[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.]
Cummins unveils SmartEfficiency initiative for transit buses; diesel, hybrid and near-zero NOx engines
May 20, 2016
Cummins Inc. unveiled the SmartEfficiency initiative for transit buses, which focuses on improved uptime and reliability. As part of the SmartEfficiency initiative, Cummins revealed the 2017 L9 diesel and 2017 B6.7 hybrid engine systems; the ISL G Near Zero (NZ) NOx natural gas engine (earlier post); the isolated engine coolant loop system for the 2017 L9 and ISL G; and a new SmartSupport service program.
Available in 2017, the L9 for transit applications will continue to use the modular aftertreatment architecture. A SmartEfficiency-driven improvement is the isolated coolant loop for transit buses using an L9 or ISL G powertrain, which improves reliability and reduces downtime.
ANGP commercializes 1st ANSI NGV2-certified on-board low pressure ANG technology storage system for LDVs
May 04, 2016
Adsorbed Natural Gas Products, Inc. (ANGP) has successfully installed the industry’s first ANSI NGV2-certified adsorbed natural gas (ANG) active storage system. The system, which ANGP calls its first-generation (GEN 1) ANG System, comprises six activated carbon monolith-filled seamless aluminum cylinders, fully ANSI NGV2-certified for an operating pressure of 900 psig, and ANGP’s low-pressure fuel management system.
The first system was successfully installed on ANGP’s 2014 Ford F-150 pick-up truck equipped with Ford’s CNG/LPG-ready 3.7 liter V6 bi-fuel engine for gasoline or natural gas operation. The ANGP GEN 1 ANG system includes several industry firsts:
Cal Energy Commission approves ~$9M for DC fast chargers; $12.6M for NGV incentives
April 14, 2016
The California Energy Commission approved nearly $9 million in grants for the installation of DC fast chargers along major state freeways and highways to allow electric vehicle drivers to travel from San Diego to the Oregon border without worrying about running out of energy.
The grants went to four companies—Chargepoint Inc.; EV Connect Inc.; NRG EV Services LLC; and Recargo, Inc.—which will install 61 DC fast chargers at 41 sites along major routes on Interstate 5, Highway 99 and Highway 101. Fast chargers allow vehicles to fully charge in 20 to 30 minutes. Additionally, 40 sites will have one Level 2 charger, and one site will have two Level 2 chargers. Level 2 chargers allow most vehicles to go from zero to full charge in four to eight hours.
PennDOT selects Trillium CNG team for $84.5M CNG fueling station project
March 30, 2016
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has selected a team led by Trillium CNG team, for the department’s $84.5-million Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) transit fueling station Public-Private Partnership (P3) project. Trillium will design, build, finance, operate and maintain CNG fueling stations at 29 public transit agency sites through a 20-year P3 agreement.
Stations will be constructed over the next five years and the firm will also make CNG-related upgrades to existing transit maintenance facilities. When the project is completed, the fueling stations will supply gas to more than 1,600 CNG buses at transit agencies across the state.
IIT team explores combustion, performance and emissions characteristics of HCNG blends in spark ignition engine
March 28, 2016
A new study by a team from the Engine Research Laboratory at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur explores the combustion, performance and emission characteristics of a prototype spark ignition engine operating with different blend ratios of HCNG (hydrogen and compressed natural gas blends). Their paper is published in the journal Fuel.
Use of lower carbon natural gas and carbon-free hydrogen have potential to reduce harmful emissions of criteria pollutants and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and and could displace a portion of conventional liquid fossil fuels, the IIT noted. However, both fuels pose different challenges for use in internal combustion (IC) engines.
CNG Fuels and National Grid unveil first high-pressure grid-connected CNG filling station; biomethane option
March 21, 2016
UK-based CNG Fuels, in partnership with National Grid, has unveiled a new state-of-the-art filling station in Leyland, Lancashire, allowing vehicles to fill up on compressed natural gas (CNG) directly from the high-pressure local transmission system.
The new facility is the first of its kind in the UK and features a high-pressure connection, delivered by National Grid. This key piece of transport infrastructure is capable of refueling more than five hundred HGVs per day. The first major customer, Waitrose, part of the John Lewis Partnership, filled up at the new facility at unveiling, as a fleet of branded heavy-duty trucks rolled onto the forecourt.
