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[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.]

UT Austin to lead $58M study of methane hydrate in Gulf of Mexico; $41M from DOE

October 22, 2014

A research team led by The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded approximately $58 million to analyze methane hydrate deposits under the Gulf of Mexico. The grant, one of the largest ever awarded to the university, will allow researchers to advance the scientific understanding of naturally occurring methane hydrate so that its resource potential and environmental implications can be fully understood.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is providing $41,270,609, with the remainder funded by industry and the research partners. Methane hydrate—natural gas trapped in an ice-like cage of water molecules—occurs in both terrestrial and marine environments. Prior programs in Alaska have explored gas hydrate reservoir potential and alternative production strategies, and additional testing programs are in development. While not part of this new program, the DOE further intends to evaluate production methods on terrestrial methane hydrate deposits in Alaska.

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More on the Mercedes-Benz 2014 B-Class alternative drive systems: electric and natural gas

October 21, 2014

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B-Class Electric Drive (right) and B-Class Natural Gas Drive (left). Click to enlarge.

Mercedes-Benz earlier gave the already successful B-Class a thorough facelift, giving particular attention to an upgrade of the interior. (Earlier post.) The revamped B-Class offers a choice of five diesel models with fuel ranging from 3.6 to 5.0 l/100 km (65.3 to 47 mpg US) and four gasoline engines at between 5.4 and 6.6 l/100 km (43.6 and 35.6 mpg US) as well as the B-Class Electric Drive (earlier post) and the B 200 Natural Gas Drive.

Both alternative drive models feature the modular “ENERGY SPACE” bodyshell concept: the underbody houses either the lithium-ion battery (B-Class Electric Drive) or one large and two smaller natural gas tanks and a 14‑liter gasoline tank (B 200 Natural Gas Drive). The B-Class Electric Drive and the B-Class Natural Gas Drive also differ in design from the gasoline and diesel models—particularly in the shaping of the front and rear aprons and the side skirts.

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California Energy Commission to award up to $2.25M for R&D on advanced ignition systems for Class 3-8 natural gas engines

October 10, 2014

The California Energy Commission has issued a funding notice (PON-14-501) to support the applied research and development of advanced high-energy ignition systems capable of overcoming the challenges of igniting natural gas fuel under high boost pressures with heavy exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) for spark-ignited Class 3-8 engines.

Ignition characteristics of natural gas fuel represent challenges to engine manufacturers working to satisfy tighter emission standards, achieve lower fuel consumption and higher engine performance, and respond to market demand for extended maintenance options. Funded projects must involve the development and demonstration of one or both of the following concepts for new or existing ignition systems:

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Westport updates HPDI 2.0 dual fuel system with new Delphi injectors, upgraded LNG storage and supply

October 01, 2014

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1st-generation Westport HPDI Injector and next-generation injector. (CNW Group/Westport Innovations Inc. Click to enlarge.

Westport Innovations Inc. is updating its second-generation Westport high pressure direct injection (Westport HPDI 2.0) (earlier post) development program with a new family of high-pressure fuel injectors, co-developed with Delphi Automotive PLC. The new injectors are designed to provide lower cost, smaller size and improved packaging compared to prior generation Westport HPDI injector designs.

The new generation injectors are running in engine tests today and are on display at the Delphi booth at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover, Germany.

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MAN shows TGX parallel diesel hybrid truck concept, previews CNG in TGM trucks at IAA; gearbox cooperation with Scania

September 28, 2014

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MANs TGX hybrid concept at IAA. Click to enlarge.

At the IAA, MAN (part of the Volkswagen Group) presented a concept diesel-electric parallel hybrid version of its long-haul TGX truck. (MAN showed the Metropolis research truck, a range-extended electric refuse collection truck developed in collaboration with Benteler Engineering Services for use in the city, at IAA 2012, earlier post.) Also at IAA, MAN gave a preview of the CNG technology in trucks with a TGM distributor chassis; the CNG trucks are due in the market in 2016. (MAN has an established line of CNG-powered buses.)

TGX Hybrid. The MAN TGX concept hybrid will be driven by a parallel hybrid system, supplied by a 440 hp (328 kW) diesel engine and an electric motor with 130 kW drive power. The electric motor acts as an alternator when coasting and braking. A MAN TipMatic gearbox transfers power to the rear axle.

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Groundbreaking in Turkmenistan for major synthetic gasoline plant; first full-scale Haldor Topsøe TIGAS facility

September 27, 2014

In August, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Ovadan-Depe near the capital of Ashgabad in Turkmenistan to launch the construction of a major plant focused on the conversion of natural gas into synthetic gasoline. The plant will be based on Haldor Topsøe’s TIGAS (Topsøe Improved Gasoline Synthesis) technology (earlier post) and will become the first full-scale large commercial facility using this technology.

The plant has been awarded by the national gas company Turkmengas, and Topsøe will be working alongside the Japanese contractor Kawasaki Heavy Industry Ltd. and the Turkish contractor Rönesans Turkmen to engineer and construct the facility. The plant will be become operational in approximately four years from now with a daily production capacity of 15,500 bbl of synthetic gasoline.

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ORNL study finds best current use of natural gas for cars is efficient production of electricity for EVs

September 24, 2014

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Top: Components of well-to-wheels pathway. Middle: WTW efficiency for CNGVs. Bottom: WTW efficiency for EVs. Curran et al. Click to enlarge.

A well-to-wheels analysis of the use of natural gas for passenger vehicles by a team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has found that, with a high PTW (pump-to-wheels) efficiency and the potential for high electrical generation efficiency with NGCC (natural gas combined cycle) turbines, natural gas currently is best used in an efficient stationary power application for charging EVs.

However, they also noted, high PTW efficiencies and the moderate fuel economies of current compressed natural gas vehicles (CNGVs) make them a viable option as well. If CNG were to be eventually used in hybrids, the advantage of the electric generation/EV option shrinks. Their open access paper is published in the journal Energy.

