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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.]

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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Clariant supplying SNG catalyst for methanation unit in Audi’s new “Power-to-Gas” plant

October 21, 2013

Clariant, a global provider of specialty chemicals, has supplied a proprietary CO2-SNG (synthetic natural gas) catalyst for the methanation unit of Audi’s new power-to-gas facility in Werlte, Germany. (Earlier post.)

The “e-gas plant” was started up in June this year and is part of Audi’s sustainability initiative. The plant, which can convert six megawatts of input power, will utilize renewable electricity for electrolysis, producing oxygen and hydrogen, the latter which could one day power fuel-cell vehicles. Because there is not yet a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, however, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 in a methanation unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas.

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GM to introduce CNG-gasoline bi-fuel Chevrolet Impala in US next summer

October 16, 2013

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2015 Chevrolet CNG-Capable, Bi-Fuel Impala. Click to enlarge.

General Motors will build a Chevrolet Impala sedan for retail and fleet customers that operates on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG), GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson announced today. This will be the only manufacturer-produced full-size bi-fuel sedan in the US, and is expected to go on sale next summer as a 2015 model.

Currently, the only natural gas vehicle from a major manufacturer on sale in the US is the Honda Civic Natural Gas. The Chevrolet Impala bi-fuel sedan features a factory-engineered and fully warranted powertrain that switches seamlessly from CNG to gasoline. Total range is expected to be up to 500 miles (805 km).

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New thermoplastic-graphene nanoribbon composite could offer lighter, more effective natural gas storage for vehicles

October 11, 2013

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An electron microscope image shows graphene nanoribbons embedded in a block copolymer. Image by Changsheng Xiang. Click to enlarge.

A new composite material created at Rice University is nearly impervious to gas and may lead to lighter and more efficient storage of compressed natural gas for vehicles. By adding modified, single-atom-thick hexadecyl-functionalized low-defect graphene nanoribbons (HD-GNRs) to thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), the Rice lab of chemist James Tour made the resulting material far more impermeable to pressurized gas and far lighter than the metal in tanks now used to contain the gas.

In an open access paper in the journal ACS Nano, Tour and his colleagues at Rice and in Hungary, Slovenia and India reported that nitrogen gas effective diffusivity of the TPU was decreased by three orders of magnitude with only 0.5 wt% GNRs.

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Clean Energy Fuels to distribute biomethane vehicle fuel to fleets and public stations

October 03, 2013

Clean Energy Fuels Corp., North America’s largest provider of natural gas for transportation, is commercially offering a biomethane vehicle fuel—Redeem—made from waste streams such as landfills, large dairies and sewage plants directly to fleets around the country and at 35 public Clean Energy stations throughout California. Redeem will be available in either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) form.

Andrew J. Littlefair, president and CEO of Clean Energy, said that the company’s goal is to produce and to distribute 15 million gallons of Redeem in the first year. Clean Energy’s natural gas fueling infrastructure includes 400 fueling stations throughout the nation; the company is developing multiple biomethane production facilities that are expected to produce Redeem.

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Chevrolet, GMC expand CNG truck and van offerings

October 02, 2013

Chevrolet and GMC will offer new bi-fuel versions of the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty trucks and all-new dedicated compressed natural gas versions of the 2014 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size passenger vans next year. The vehicles were announced at the Green Fleet Conference & Expo, which focuses on clean technologies and alternative-fuel vehicles for fleet operations.

The bi-fuel versions of Silverado HD and Sierra HD expand the range of available configurations to 2500HD and 3500HD pickup models in all cab styles and 2WD and 4WD drivetrains. The 2014 Express and Savana passenger vans join a dedicated CNG lineup that includes cargo versions of the vehicles.

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$4M ARPA-E award to Lanzatech to improve design of bioreactors for waste-gas-to-fuels fermentation technology

September 23, 2013

LanzaTech, a producer of low-carbon fuels and chemicals from waste gases, was awarded a $4-million grant by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) as one of the 15 REMOTE projects (earlier post) receiving a combined $34 million to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation.

LanzaTech and its partners, The City College of New York (CUNY), Louisiana State University (LSU) and Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) will collaborate to extend LanzaTech’s core fermentation technology to unlock the potential of waste methane gases through novel and smaller-scale bioreactor design. The project will combine LanzaTech’s expertise in gas fermentation and reactor design with experimental reactor design expertise at the CUNY Energy Institute, and reactor modeling capabilities at LSU. LanzaTech and Michigan Tech will validate the economic and life cycle analysis impacts of this innovative technology as compared to the current state of the art.

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ARPA-E awarding $3.5M to Berkeley Lab project to develop novel enzymatic gas-to-liquids pathway

September 22, 2013

On 19 September, the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded $34 million to 15 projects to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation. (Earlier post.) The largest award in the technical area of High-Efficiency Biological Methane Activation in the new program, (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy—REMOTE, earlier post), provides $3.5 million to a team led by Dr. Christer Jansson at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to work on a novel methylation process to convert natural gas to liquid transportation fuels.

The project, called “Enzyme Engineering for Direct Methane Conversion,” involves designing a novel enzyme—a PEP methyltransferase (PEPMase)—by engineering an existing enzyme to accept methane instead of carbon dioxide. This methylation process, which does not exist in nature, will be used as the basis for the gas-to-liquids pathway.

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EPA proposes CO2 emission standards for new fossil fuel-fired power plants

September 20, 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed Clean Air Act standards to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants (electric utility generating units, EGUs). For purposes of this rule, fossil fuel-fired EGUs include utility boilers, IGCC units and certain natural gas-fired stationary combustion turbine EGUs that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts (MW). In addition, EPA said it is working with state, tribal, and local governments, industry and labor leaders, non-profits, and others to establish CO2 standards for existing power plants.