UPS to invest $100M more in compressed natural gas, CNG vehicles and related infrastructure
March 16, 2016
UPS plans to build an additional 12 compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations and add 380 new CNG tractors to its growing alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet. The CNG fueling stations and vehicle purchases totaling $100 million are part of UPS’ ongoing commitment to diversify its fuel sources and reduce its environmental impact.
UPS is working to meet its goal of logging one billion miles with its alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet by the end of 2017, using a Rolling Laboratory approach to determine the right alternative fuel solutions to meet the unique needs of route-specific driving environments.
EPA to develop regulations for methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells; ICR coming in April
March 10, 2016
The US EPA will begin developing regulations for methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources—e.g., oil and gas wells. The agency announced plans to cut methane emissions from new oil and gas wells last year. (Earlier post.)
The expanded regulatory scope comes in support of the newly announced commitment by President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to new actions to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector, the largest industrial source of methane.
Cal Energy awards GTI $1M grant to demo production-intent version of CWI 6.7L medium-duty natural gas engine with HD-OBD
The California Energy Commission awarded the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) a $1-million grant to demonstrate a production-intent advanced version of the Cummins Westport Inc. (CWI) ISB6.7 G natural gas engine. The advanced version engine meets the 2018 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Heavy-Duty On-Board Diagnostics (HD-OBD) requirements and will continue to meet California Air Resources Board’s (CARB’s) Optional Low NOx 0.1 g/bhp-hr emissions level.
This project lays the foundation for follow-on work to further reduce the NOx emissions from the current 0.1 g/bhp-hr level by 90% to 0.02 g/bhp-hr, the lowest of the CARB Optional Low NOx standards.
Rice study finds using natural gas for electricity and heating, not transportation, more effective in reducing GHGs
March 09, 2016
Rice University researchers have determined a more effective way to use natural gas to reduce climate-warming emissions would be in the replacement of existing coal-fired power plants and fuel-oil furnaces rather than burning it in cars and buses.
The Rice study by environmental engineer Daniel Cohan and alumnus Shayak Sengupta compared the net greenhouse gas-emission savings that could be realized by replacing other fuels in vehicles, furnaces and power plants. They found that gas-fired power plants achieved the greatest reduction—more than 50%—in net emissions when replacing old coal-fired power plants. The use of compressed natural gas in vehicles yielded the least benefit, essentially matching the emissions of modern gasoline or diesel engines.
Cal Energy and NREL holding public workshop on Natural Gas Vehicle Research Roadmap
March 08, 2016
The California Energy Commission and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are holding a workshop to solicit public feedback on the 2015 draft Natural Gas Vehicle Research Roadmap. The 2015 report updates the 2009 Natural Gas Vehicle Research Roadmap and provides the framework and foundation for future investments in research, development, demonstration, and deployment.
The report includes research recommendations on 1) range and storage; 2) engine performance and availability; 3) vehicle emission and environmental performance; and 4) analysis and information sharing. Low natural gas prices, increased supplies, and a changing regulatory landscape have impacted the natural gas vehicle market. These changes have also impacted traditionally fueled vehicles, changing the overall vehicle technology market.
UTRC and ANGP unveil first low-pressure conformable natural gas tank design
March 02, 2016
Adsorbed Natural Gas Products, Inc. (ANGP), a pioneer in the commercialization of adsorbed natural gas (ANG) vehicle technology, and United Technologies Research Center (UTRC), the innovation engine of United Technologies Corp., unveiled a full-scale mockup of UTRC’s conformable fuel tank for ANG vehicles. (Earlier post.)
UTRC and ANGP held the unveiling at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) Energy Innovation Summit.
Audi expanding e-gas capacity through partnership with Viessmann; power-to-gas with biological methanation of CO2 and H2
February 29, 2016
Audi is expanding capacities for the production of sustainably produced e-gas. (Earlier post.) The Viessmann Group is Audi’s first partner company to produce additional quantities of the synthetic fuel using a new biological methanation process. The pilot plant in Allendorf, Germany officially opened today.