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Westport unveils proprietary enhanced spark-ignited natural gas system; up to 10% improvement in power and torque over diesel

September 23, 2014

Westport Innovations Inc. unveiled the first generation of its new, proprietary enhanced spark-ignited (ESI) natural gas system. The new approach to natural gas combustion technology is designed to provide vehicle and engine original manufacturers (OEMs) with a “downsized” natural gas solution that is cost competitive while providing similar levels of power, torque, and fuel economy to a larger diesel engine.

Using 100% dedicated natural gas as fuel, Westport’s new technology optimizes the combustion and thermal efficiencies of the engine by taking advantages of the positive properties of natural gas. The Westport ESI combustion system is targeted at sub 9L engines for Class 6 and 7 trucks applications and is also adaptable for sub 2L applications for use in automotive and non-automotive applications.

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Facelifted Mercedes-Benz B-Class with diesel, gasoline, natural gas and electric drives debuting at Paris show

September 12, 2014

Mercedes-Benz has given its B-Class range—more than 350,000 of which have been sold worldwide since market launch in late 2011—a major facelift including exterior and interior enhancements along with redefined design and equipment lines. Sales of the new B-Class commenced on 12 September, with the world première taking place during the Paris Motor Show (4 to 19 October). The revamped models will be making their way to dealerships from 29 November 2014.

Buyers have a wide choice of powertrains: five diesel models with fuel ranging from 3.6 to 5.0 l/100 km (65.3 to 47 mpg US); four gasoline engines at between 5.4 and 6.6 l/100 km (43.6 and 35.6 mpg US); alternative drive systems (B 200 Natural Gas Drive and B-Class Electric Drive); as well as optional 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The sports tourer also features a Cd value of less than 0.25. Prices in Europe will start from €27,102.25 (around US$35,000) for the B 180.

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Soros signals Argentina’s shale is biggest place to be; doubles stake in YPF SA

September 04, 2014

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

One of the world’s legendary investors is upping his bet on Argentina’s shale oil and gas industry in a show of confidence for shale production in South America’s largest unconventional prize—and a big boost for both supermajors and smaller players making big waves in the heart of new discovery areas.

George Soros has doubled his stake in YPF SA, the state-owned oil company in Argentina, which sits atop some of the world’s largest shale oil and gas resources, and is about to get even larger following a new discovery over the last couple of weeks of a second key shale play.

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US MARAD study finds marine use of natural gas substantially reduces some air pollutants and slightly reduces GHG emissions

August 26, 2014

A recently released total fuel cycle analysis for maritime case studies shows that natural gas fuels reduce some air quality pollutants substantially, and reduce major greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions slightly, when compared to conventional petroleum-based marine fuels (low-sulfur and high-sulfur). The study was released by the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Maritime Administration (MARAD) and was conducted through a cooperative partnership with the Maritime Administration, the University of Delaware and The Rochester Institute of Technology.

They also found that the upstream configuration for natural gas supply matters in terms of minimizing GHG emissions on a total fuel cycle basis, and that the current infrastructure for marine fuels may produce fewer GHGs. Continued improvements to minimize downstream emissions of methane during vessel-engine operations will also contribute to lower GHG emissions from marine applications of natural gas fuels.

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Volvo Trucks introduces new monofuel natural gas version of FE

August 20, 2014

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Volvo FE CNG. Click to enlarge.

Volvo Trucks is expanding its model range in Europe with a new version of the Volvo FE running entirely on natural gas. The Volvo FE CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) has been primarily developed for operations involving short driving cycles with repeated starts and stops such as refuse collection and local distribution.

The Volvo FE CNG is powered by an all-new 9-liter Euro 6 engine featuring spark plug technology that produces 320 hp (239 kW) and 1356 N·m (1000 lb-ft) of torque. Spark plug technology is particularly suitable for driving cycles where the truck covers short distances with a lot of start-stop traffic, said Christina Eriksson, Business Manager Alternative Drivelines at Volvo Trucks.

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OCM company Siluria pulls in $30M in D round led by Saudi Aramco; methane to fuels and chemicals

Siluria Technologies, a pioneer in the commercialization of an oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) technology to produce ethylene from natural gas (earlier post), announced the initial close of its Series D financing round. The round was led by Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV), the venture investment subsidiary of Saudi Aramco and included additional investments by all of the major existing investors in Siluria. The total raise for this initial close of the Series D financing was $30 million.

With this initial Series D financing, Siluria has raised just under $100 million since its inception. Siluria is currently in discussions with additional strategic and financial investors to complete a total Series D financing of approximately $50 million.

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U. Mich study: natural-gas-based ICE, BEV and FCV all show promise for environmental benefits relative to conventional ICE

August 19, 2014

Results of a lifecycle analysis by a team at the University of Michigan suggest that multiple types of natural gas-powered vehicles—i.e., natural-gas burning ICE vehicles; battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) recharged with gas-generated electricity; and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) using hydrogen produced from natural gas—all show promise for reducing environmental impacts, energy demand and climate change impacts relative to conventional petroleum-fueled internal combustion engined vehicles for personal mobility.

Qiang Dai and Christian Lastoskie found that BEVs and FCVs in particular offer significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, especially if carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies are implemented at the fuel conversion facilities. Their study appears in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

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Mercedes-Benz showcasing new 7.7L Euro VI natural gas engine for medium-duty commercial vehicles at IAA; replaces two earlier models

August 08, 2014

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Relative (percent) CO2 emissions benefit of the new natural gas variant as compared to the 220 kW diesel engine. Benz et al.. Click to enlarge.

Among its trucks on display at the upcoming IAA in Hanover, Mercedes-Benz will showcase an Econic equipped with its new Euro VI medium-duty natural gas engine (M 936NGT), which is derived from the 7.7-liter Euro VI M 936 inline six-cylinder diesel. This engine will replace the current natural gas engines based on 900 and 400 model series engines, with 6.9 and 12 liters of displacement respectively. These are lean-burn engines and fulfill Euro V EEV emissions specification.

