, previewed in a concept form in 2011 (earlier post) and revealed in its production version at the Geneva auto show in March this year, in Europe. The four-seat Volkswagen with its 1.0L engine consumes 2.9 kg (4.4 m3) of natural gas per 100 km—equivalent to CO2 emissions of 79 g/km. The 50 kW (67 hp, 68 PS) eco up! was rated in the best energy efficiency class: A+. In Germany, the car, even before market launch, was picked as the overall winner in the VCD Environment List (VCD Auto-Umweltliste) and was also awarded the ACVmobile environmental prize (ACVmobil Umweltpreis).
Engine. For the eco up!, Volkswagen used a newly developed three-cylinder gasoline engine with 999 cc displacement (EA211 engine series). The natural gas version produces its 50 kW output at 6,200 rpm and reaches its maximum torque of 90 N·m (66 lb-ft) at 3,000 rpm. The eco up! accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 16.3 seconds; its top speed is 164 km/h (102 mph). Although the 12-valve engine was specially configured to operate with natural gas, as an alternative it can be fueled with unleaded premium gasoline.