Audi e-gas is currently produced using two process steps: electrolysis and methanation. In the first step, renewably generated electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. In the second step, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 to yield synthetic methane. In the Audi e-gas plant in Werlte in the German state of Lower Saxony, this is done using a chemical-catalytic process under high pressure and high temperature.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles introduces CNG Caddy van with dual-clutch gearbox
February 24, 2016
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles will present the Caddy TGI—the first vehicle in its segment to be equipped with a CNG drive system and a DSG dual-clutch gearbox—at the Geneva Motor Show. The Caddy TGI BlueMotion is a family/city delivery van that runs on either CNG or bio-natural gas. Both the panel van and passenger car variant of the Caddy can also be ordered with a short wheelbase or in the Caddy Maxi version.
With combined natural-gas consumption of 4.1 kg and 4.3 kg per 100 kilometers (short wheelbase and Caddy Maxi, respectively), Caddy drivers can achieve a range of approximately 630 km (391 miles), or 860 km (534 miles), in the pure gas mode. The CO2 emissions of the Caddy TGI amount to 112 g/km in the short-wheelbase version and 116 g/km in the Caddy Maxi version in combination with the six-speed manual gearbox, and 123 g/km and 126 g/km, respectively, with DSG (provisional data).
NREL analysis of Proterra electric bus demo finds average fuel economy nearly 4x that of CNG baseline buses
February 12, 2016
Proterra battery-electric buses in service in a 12- vehicle demonstration by Foothill Transit in California offered significant fuel savings compared to similar conventional vehicles, according to a recently published analysis of the results of the demonstration by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The NREL team found, inter alia, that the battery-electric buses (BEBs)had an overall average efficiency of 2.15 kWh per mile on the service route, which equated to 17.48 miles per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE). The baseline CNG buses had an average fuel economy of 4.04 miles per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE), which equates to 4.51 miles per DGE. These results indicated that the BEBs have an average fuel economy that is nearly 4 times higher than that of the CNG buses.
ANGP gets exclusive license to UTRC technology for conformable natural gas vehicle storage tanks
February 04, 2016
Adsorbed Natural Gas Products (ANGP) announced an exclusive licensing agreement with United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) allowing ANGP to use UTRC’s patent-pending technology—developed with support from DOE’s ARPA-E (earlier post)—to develop and produce the first commercially viable conformable adsorbent-based low pressure natural gas (ANG) storage tank for motor vehicles.
The license applies to non-metal composite tanks containing activated carbon adsorbents at operating pressures of up to 1,000 psi.
Pitt study reveals heat transfer mechanisms in MOF-based adsorbed natural gas storage; advancing the technology
January 22, 2016
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering are working with metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to develop a new type of natural gas storage system that would adsorb the gas like a sponge and allow for more energy-efficient storage and use. In the journal Physical Review Letters, the team reports on their study of heat transfer mechanisms in such systems, work that may advance the technology.
Traditional CNG tanks are empty structures that require the gas to be stored at high pressure, which affects design and the weight of the vehicle. Dr. Christopher Wilmer and his lab are instead focused on porous crystal/gas systems, specifically MOFs, which possess structures with extremely high surface areas. However, Dr. Wilmer notes, one of the biggest challenges in developing such an adsorbed natural gas (ANG) storage system is that the process generates significant heat which limits how quickly the tank can be filled.
Ricardo and GTI partner on new lower-emissions medium- and heavy-duty natural gas engine technologies for California
January 20, 2016
Ricardo will partner with Gas Technology Institute (GTI) on two major contracts to enable natural gas engines to provide a viable, fuel-efficient, and less polluting alternative to diesel power for medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles on the highways of California.
Despite California’s substantial progress in reducing emissions from heavy-duty trucks and other mobile sources, diesel trucks remain major contributors to statewide emissions of NOx, greenhouse gases (GHG), and diesel particulate matter (PM). By 2031, the South Coast Basin will exceed mandatory air quality standards unless NOx emissions are reduced 90% compared with today.
Driving Chevrolet’s 2015 Impala Bi-Fuel sedan
January 19, 2016
Chevrolet offers the 2015 Impala full-size sedan as an all-new bi-fuel model—the only manufacturer-produced full-size sedan in North America that can run on both compressed natural gas (CNG) and gasoline. Available at the end of 2015 to both fleet and retail customers in either LS or LT trims, the bi-fuel Impala features a dedicated version of the standard 3.6L V–6, with specific valves and hardened valve seats for improved wear resistance and durability with the CNG fuel system. The engine, mated to a six-speed automatic, is rated at an estimated 260 hp (195 kW) on gasoline and 230 horsepower (172 kW) on CNG.