As a mono-fuel engine, the new engine runs on compressed natural gas (CNG) and has an output of 221 kW (301 hp) while delivering maximum torque of 1200 N·m (885 lb-ft)—the same performance as the single-stage turbocharged diesel model. CO2 emissions are up to 22% below those of diesel (during high-load conditions), even with the lower efficiency of an Otto-cycle SI combustion engine relative to diesel. Using biogas further improves the carbon footprint.

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DOE to award $9M to promote consensus on future fossil energy technologies

July 20, 2014

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy will award $9 million over five years to organizations to assist it in building domestic and international consensus on future fossil energy technologies (DE-FOA-0001111). The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) anticipates two awards being made: the first for $7 million in the area of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and fossil-fuel-based Clean Energy Systems (CES); the second for $2 million in the area of international oil and natural gas.

One of the key missions of the Office of Fossil Energy is to “ensure the nation can continue to rely on traditional resources for clean, secure and affordable energy while enhancing environmental protection.” In pursuit of this, the Office provides outreach and education to many stakeholders, including the general public, in order to allow them to make educated choices about energy.

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Review: Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD with bi-fuel CNG option

July 14, 2014

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View of the CNG tank in the bed of a Silverado 2500HD with bi-fuel option. Click to enlarge.

GM’s 2015 Chevy Silverado 2500HD with the bi-fuel (natural gas) option (earlier post) offers buyers—primarily commercial and fleet buyers—a strong natural-gas option in the ¾-ton pickup market that combines the excellent qualities of the base Silverado 2500HD with the economic (lower cost) and environmental (lower emissions of GHGs and criteria pollutants) benefits of natural gas fuel and packages the two together seamlessly.

As with any vehicle choice, there are trade-offs that need to be balanced against target use. In the case of the 2500HD bi-fuel, the two main trade-offs are a reduction in power and torque in CNG mode compared to gasoline mode, and the loss of a portion of the bed of the truck to the 3,600 psi CNG tank and its box-like enclosure. (It looks like a hefty black tool box mounted across the front of the bed.) Of those two trade-offs, only the second is permanent. The driver can easily switch from CNG to gasoline with the flick of a switch, essentially reverting the 2500HD to its conventional gasoline cousin, with the accompanying boost in power and torque for occasions that might call for it.

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Calysta reports 8-fold improvement in gas fermentation in ARPA-E program; BioGTL

July 10, 2014

Calysta, Inc. reported that it has achieved 8-fold improved performance over traditional fermentation technologies in a high mass transfer bioreactor. The bioreactor technology is under development for efficient methane-to-liquids fermentation processes, enabling rapid, cost-effective methane conversion into protein, industrial chemicals and fuels. (Earlier post.)

The improved performance was achieved in the research phase of a program funded in part by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program under the REMOTE program (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy), awarded in September 2013. (Earlier post.) Calysta develops sustainable industrial products using novel natural gas conversion technology using methane.

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Critical review finds actual measurement data on segments of natural gas lifecycle sparse or lacking

July 08, 2014

After a critical review of the literature on the air impacts of increased natural gas acquisition, processing, and use, a team of US researchers has determined that that actual measurement data on various individual segments of the natural gas life cycle are sparse or critically lacking.

National and state regulators primarily use generic emission inventories to assess the climate, air quality, and health impacts of natural gas systems. These inventories rely on limited, incomplete, and sometimes outdated emission factors and activity data, based on few measurements, they found. In their paper, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they make a number of recommendations to maximize the benefits and minimize the negative impacts of the natural gas resource.

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Navigant forecasts MHD vehicle market to nearly double by 2035 with declining share of conventional engines; gases win out over electricity

July 07, 2014

The number of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs) in use worldwide will nearly double between 2014 and 2035, according to a new forecast report by Navigant Research. Navigant projects that annual MHDV sales will grow throughout the forecast period at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.4%.

Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs)—including battery-electric (BEVs), plug-in hybrid (PHEVs), propane autogas (PAGVs) and natural gas vehicles (NGVs)—will grow from 5.0% of the market in 2014 to 11.2% by 2035. A majority of these AFVs will be NGVs and PAGVs. Vehicles running primarily on hydrogen and electricity will make up less than 1% of all MHDVs in 2035, according to Navigant.

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EDI partners with Greenkraft for parallel-series multi-mode Class-4 CNG-PHEV truck; CEC funding

June 30, 2014

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Greenkraft truck. Click to enlarge.

Efficient Drivetrains, Inc. (EDI), a producer of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and continuously variable transmission (CVT) solutions (earlier post), is partnering with Greenkraft, CALSTART, and the California Energy Commission (CEC) to develop a Class-4 vehicle that combines the benefits of compressed natural gas (CNG) and PHEV technology. EDI was co-founded by Professor Andy Frank from UC Davis—a key figure in the development of the PHEV concept and technology—in 2006.

The effort combines EDI’s intelligent multi-mode PHEV powertrain (EDI-Drive) with Greenkraft’s CNG-powered 14,500-pound, Class-4 medium-duty truck, which is equipped with a 6.0L GM engine. EDI’s solution can improve the fuel economy of a conventional CNG-powered medium-duty truck by more than 40%, the company said.

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Researchers propose CO2 recycling to improve Fischer-Tropsch GTL efficiency and reduce total CO2 emissions

June 21, 2014

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Overview of the CUGP processes. Credit: ACS, Zhang et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in South Korea are suggesting two new carbon-dioxide-utilized Gas-to-Liquids processes (CUGP) to increase the overall efficiency of conventional Fischer-Tropsch GTL. In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they report that the two CUGP options increase carbon efficiency by 21.1−41.3% and thermal efficiency by 15.7−40.7%, with total CO2 emissions reduced by 82.0−88.4%, compared to different conventional F-T processes.

This results in a decrease in total CO2 emissions to less than 5g CO2/MJ F-T product, compared to a range of 27.0 to 36.2g CO2/MJ F-T product for the conventional processes.

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Researchers review risk to water resources from unconventional shale gas development in US

June 19, 2014

A team from Duke University, Stanford University, Dartmouth College and Ohio State University has published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology an overview and synopsis of recent investigations (as of January 2014) into one set of possible environmental impacts from unconventional shale gas development: the potential risks to water resources.

They identified four potential modes of water resource degradation: (1) shallow aquifers contaminated by fugitive natural gas (i.e., stray gas contamination) from leaking shale gas and conventional oil and gas wells, potentially followed by water contamination from hydraulic fracturing fluids and/or formation waters from the deep formations; (2) surface water contamination from spills, leaks, and the disposal of inadequately treated wastewater or hydraulic fracturing fluids; (3) accumulation of toxic and radioactive elements in soil and the sediments of rivers and lakes exposed to wastewater or fluids used in hydraulic fracturing; and (4) the overuse of water resources, which can compete with other water uses such as agriculture in water-limited environments.

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DOE releases report on water-energy nexus

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a new report that frames an integrated challenge and opportunity space around the water-energy nexus for DOE and its partners and lays the foundation for future efforts.

Present day water and energy systems are tightly intertwined. Water is used in all phases of energy production and electricity generation. Energy is required to extract, convey, and deliver water of appropriate quality for diverse human uses. Recent developments have focused national attention on these connections.

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Porous material polymerizes carbon dioxide at natural gas wellheads; less costly and energy-intensive approach

June 03, 2014

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Particles of nitrogen-containing porous carbon polymerize CO2 from natural gas under pressure at a wellhead. When the pressure is released, the CO2 returns to gaseous form. Courtesy of the Tour Group. Click to enlarge.

Scientists in the Rice University lab of chemist James Tour have developed materials that offer a lower cost, less energy-intensive way to separate carbon dioxide from natural gas at wellheads. The nucleophilic porous carbons, synthesized from simple and inexpensive carbon–sulphur and carbon–nitrogen precursors, pull only carbon dioxide molecules from flowing natural gas and polymerize them while under pressure naturally provided by the well.

When the pressure is released, the carbon dioxide spontaneously depolymerizes and frees the sorbent material to collect more. All of this works in ambient temperatures, unlike current high-temperature capture technologies that use up a portion of the energy being produced.

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DOE issues request for information for Grand Challenges in Subsurface Engineering

May 11, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information for Grand Challenges in Subsurface Engineering (DE-FOA-0001135). The purpose of the RFI is to gather information from industry, academia, national laboratories, and other federal agency stakeholders on critical subsurface knowledge and/or technology gaps that, if filled, will enable significant improvements in the understanding of the character and behavior of the subsurface environment and improve the ability to access, predict, manipulate and monitor the subsurface. Responses to this RFI are due no later than 8:00 PM ET on 23 May 2014.

Background. Subsurface reservoirs account for more than 80% of US primary energy, and also offer potential for the storage of energy, CO2, and nuclear waste. Despite decades of development, DOE notes, current technologies do not allow full utilization of subsurface energy resources; for example, only ~10 to 40% of the oil and gas is recovered from shale and conventional reservoirs, respectively.

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Motiv Engines introduces 2nd-generation split-cycle concept; MkII Clarke-Brayton heavy-duty engine being designed for LNG

May 08, 2014

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Section of the MkII Clarke-Brayton split-cycle engine. Note the three different cylinder sizes. Air moves sequentially from induction (top cylinder) to combustion (middle cylinder) to expansion (bottom cylinder). Click to enlarge.

Motiv Engines, LLC introduced the second-generation of its engine concept dubbed the MkII Clarke-Brayton Engine, which it intends to develop into a heavy-duty on-highway engine fueled by liquid natural gas (LNG). The prototype is fueled by diesel, a first step in proving the technology before developing a new LNG fuel system.

The MkII Clarke-Brayton Engine is a boxer-configuration split-cycle engine implementing what Motiv calls the Clarke-Brayton cycle. The thermodynamics of the engine are virtually identical to the company’s previous CCI (Compact Compression Ignition) design, as described in a 2013 SAE paper, but are implemented in a much more conventional way.

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DOE to award up to $35M for environmentally-prudent unconventional resource development

May 04, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001076) for projects in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY2014) that focus on improving the environmental performance of unconventional oil and natural gas (UOG)—i.e., shale gas, tight oil, and tight gas—resource development. DOE expects approximately $25-35 million to be available for new awards under the FOA.

While in-place, unconventional resources are substantial, recovery efficiencies are commonly low in these reservoirs. Current industry practice includes decreasing well and frac stage spacing to increase overall recovery. The objective of the new FOA is to address critical gaps of knowledge of the characterization, basic subsurface science, and completion/stimulation strategies of tight oil, tight gas, and shale gas resources to enable more efficient resource recovery from fewer and less environmentally impactful wells.

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Cambridge study of near-term alternative London bus technologies finds lean-burn CNG most costly with greater climate impact than diesel

May 01, 2014

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Annual GHG emissions relative to BASE Scenario (BASE Scenario = 949 kt CO2e on a 100-year GWP basis) for differing London bus fleet technology options. Lean-burn CNG is disadvantaged by unburned HC and natural gas pipeline leaks. Credit: ACS, Chong et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have conducted a comprehensive environmental cost–benefit analysis of near-term alternative bus technologies. The study considered emissions of non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), CO, NOx, PM2.5, sulfur dioxide (SO2), and ammonia (NH3), as well as the lifecycle climate impact of CO2 and non-CO2 greenhouse gases (GHG) on a CO2-equivalent basis.