EPA figures put combined fuel economy in gasoline mode at 20 mpg combined (17 mpg city/25 mpg highway), and 19 mpg combined (16 mpg city/24 mpg highway) with natural gas. That works out to 437 grams CO2 per mile with gasoline, and 343 g CO2/mile with natural gas.
Navigant forecasts global annual natural gas vehicle sales to reach 3.9M in 2025, up 62.5% from 2015
December 28, 2015
In its new Natural Gas Vehicles report, Navigant Research forecasts that global annual NGV sales—light-, medium- and heavy-duty—will grow 62.5% from 2.4 million vehicles in 2015 to 3.9 million in 2025.
Navigant forecasts that the number of light-duty NGVs on the world’s roads will double by 2025 to 39.6 million, accounting for 2.6% of all LDVs. Overall, Navigant expects the worldwide market for light-duty NGVs to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3% between 2015 and 2025.
Westport and GTI awarded $900,000 to advance natural gas combustion technology; ESI with high frequency corona discharge ignition
December 09, 2015
Westport Innovations Inc., together with the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), has been awarded US$900,000 towards a program to advance state-of-the-art natural gas combustion technology. The work will feature Westport’s enhanced spark ignited (ESI) natural gas engine technology (earlier post) with the integration and demonstration of high frequency corona discharge ignition on an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partner’s engine. The engine has a displacement of between 1 and 1.5 liters per cylinder and is targeted at medium-duty commercial vehicle applications.
Using 100% dedicated natural gas as fuel, Westport’s ESI technology optimizes the combustion and thermal efficiencies of the engine by taking full advantage of the ultra-high octane performance fuel properties of natural gas. The technology enables a “downsized” natural gas solution that is cost-competitive while providing similar levels of power, torque, and fuel economy to a larger diesel engine.
Proof-of-principle of cost-effective methane cracking technology for H2 production without CO2; 50% cleaner than SMR, comparable to electrolysis
November 19, 2015
Researchers of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have achieved the proof-of-principle for a innovative technique to extract hydrogen (H2) from methane (CH4) without the formation of CO2 as a byproduct.
At this stage, cost estimates are uncertain, since methane cracking is not yet a fully mature technology. However, preliminary calculations show that it could achieve costs of €1.9 to €3.3 per kilogram of hydrogen at German natural gas prices—without taking the market value of the solid black carbon byproduct of the process into consideration.
Audi highlights its range of electrification efforts; Q7 diesel PHEV, A7 fuel cell PHEV, BEV, 48V and more; 750 Wh/l by 2025
November 17, 2015
Audi presented a range of its ongoing work on electromobility and efficiency—from fuels and systems to full vehicles—under the “Future Performance Days 2015” banner.
On the full vehicle side, Audi put forward the Audi Q7 e-tron 3.0 TDI quattro plug-in hybrid (earlier post); the Audi A7 h-tron quattro fuel cell vehicle (earlier post); the Audi e-tron quattro concept battery-electric SUV (earlier post); the Audi TT clubsport turbo concept (earlier post); the Audi RS 5 TDI competition concept (earlier post); and the Audi R18 e-tron quattro (earlier post). On the systems and fuels side, Audi discussed battery technology; wireless charging; 48 V electrification (earlier post); Audi fuel cell technology; and Audi e-fuels (earlier post).
Westport to begin delivering HPDI 2.0 early production-design-intent components to OEMs in Q1 2016
November 02, 2015
Westport Innovations Inc. announced that early production-design-intent components in the Westport High Pressure Direct Injection (Westport HPDI) second-generation (HPDI 2.0) development program for dual-fuel diesel/natural gas engines (earlier post), including the latest-generation injector from Delphi, are undergoing engine testing at Westport, and will be delivered to OEM customers for validation and vehicle testing early in the first quarter of 2016.
Since the announcement of the HPDI 2.0 system in September 2014, Westport has worked with its development partners and suppliers to complete component testing and system validation. The latest generation of HPDI injectors, developed under a Joint Development Agreement with Delphi (earlier post), feature a new direct-connected architecture and incorporate technologies from both companies and higher performance, lower cost and much easier packaging on the engine than prior HPDI injection system.