Their findings indicated that emission control strategy retrofits are the least costly near-term intervention to reduce urban air pollution. Although hybrid buses provide net GHG reductions and air quality improvements, associated costs are higher and more uncertain than emission retrofits. Lean-burn (spark ignition) compressed natural gas (LB-CNG) delivers the lowest health impacts due to the significant reduction of PM2.5, but has relatively high associated CO2e emissions that negate the health benefits, they found. As a result, current LB-CNG vehicles are the most costly of all of the modeled technologies, they concluded. Their study appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Westport and Weichai launch WP12 engine and begin development of WD10 engine with Westport HPDI 2.0 technology

April 28, 2014

Westport Innovations Inc. has launched the final customer validation units of the next-generation Westport high pressure direct injection (Westport HPDI 2.0, earlier post) on the Weichai Westport WP12 engine platform. The Weichai Westport WP 12 HPDI is China’s first engine featuring Westport HPDI technology, delivering the power and performance of the base diesel engine, while replacing up to 95% of diesel fuel with cleaner burning, less expensive natural gas. Using Westport HPDI, the WP12 engine is expected to meet China V emission standards (roughly equivalent to Euro V) without a complex after-treatment system.

Weichai Westport plans to release 30 trucks for customer validation through 2014 with factory production expected to start in 2015. Weichai and Westport have also agreed to develop the 10-liter Weichai Westport WD10 engine with Westport HPDI 2.0. Weichai Westport will provide funding for the development with Westport supplying key components and engineering support.

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DOE to award up to $20M for further studies on methane hydrates; projects worth up to $80M

April 14, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity announcement for up to $20 million (DE-FOA-0001023) for applications for selection and award in FY 2014 that focus on the (1) methane hydrate reservoir-response field experiments in Alaska; and (2) field programs for marine gas hydrate characterization. DOE anticipates that individual total project values may be up to $80 million depending on the number of awards, complexity, duration, and level of recipient cost share. 

These projects are to support program goals and represent a critical component of advancing several of the specific mandates previously established for the Methane Hydrate Program under the Methane Hydrate Act of 2000 (as amended by Section 968 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005).

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DOE releases five-year strategic plan, 2014-2018; supporting “all of the above” energy strategy

April 08, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released its five-year 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. The plan is organized into 12 strategic objectives aimed at three distinct goals: Science and Energy; Nuclear Security; and Management and Performance. These objectives represent broad cross-cutting and collaborative efforts across DOE headquarters, site offices, and national laboratories.

The overarching goal for Science and Energy is: “Advance foundational science, innovate energy technologies, and inform data driven policies that enhance US economic growth and job creation, energy security, and environmental quality, with emphasis on implementation of the President’s Climate Action Plan to mitigate the risks of and enhance resilience against climate change.” Under that, the plan sketches out 3 strategic goals:

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ERTRAC publishes roadmap on energy carriers and powertrains; role for power-to-gas

April 07, 2014

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Main technology trends and the vision share of engines in Europe. [ERTRAC / EUCAR] Click to enlarge.

The European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) has published a new roadmap assessing energy carriers and powertrains in the context of the European target to achieve a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions from transport by 2050. ERTRAC is the European Technology Platform (ETP) for Road Transport recognized and supported by the European Commission. ERTRAC has more than 50 members, representing all the actors of the Road Transport System: transport industry, European associations, EU Member States, local authorities, European Commission services, etc.

The analysis concludes that while the goal is challenging, it is also realizable; however the overall high-level goals need to be segmented into precise targets for the different industries and stakeholders. For the topic of future road mobility these are the development of alternative and decarbonized fuels and energy carriers; and higher powertrain efficiency leading to cleaner mobility and reduction in resource demand.

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NRC report offers guidance on development of Phase 2 rules to reduce fuel consumption and GHG from medium-and heavy-duty vehicles; more natural gas and aerodyanamics, expanded lifecycle considerations

April 03, 2014

Expanding the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel and greater use of aerodynamic devices on trailers are among the 17 overarching strategies recommended by a new National Research Council report for reducing fuel consumption by tractor-trailers, transit buses, commercial vehicles, trucks, and other medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs).

The report follows a 2010 Research Council report the findings and recommendations of which informed the “Phase I Rule” on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles issued jointly by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and US Environmental Protection Agency. (Earlier post.) The new report offers guidance for the “Phase II Rule” under development, which is directed at technologies and programs in the post-2018 time frame. (Earlier post.) The committee will expand upon this new work and issue a final report in 2016 that will cover a broader range of technologies and approaches that address the 2025-2030 time frame.

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MIT Energy Initiative announces 2014 seed grant awards

March 30, 2014

The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) announced its latest round of seed grants to support early-stage innovative energy projects. A total of more than $1.6 million was awarded to 11 projects, each lasting up to two years. With this latest round, the MITEI Seed Fund Program has supported 129 early-stage research proposals, with total funding of about $15.8 million.

This year’s winners address a wide range of topics including new methods of designing and using catalysts; assessment of natural gas technologies; novel design concepts for batteries, energy harvesters, and capacitors; integrated photovoltaic–electrochemical devices to reduce CO2 for fuel production; and investigations into public opinion on various state energy policies.

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Synthetic biology company launches JV to commercialize gas-to-liquids bioconversion; isobutanol first target

March 28, 2014

Synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation has formed Intrexon Energy Partners (IEP), a joint venture with a group of external investors, to optimize and to scale-up Intrexon’s gas-to-liquids (GTL) bioconversion platform. IEP’s first target product is isobutanol for gasoline blending.

Intrexon’s natural gas upgrading program is targeting the development of an engineered microbial cell line for industrial-scale bioconversion of natural gas to chemicals, lubricants and fuels, as opposed to employing standard chemical routes. Intrexon says it has already achieved initial proof of concept with an engineered microbial host converting methane into isobutanol in a laboratory-scale bioreactor.

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JEC updates well-to-wheels study on automotive fuels and powertrains; electro-mobility, natural gas and biofuels

March 27, 2014

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WTW energy expended and GHG emissions for conventional fuels ICE and hybrid vehicles shows the potential for improvement of conventional fuels and ICE based vehicles. Source: EUR 26236 EN - 2014 Click to enlarge.

Europe’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and its partners in the JEC Consortium—JRC, EUCAR (the European Council for Automotive R&D) and CONCAWE (the oil companies European association for environment, health and safety in refining and distribution)—have published a new version of the Well-to-Wheels Analysis of Future Automotive Fuels and Powertrains in the European Context. (Earlier post.)

The updated version includes a longer-term outlook by expanding the time horizon from 2010 and beyond to 2020 and beyond. It adds an assessment of electrically chargeable vehicle configurations, such as plug-in hybrid, range extended, battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles. It also introduces an update of natural gas pathways, taking into account the addition of a European shale gas pathway. Furthermore, biofuel pathways, including an entirely new approach to NOx emissions from farming, were thoroughly revised.

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KAIST researchers develop box-shaped pressure vessel for storage and transportation of pressurized gases and fluids

March 25, 2014

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Scaled-down model of prismatic pressure vessel. Click to enlarge.

Professors Pål G. Bergan and Daejun Chang and of Ocean Systems Engineering at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed a box-type, large-size pressure vessel for the storage and transportation of liquids such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG), or liquefied natural gas (LNG). The project was sponsored by POSCO, a multinational steel-making company based in Pohang, Republic of Korea.

Pressure vessels have many applications and are widely used within the petrochemical, energy, and other industrial sectors where the transport and storage of many types of pressurized gases and fluids are essential. Pressure vessels must be designed, manufactured, installed, and operated strictly in accordance with the appropriate codes and standards since they can, in cases of leak or rupture, pose considerable health and safety hazards.

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Velocys, Waste Management, NRG Energy and Ventech form JV for small-scale gas-to-liquids plants

March 24, 2014

Velocys plc, a developer of smaller-scale microchannel gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology, has entered a joint venture (JV) with Waste Management, NRG Energy (NRG), and Ventech Engineers International (Ventech) to develop gas-to-liquids (GTL) plants in the United States and other select geographies.

The JV will pursue the development of multiple plants utilizing a combination of renewable biogas (including landfill gas) and natural gas. Waste Management intends to supply renewable gas and, in certain cases, project sites. All four members will work exclusively through the JV to pursue the intended application (GTL using renewable gas, optionally in conjunction with natural gas) in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and China.

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BlackPak awarded $4.6M ARPA-E project for container-less natural gas fuel tank technology development

March 21, 2014

The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded BlackPak, Inc., a private technology company developing innovative packaging solutions for natural gas fuel sources, a $4.6-million cooperative agreement for the development of its natural gas fuel tank technology under ARPA-E’s Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy (MOVE) Program.

Under the ARPA-E award, Blackpak will use high-strength, high-surface-area carbon to develop a sorbent-based natural gas storage vessel in which the sorbent itself is the container, eliminating the external pressure vessel altogether. BlackPak, together with its partners, ATMI, Inc. and SRI International, is developing adsorbed natural gas storage systems for automotive and commercial applications with a target system-level energy density greater than 6 MJ/L at 500 psi pressure.

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Siluria Technologies unveils new development unit for liquid fuels from natural gas based on OCM and ETL technologies

Siluria Technologies, the developer of novel bio-templated catalysts for the economic direct conversion of methane (CH4) to ethylene (C2H4) (earlier post), unveiled a development unit for producing liquid fuels from natural gas based on Siluria’s proprietary oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) and ethylene-to-liquid (ETL) technologies.

Together, Siluria’s OCM and ETL technologies form a unique and efficient process for transforming methane into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other liquid fuels. Unlike the high-temperature, high-pressure cracking processes employed today to produce fuels and chemicals, Siluria’s process employs catalytic processes to create longer-chain, higher-value materials, thereby significantly reducing operating costs and capital.

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Researchers develop new lower-temperature process for conversion of natural gas alkanes to alcohols

March 14, 2014

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and Brigham Young University have devised a new and more efficient method to convert natural gas into liquid products at much lower temperatures than conventional methods.

Their work, reported in the journal Science, uses main-group metals such as thallium and lead to oxidize methane and the other alkanes contained in natural gas (ethane and propane) to liquid alcohols at about 180 °C instead of the more than 500 °C used in current processes, said SRI Professor Roy Periana, who led the research. This creates the potential to produce fuels and chemicals at much lower cost.

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Eaton and Cummins Westport launch first automated transmission/natural gas engine package for N.A. Market; expanding SmartAdvantage diesel packages

March 10, 2014

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ISXG12 G paired with UltraShift PLUS. Click to enlarge.

Eaton and Cummins Westport, a joint-venture company of Cummins Inc. and Westport Innovations (NASDAQ: WPRT/TSX: WPT), are introducing an integrated powertrain package for the Cummins Westport ISX12 G natural gas engine that will provide customers with the first automated transmission to be paired with a spark-ignited natural gas engine in the North American market. The powertrain will combine an Eaton UltraShift PLUS automated transmission with the Cummins Westport ISX12 G engine.

Eaton and Cummins also announced that their popular SmartAdvantage Powertrain package is being expanded to include applications for the ISX12 diesel engine and ISX15 SmartAdvantage applications up to 110,000 lb gross vehicle weight (GVW). The product initially integrated an Eaton Fuller Advantage Series Automated Transmission with the Cummins ISX15 engine.

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Westport and Delphi sign joint development agreement to commercialize natural gas injector technology for heavy-duty applications

March 03, 2014

Westport Innovations Inc. and Delphi Automotive have signed a joint development agreement under which the two will combine their intellectual property and engineering strengths to co-develop and manufacture high-pressure natural gas fuel injectors designed for multiple heavy-duty engine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The first in a family of injectors to be developed will be one of the core components of Westport’s recently announced HPDI 2.0 fuel system. (Earlier post.)

Westport HPDI uses natural gas as the primary fuel in a diesel (compression ignition) cycle along with a small amount of diesel fuel as an ignition source. Core to the approach is a patented injector with a dual-concentric needle design. This allows small quantities of diesel fuel and large quantities of natural gas to be delivered at high pressure to the combustion chamber.

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Magna to introduce lightweight natural gas vehicle concept at Geneva; less than 49 gCO2/km

February 26, 2014

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MILA Blue. Click to enlarge.