New flexible MOF for enhanced adsorbed natural gas storage on vehicles
October 27, 2015
An international team of researchers led by a group at the University of California, Berkeley has developed a flexible metal-organic framework (MOF) material for enhanced adsorption and desorption of natural gas (CH4). The material, described in a paper in the journal Nature, could bolster the development of on-board adsorbed natural gas (ANG) systems that don’t require the high pressures or cold temperatures of today’s compressed or liquefied natural gas vehicles.
The “flexibility” is the result of a reversible phase transition. The iron and cobalt compounds Fe(bdp) and Co(bdp) (bdp2− = 1,4-benzenedipyrazolate) undergo a structural phase transition in response to specific methane (CH4) pressures, resulting in adsorption and desorption isotherms that feature a sharp step. Such behavior enables greater storage capacities than have been achieved for classical adsorbents, the team found, while also reducing the amount of heat released during adsorption and the impact of cooling during desorption.
DOE issues RFI on advanced thermal insulation for cold/cryogenic compressed gas on-board fuel storage
October 21, 2015
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) has issued a request for information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001420) on advanced thermal insulation for sub-ambient temperature alternative fuel onboard storage systems. Alternative fuels could include hydrogen or natural gas stored onboard the vehicle at sub-ambient temperatures as a compressed gas, liquefied gas or adsorbed onto a porous material.
DOE is requesting information on how to maintain vacuum stability of systems; use of advanced composites within the systems; and accelerated test methods to determine performance and applicability of materials and systems for long-term cold and cryogenic based alternative fuel storage systems for onboard vehicle applications.
Linde pilot testing dry reforming process to generate syngas from CO2 and methane for production of fuels and chemicals
October 16, 2015
As part of its R&D strategy, Linde has built a pilot reformer facility at Pullach near Munich—Linde’s largest location worldwide—to test dry-reforming technology. The dry reforming process catalytically combines CH4, the principal component of natural gas, and CO2 to produce syngas (CO and H2). Syngas is then used to produce valuable downstream products such as base chemicals or fuels.
The dry reforming process differs from steam reforming, which combines CH4 and water (H2O) in the form of steam to produce the syngas. Producing the steam is energy-intensive; dry reforming requires far less water, and hence avoids the energy burden of steam production. In addition to reducing energy consumption, the dry reforming process also consumes recycled carbon dioxide.
CWI ISL G Near Zero natural gas engine certified to near zero NOx; 90% below current standard
October 06, 2015
Cummins Westport Inc. (CWI) announced that its new ISL G Near Zero (NZ) natural gas engine is the first mid-range engine in North America to receive emission certifications from both US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Air Resources Board (ARB) in California that meet the 0.02 g/bhp-hr optional Near Zero NOx Emissions standards for medium-duty truck, urban bus, school bus and refuse applications.
Cummins Westport ISL G NZ exhaust emissions will be 90% lower than the current EPA NOx limit of 0.2 g/bhp-hr and also meet the 2017 EPA greenhouse gas emission requirements. CWI natural gas engines have met the 2010 EPA standard for particulate matter (0.01 g/bhp-hr) since 2001.
Oak Ridge AMIE demo integrates 3D-printed building, natural gas hybrid with bi-directional wireless power transfer
September 24, 2015
A research demonstration unveiled at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (DOE ORNL) combines clean energy technologies into a 3D-printed building and a 3D-printed natural gas-powered hybrid vehicle to showcase a new approach to energy use, storage and consumption. The Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) demonstration, displayed at DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Industry Day event, is a model for energy-efficient systems that link buildings, vehicles and the grid.
An ORNL team worked with industrial partners to manufacture and connect a natural-gas-powered hybrid electric vehicle with a solar-powered building to create an integrated energy system. Power can flow in either direction between the vehicle and building through a lab-developed wireless technology. The approach allows the car to provide supplemental power to the 210-square-foot building when the sun is not shining.
Ricardo in EU-funded HDGAS; seeking >30kW/L, 10% improvements in power, torque and GHG in natural-gas fueled heavy-duty trucks
September 23, 2015
Ricardo is one of 19 collaborating commercial and academic partners in the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Green Vehicle Initiative project HDGAS—a project that aims to develop, demonstrate and optimize advanced powertrain concepts for dual-fuel and pure natural gas-powered heavy duty vehicles. Particular areas of focus for the company will be the development of engine and aftertreatment systems that offer the prospect of delivering real driving emissions well below Euro VI limits for heavy duty vehicles.
Long haul trucks are an essential element of the transportation mix of modern, industrialized society. They are, however, inherently less amenable to the type of electrification and hybridization strategies that are already contributing to reduced carbon emissions and potential long-term sustainability for the light vehicle sector. A key global imperative is, therefore, the substantial improvement of heavy vehicle engine efficiency and reduction of environmental impact.
Bosch leading Direct4Gas consortium to develop direct injection for monovalent natural gas engines
September 11, 2015
Bosch is leading a consortium in a German government-funded project to develop a direct injection system for monovalent natural gas engines—i.e., engines that run exclusively on CNG. Compared with present systems that use manifold gas injection, a direct injection system for natural gas could deliver as much as 60% more torque at low rpm, and offer the prospect of an even more dynamic driving experience in the CNG cars of the future.
Today’s CNG vehicles are generally bivalent, running on gasoline and CNG with engines designed for gasoline direct injection. For CNG operation, they are fitted with an additional manifold injection system for methane. However, because methane behaves differently from gasoline when injected directly, it is important to optimize the combustion process for methane.
Westport and Fuel Systems Solutions to merge; alternative fuel vehicle and engine company with expanded reach
September 01, 2015
Westport Innovations Inc. and Fuel Systems Solutions, Inc. have entered into a merger agreement to create a premier alternative fuel vehicle and engine company. The transaction will result in a combined equity value of $351 million based on the closing trading prices for the shares of both companies on 31 August 2015 and combined annual revenues ranging from $380 to $405 million projected for 2015.
Traditionally, Westport Innovations has focused the majority of its technological development and commercialization efforts in the heavy-duty and high horsepower natural gas arena, while Fuel Systems has significant experience and focus with gaseous fuel systems and components for light- and medium-duty automotive and industrial applications. The complementary industry expertise provides a rationale for the merger, as the combined company’s product development efforts will span passenger car to heavy-duty trucks to locomotives and marine applications to stationary power.
Joint IEA-NEA report details plunge in costs of renewable electricity; nuclear competitive with other baseload power sources
August 31, 2015
|2010 and 2015 LCOE ranges for solar and wind technologies. Source: IEA/NEA. Click to enlarge.|
The cost of producing electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar has been falling for several years. A new report, a joint project by the International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency, provides in detail the contrasting costs for different power generation technologies around the world and shows that renewable sources can produce electricity at close to or even below the cost of new fossil fuel-based power stations, depending upon conditions such as resources and appropriate market and regulatory frameworks.
The report, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2015 Edition, also shows that new nuclear power plants generate electricity more cheaply than other established “baseload” sources—mainly coal- and gas-fired power plants—over the full lifetime of facilities when financing costs are relatively low.
EERC working with Fuel Cell Energy on $3.5M ARPA-E project for electrochemical cell to convert natural gas to methanol
August 29, 2015
The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is working with FuelCell Energy, Inc., an integrated stationary fuel cell manufacturer, to develop a durable, low-cost, and high-performance electrochemical cell to convert natural gas and other methane-rich gas into methanol, a major chemical commodity with worldwide applications in the production of liquid fuels, solvents, resins, and polymers.
The US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) awarded $3,500,000 to the project, led by Fuel Cell Energy, as part of its REBELS (Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems) program. (Earlier post.) The project is directed at developing an intermediate-temperature fuel cell that would directly convert methane to methanol and other liquid fuels using advanced metal catalysts.
Clean Energy to build new CNG stations for multiple transit agencies and large school district; agreements with trucking, refuse and others
August 26, 2015
Clean Energy Fuels Corp. will construct new compressed natural gas (CNG) stations for Arlington Transit (ART) in Arlington County, Virginia; Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) in Long Island, NY; and North Kansas City (MO) School District, which is set to become the largest school district in the US to transition its school bus fleet to CNG. The company also announced additional agreements across transportation market segments of transit, refuse, trucking and the bulk fuel market.