To showcase its capabilities, global automotive supplier Magna International Inc. will showcase the MILA Blue vehicle concept at the Geneva Motor Show 2014. MILA Blue is a natural-gas powered, A-segment lightweight vehicle that produces less than 49g CO2/km.

MILA Blue, the seventh concept vehicle in the MILA family, represents a new lightweight design approach. Realized through a combination of an optimized vehicle architecture and lightweight design concepts as well as novel materials and joining technologies, MILA Blue achieves a weight savings of 300 kg (661 lbs) compared to typical current A-segment vehicles.

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Study concludes that NG leakage higher than reflected in inventories; transportation fuel climate benefits questioned

February 14, 2014

A review of 20 years of technical literature on natural gas (NG) emissions in the United States and Canada comprising more than 200 papers has concluded that official inventories consistently underestimate actual CH4 emissions due to leakage from the natural gas system. “Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said lead author Adam Brandt at Stanford University. The study, which is authored by researchers from seven universities, several national laboratories and federal government bodies and other organizations, is published in the journal Science.

Among the other high-level findings of the review are that (i) the natural gas and oil sectors are important contributors to the leakage; (ii) many independent experiments suggest that a small number of “superemitters” could be responsible for a large fraction of leakage; (iii) recent regional atmospheric studies with very high emissions rates are unlikely to be representative of typical natural gas system leakage rates; and (iv) assessments using 100-year impact indicators show system-wide leakage is unlikely to be large enough to negate climate benefits of coal-to-NG substitution.

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Tata and Westport introduce new 5L engine with GEMDi dual-fuel technology, new 3.8L SI gas engine

February 12, 2014

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Tata 5L engine with GEMdi. Click to enlarge.

Westport Innovations Inc. unveiled its newest proprietary dual-fuel technology: Westport gas enhanced methane diesel (Westport GEMDi), applied to Tata Motors’ new 5-liter dual-fuel methane-diesel engine. Westport GEMDi technology enables engine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to offer a fully integrated, high performance engine optimized for dual fuel operation.

Westport co-developed GEMDi technology with Tata Motors on the next-generation 5L engine, targeting medium-duty trucks and buses in India. This technology provides fuel flexibility, beneficial in regions where natural gas infrastructure is emerging, such as India, and is designed to meet Euro IV and V emissions standards.

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Primus Green Energy’s STG+ patent for liquid fuel synthesis from syngas approved

February 05, 2014

Primus Green Energy Inc., an alternative fuel company that converts natural gas and other feedstocks directly into drop-in transportation fuels and solvents (earlier post), announced that its patent application covering its STG+ liquid fuel synthesis technology has been allowed by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). STG+ produces high-quality, cost-effective, drop-in liquid transportation fuels directly from syngas derived from natural gas and other carbon-rich feedstocks in a single-loop process.

STG+ essentially improves upon commercial methanol synthesis processes and ExxonMobil’s methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process, combining them into an integrated, optimized system that efficiently converts syngas directly to fuels. In addition to the gasoline product, the STG+ process can also produce jet fuel, diesel and high-value chemicals by changing the catalysts and operating conditions. The company, which is currently producing synthetic gasoline at its demonstration plant (earlier post), plans to build several more reactors in parallel to the current production train for other fuel products.

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Report argues advanced HD natural gas vehicles foundational for California to hit air and climate goals; near zero-emission potential

January 28, 2014

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Five technology paths for very-low-NOx and GHG emissions from heavy-duty natural gas engines. Click to enlarge.

Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), a consulting firm specializing in market development for low emission and alternative fuel vehicle technologies, infrastructure, and fuels for both on- and off-road applications, released a report examining the critical role that ultra-low-emission heavy-duty (HD) natural gas engines can play in helping California achieve its air quality, climate protection and petroleum-displacement goals.

The “Pathways to Near-Zero-Emission Natural Gas Heavy Duty Vehicles” report, authored by GNA on behalf of Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), showcases the technologies currently under development that could deliver near-zero-emission heavy-duty natural gas engines by the end of this decade.

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California Energy Commission to award up to $10.8M in incentives for new natural gas vehicles

The California Energy Commission is soliciting (PON-13-610) applications for a total of $10.8 million in funding for natural gas vehicle incentives to reduce the purchase price of new on-road natural gas vehicles. The incentives are available on a first-come, first-served basis and at varying levels depending on the gross vehicle weight.

The solicitation is open to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). For purposes of the solicitation, an OEM is defined as an entity that manufactures and assembles vehicle chassis or engines, and sells under its name or badge complete light-, medium-, or heavy-duty vehicles or school buses. An OEM may reserve incentives directly for eligible vehicles that are sold through its dealers and distributors. Incentives are available through this solicitation only for vehicles meeting all of the following requirements:

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Berkeley Lab-led team re-engineering new enzyme and metabolic cycle for direct production of liquid transportation fuels from methane

January 16, 2014

A Berkeley Lab-led team is working to re-engineer an enzyme for the efficient conversion of methane to liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels. The project was awarded $3.5 million by the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) as part of its REMOTE (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy) program. (Earlier post.)

Methane can be converted to liquid hydrocarbons by thermochemical processes; however, these processes are both energy intensive and often non-selective. There are bacteria in nature—methanotrophs—that consume methane and convert it to chemicals that can be fashioned into fuel. Unfortunately, the enabling enzyme doesn’t produce chemicals with the efficiency needed to make transportation fuels. While some scientists are working to make this enzyme more efficient, Dr. Christer Jansson’s team is taking a new approach by starting with a different enzyme that ordinarily takes in carbon dioxide.

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Swiss WTW study finds important role for alternative fuels as well as alt drivetrains in move to low-emissions vehicles

January 03, 2014

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WTW energy demand and GHG emissions for EV and PHEV drivetrains for various electricity sources; gasoline ICE vehicle is solid square, hybrid the hollow square. Click to enlarge.