Transit. NICE has awarded Clean Energy the contract to design, build and operate and maintain a new CNG station that will, upon completion, replace its existing Mitchel Field station, and operate and maintain the existing CNG stations. The five-year contract valued at just over $13 million will extend the partnership between NICE and Clean Energy and will support a fleet of over 200 CNG buses. Clean Energy currently supports another 100 CNG buses at an additional station and provides a total of 4.6 million GGEs of CNG annually for the NICE bus fleet. Completion of the new station is expected for summer 2017.
Berkeley Lab researchers advance hybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to~chemicals conversion; 50% electrical-to-chemical, 10% solar-to-chemical efficiencies
August 25, 2015
A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have hit a new milestone in their development of a hybrid bioinorganic system for solar-to-chemical energy conversion. (Earlier post.) The system first generates renewable hydrogen from water splitting using sustainable electrical and/or solar input and biocompatible inorganic catalysts. The hydrogen is then used by living cells as a source of reducing equivalents for conversion of CO2 to the value-added chemical product methane.
The system can achieve an electrical-to-chemical efficiency of better than 50% and a solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency of 10% if the system is coupled with state-of-art solar panel and electrolyzer, said Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and one of the leaders of this study. A paper on their work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
CMU analysis finds BEVs powered with natural gas-based electricity have about 40% of the lifecycle GHGs of a conventional gasoline vehicle
August 21, 2015
According to a new lifecycle analysis by a team at Carnegie Mellon University, a battery electric vehicle (BEV) powered with natural gas-based electricity achieves around an average 40% lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction when compared to a conventional gasoline vehicle. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), either with a 30- or 60-km range, when powered by natural gas electricity, have the second lowest average emissions. Both BEVs and PHEVs provide large (more than 20%) emissions reductions compared to conventional gasoline, but none of them is a dominant strategy when compared to gasoline hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), the team found.
Gaseous hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have comparable life cycle emissions with conventional gasoline, offering limited reductions with 100-year global warming potential (GWP) yet leading to increases with 20-year GWP. Other liquid fuel pathways using natural gas—methanol, ethanol, and Fischer–Tropsch liquids—have larger GHG emissions than conventional gasoline even when carbon capture and storage technologies are available. The study is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Synbio company Intrexon and Dominion partner to commercialize bioconversion of natural gas to isobutanol in Marcellus and Utica Basins
August 20, 2015
Intrexon Energy Partners (IEP), a joint venture of synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation and external investors (earlier post), and Dominion Energy, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, have entered into an agreement to explore the potential for commercial-scale biological conversion of natural gas to isobutanol in the Marcellus and Utica Shale Basins.
Intrexon’s proprietary methanotroph bioconversion platform uses optimized microbial cell lines to convert natural gas into higher carbon compounds such as isobutanol and farnesene under ambient temperatures and pressures. This novel approach avoids costly, resource-intensive thermochemical gas-to-liquids (GTL) conversion methods, and offers a biofuel that does not utilize sugar or other plant-based feedstock.
NREL examines potential of blending ethanol with condensate for flex-fuels and high-octane mid-level blends
July 21, 2015
A team at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with a colleague at EcoEngineering, has explored the potential of blending ethanol with natural gasoline (condensate) to produce flex-fuels (ASTM D5798-13a) and high-octane, mid-level ethanol blends (MLEBs). A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
The study addresses two current market conditions: first, more ethanol is produced domestically than can legally be blended in E10 (the ethanol blend wall). Second, as a result of recent increases in crude oil and natural gas production in the US, condensate—a component of natural gas liquids (NGLs) found in rich gas—is produced in abundance and could potentially serve as a lower-cost blendstock. Current US production of condensate is estimated at 1.5 × 108 m3 annually compared to 9.7 × 107 m3 annually 10 years ago.
Argonne, Ford and FCA partnering to study natural gas and gasoline blending for 50% cut in gasoline, 10% boost in efficiency and power density
July 14, 2015
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are partnering with Ford Motor Company and FCA US LLC in pre-competitive research to study blending natural gas and gasoline using natural gas direct injection to enable more efficient engines. The project is a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) resulting from the 2014 DOE Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).