A comprehensive analysis of well-to-wheel (WTW) primary energy demand and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the operation of conventional and alternative passenger vehicle drivetrains in Switzerland has concluded that alternative combustion fuels—not only alternative drivetrains such as PEVs or FCVs—play an important role in the transition towards low-emission vehicles.

The study by a team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, reported in the Journal of Power Sources, is novel in three respects, the researchers said. First, it considers the performance of both mature and novel hydrogen production processes, multiple electricity generation pathways and several alternative drivetrains. Second, it is specific to Switzerland. Third, the analysis offers a novel comparison of drivetrain and energy carrier production pathways based on natural resource categories.

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ARB posts six new LCFS pathway applications for comment; new PFAD biodiesel approach

December 18, 2013

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted six new Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) pathway applications to the LCFS public comment web site: corn ethanol; molasses ethanol (from Brazil); palm fatty acid distillates (PFAD) to biodiesel; and landfill gas to LNG, L-CNG, and CNG.

The LCFS requires oil producers, importers and other fuel providers gradually to reduce, on a full-fuel lifecycle basis, the carbon intensity (CI) of their transportation fuel mix (measured in gCO2e/MJ) by from 0.25% in 2011 to 10% by 2020. (Earlier post.) The current batch of new applications covers quite a range of carbon intensity in the fuels: from 88.69 gCO2e/MJ for the corn ethanol, down to 10.64 gCO2e/MJ for biodiesel produced from PFAD—the first such pathway considered for the LCFS program. The baseline carbon intensity for gasoline in the LCFS lookup table is 99.18 gCO2e/MJ and 98.03 gCO2e/MJ for diesel.

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EnerG2 develops new carbon adsorbent material for on-board natural gas storage

EnerG2, a manufacturer of advanced carbon materials for next-generation energy storage (generally for batteries and ultracapacitors), has leveraged its polymer chemistry technologies to develop materials for adsorbed natural gas (ANG) applications. The ultra-high surface area carbon adsorbent material, which packs at optimal density and has been produced at scale, is compatible with any and all tank geometries and systems, the company says.

Currently, natural gas vehicles are fitted with on-board fuel tanks that are too large, cumbersome, and expensive to properly facilitate the widespread adoption of natural gas vehicles in the US and globally. Additionally, the low volumetric density of natural gas (~30% less energy by volume than gasoline) limits range, and makes cost-effective storage solutions a significant challenge. One possible solution is adsorbed storage; the interest is so keen, that ARPA-E awarded a combined $10.875 million in 2012 to four different projects (led by Ford, GTI, Texas A&M and SRI) to develop new sorbent materials for on-board natural gas storage. (Earlier post.)

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Rice study: higher ethanol blends require different approach to deal with vapor intrusion in buildings; extreme event, low probability

December 16, 2013

A study lead by researchers at Rice University suggests that current approaches to manage the vapor intrusion risk into buildings in the vicinity of conventional fuel spills might need to be modified when dealing with some higher ethanol blend fuel (i.e., E20 up to E95) releases. The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The basis of the concern is that ethanol-blended fuel spills usually stimulate methanogenesis in the subsurface, which could pose an explosion risk if methane accumulates in a confined space above the ground where ignitable conditions exist. The ethanol-derived methane may also increase the vapor intrusion potential of toxic fuel hydrocarbons (e.g., benzene) by stimulating the depletion of oxygen by the methanotrophs, and thus inhibiting aerobic biodegradation of hydrocarbon vapors.

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ExxonMobil Outlook: 35% growth in energy demand by 2040; hybrids to account for ~50% of new vehicle sales

December 15, 2013

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By 2040, hybrids are expected to account for about 35% of the global light-duty vehicle fleet, up from less than 1% in 2010. Hybrids are expected to account for about half of global new-car sales by 2040. Source: ExxonMobil. Click to enlarge.

Driven by increasing population, urbanization and rising living standards, the world will require some 35% more energy in 2040, according to ExxonMobil’s annual forecast report: Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040. Anticipated population growth will reach nearly 9 billion in 2040 from about 7 billion today, and the global economy is projected to double—at an annual growth rate of nearly 3%—largely in the developing world.

Demand for energy in non-OECD nations will grow by about two-thirds, accounting for essentially all of the increase in global energy use. ExxonMobil projects that meeting future energy demand will be supported by more efficient energy-saving practices and technologies; increased use of less-carbon-intensive fuels such as natural gas, nuclear and renewables; as well as the continued development of technology advances to develop new energy sources. Without the projected gains in efficiency, global energy demand could have risen by more than 100%.

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Westport unveils next-generation High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI 2.0) natural gas system for HD trucks

December 10, 2013

Westport Innovations Inc. unveiled its next generation of high pressure direct injection natural gas technology platform, Westport HPDI 2.0. Westport is now working with seven OEM applications with engine sizes ranging from trucks to trains at various stages of development with the goal of vertically integrated Westport HPDI 2.0 OEM product lines. Westport anticipates first availability of customer products in late 2014 and 2015.

Westport HPDI uses natural gas as the primary fuel in a Diesel (compression ignition) cycle along with a small amount of diesel fuel as an ignition source. Core to the approach is a patented injector with a dual-concentric needle design. This allows small quantities of diesel fuel and large quantities of natural gas to be delivered at high pressure to the combustion chamber. (Earlier post.)

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Canada files to define outer limits of expanded Atlantic continental shelf; preliminary filing on Arctic, targeting North Pole

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Overview of the outer limits of the expanded Canadian continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean. Click to enlarge.

On 6 December, Canada filed a submission to define the outer limits of its expanded continental shelf area in the Atlantic Ocean with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. At the same time, Canada also filed preliminary information concerning the expanded outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, which could include the North Pole.

In a news conference on the submission, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that Canada will indeed try to extend its territorial claims to the North Pole. “What we want to do is claim the biggest geographic area possible for Canada.”

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Analysis finds air-quality justification for CNG vehicle conversion in developing cities, despite negative climate impact

December 03, 2013

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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MIT study cautions smaller nations on rushing to develop their natural gas resources; Cyprus as model

October 27, 2013

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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.

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