The project’s objective is to understand potential benefits and demonstrate targeted blending of gasoline and natural gas in an engine that uses half as much gasoline and shows a 10% increase in overall efficiency and a 10% improvement in power density.
DOE selects 16 research projects for more than $19M in funding to advance Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected 16 solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology research projects for a total of more than $19 million ($19,358,915) in funding.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, NETL issued two funding opportunities announcements (FOAs) to support programs that enable the development and deployment of this energy technology. The projects selected under the two FOAs will receive funding through NETL’s Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Program. The FOAs were awarded with two primary objectives: to design, construct, and field-test a SOFC prototype system; and to support innovations that improve the reliability, robustness, and endurance of SOFC cell and stack technology.
Audi launches next-gen A4 with new Millerized TFSI engine; g-tron model w/ Audi e-gas
June 29, 2015
Audi has unveiled the new-generation Audi A4 and A4 Avant, developed with a high priority on the reduction of CO2 emissions. Among other developments, the new A4 is the launch vehicle for the new high-efficiency 2.0L TFSI based on Miller cycle, introduced by Audi earlier this year at the Vienna Motor Symposium. (Earlier post.) The A4 Sedan and the A4 Avant will be launched in the market this fall.
The new models deliver CO2 emissions as low as 95 grams per kilometer (152.9 grams per mile) for the A4 Sedan 2.0 TDI ultra with 110 kW (150 hp). The new A4 Sedan has the best drag coefficient in its class at 0.23, while Avant has cd 0.26. Further, although compared with the previous model the car’s dimensions have grown, its weight has been reduced by up to 120 kilograms (265 lbs), depending on the engine. The body of the new Audi models is one of the lightest in its class due to an intelligent material mix and lightweight construction.
Stanford launches major new natural gas research initiative
June 13, 2015
Stanford University has launched a new research initiative to study comprehensively the development and use of natural gas. The new program will expand Stanford’s research on energy and the environment by focusing additional resources on the growing importance of natural gas.
US production has risen almost 50% in the past 10 years, and global demand for gas is anticipated to outpace all other fossil fuels. More than 35 professors and research staff from a dozen Stanford academic departments have already affiliated with the Natural Gas Initiative.
Hybrid-electric powertrain for road sweepers; natural gas genset
June 06, 2015
Empa, ETH Zürich and the road sweeper manufacturer Bucher Municipal have jointly developed a pioneering hybrid-electric powertrain for road sweepers in a CTI (Switzerland’s Commission for Technology and Innovation) project. The concept is based on a natural gas-driven engine, which provides power to the electric motors. Compared to conventional sweepers, the energy consumption has been halved and CO2 emissions reduced by more than 60%.
Bucher Municipal, the European market leader in compact sweeping vehicles, is currently working on a concept study based on its CityCat platform to investigate possible commercialization of the new technologies.
EPA draft assessment finds no widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources from fracking
June 05, 2015
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft assessment on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing activities on drinking water resources in the United States. The assessment, done at the request of Congress, found that hydraulic fracturing activities in the US are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.
The assessment followed the water used for hydraulic fracturing from water acquisition; chemical mixing at the well pad site; well injection of fracking fluids; the collection of hydraulic fracturing wastewater (including flowback and produced water); and wastewater treatment and disposal. The assessment also identified potential vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle—some of which are not unique to hydraulic fracturing—that could impact drinking water.
CMU study compares lifecycle GHGs of natural gas pathways for MHDVs; MD BEVs can deliver large reductions, but diesel hard to beat for Class 8
May 27, 2015
A study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers comparing life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from different natural gas pathways for medium and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs) found that the GHG reduction potentials of the pathways vary sharply between non-Class 8 MHDVs (e.g., pick-up trucks, parcel delivery trucks, and box trucks), Class 8 transit buses, and Class 8 MHDVs (e.g., refuse trucks and tractor-trailers).
Battery-electric (BEVs), LPG, and CNG pathways could reduce life cycle GHG emissions for non-Class 8 MHDVs compared to the baseline petroleum fuels. Similarly, BEVs achieve emission reductions for transit buses. On the other hand, none of natural gas pathways, CNG, LNG, and F-T liquids, achieve any emission reductions per unit of freight-distance moved for Class 8 trucks compared to conventional diesel. The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.