The proposed rulemaking establishes separate standards for natural gas and coal plants. The proposed limits for natural gas units are based on the performance of modern natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) units. New large (>850 mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small (≤850mmBtu/h) natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

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ARPA-E selects 33 projects for $66M in awards; advanced biocatalysts for gas-to-liquids and lightweight metals

September 19, 2013

The US Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is awarding around $66 million to 33 projects under two new programs. One program, Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy (REMOTE, earlier post), provides $34 million to 15 projects to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation.

The other program, Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advancements for Light-metal Systems (METALS, earlier post), provides $32 million to 18 projects to find cost-effective and energy-efficient manufacturing techniques to process and recycle metals for lightweight vehicles. The funding opportunity announcements for both programs were released earlier this year in March.

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UT Austin team and partners report on extensive measurements of methane emissions during natural gas production

September 17, 2013

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Estimated inventories of methane emissions from the natural gas production sector, excluding processing and transmission. The findings of the new study are represented in the yellow bar at right, and are similar overall to EPA’s latest inventory. The relative contributions of different production components differ, however. Source: UT Austin. Click to enlarge.

A new study from The University of Texas at Austin, published as an open access paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports on extensive measurements of methane emissions—including the first measurements for methane emissions taken directly at the well pad—during completion operations for hydraulically fractured wells (“fracked”).

Broadly, the study found that completion emissions are significantly lower than previously estimated; emissions from pneumatic controllers and equipment leaks are higher than EPA national emission projections; and estimates of total emissions (957 Gg ± 200 Gg) are similar to the most recent EPA national inventory of methane emissions from natural gas production (~1200 Gg). The 957 Gg in emissions for completion flowbacks, pneumatics and equipment leaks, coupled with EPA national inventory estimates for other categories, leads to an estimated 2,300 Gg of methane emissions from natural gas production (0.42% of gross gas production).

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ETH Zürich team developing light-duty natural gas-diesel hybrid electric powertrain; 43 g/km CO2

September 12, 2013

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Consumption measurements of the dual-fuel natural gas-diesel engine as a function of speed and load. Source: Ott et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at ETH Zürich have developed a light-duty hybrid electric vehicle featuring a dual-fuel natural gas-diesel engine. In an open access paper in the journal Energies, they report that CO2 emissions can be reduced to as low as 43g/km in a subcompact car configuration using the dual-fuel hybrid electric powertrain on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). The dual-fuel engine can also serve in a non-hybrid application.

In the dual-fuel engine, the natural gas (usually a fuel for spark-ignited engines) is injected into the intake manifold of a compression-ignition diesel engine. Instead of using a spark plug for ignition, the premixed air-gas mixture is ignited with a small amount of directly injected diesel fuel. This approach—already being successfully commercialized in heavy-duty engines by Westport Innovations (e.g., earlier post) and Clean Air Power (e.g., earlier post)—delivers the high performance and efficiency of diesel with lower CO2 and tailpipe emissions.

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Opel Monza Concept at Frankfurt features CNG extended range electric vehicle powertrain with new 1.0L 3-cylinder engine

September 10, 2013

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Monza Concept. Click to enlarge.

Opel intends that its Monza Concept (earlier post), unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, serve as a role-model for next-generation Opel cars, with particular emphasis on design, maximum connectivity, and optimum efficiency, including advanced powertrain flexibility.

The Monza Concept is based on a modular design to allow highest-possible flexibility when selecting a propulsion system. A variety of sustainable powertrains based on increasing electrification of the automobile are conceivable, Opel noted. For the Monza Concept displayed at the Frankfurt show, engineers conceived an electric drive with a CNG (compressed natural gas) range extender—a further development of the Ampera’s technology.

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Mercedes-Benz introduces latest E 200 Natural Gas Drive and E 220 BlueTEC BlueEFFICIENCY Edition

August 09, 2013

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E 200 Natural Gas Drive. Click to enlarge.

Mercedes-Benz is introducing the latest version of the bivalent drive E 200 Natural Gas Drive (NGD) variant to the E‑Class family in Europe. The E200 NGD can run on either gasoline or natural gas; benefits of running the car on natural gas include a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions compared with comparable operation using gasoline, and much lower fuel costs. Mercedes-Benz also introduced the new diesel E 220 BlueTEC BlueEFFICIENCY Edition, with CO2 emissions of 114 grams/km.

The E 200 Natural Gas Drive uses 4.3 kg of natural gas per 100 kilometers (NEDC combined), which corresponds to CO2 emissions of 116 g/km. If the new E 200 NGD automatically switches to running on gasoline because the gas tank is empty, the new four-cylinder engine needs requires 6.3 liters of unleaded gasoline (NEDC combined) for every 100 kilometers (37.3 mpg US), with CO2 emission of 147 g/km.

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New York launches $19M truck voucher incentive program; $9M for EVs, $10M for alt fuels

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $19-million New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program to encourage the purchase of battery-electric commercial trucks as well as other energy-efficient transportation, including hybrid and CNG (compressed natural gas) trucks. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) estimates that this program could encourage the purchase or retrofit of up to 1,000 low-emission trucks in areas of the state with the poorest air quality.

The truck voucher program will include two voucher funds: $9 million for battery-electric truck vouchers offered in 30 counties around the state that did not meet federal clean air standards, primarily downstate New York, the Capital Region and Western New York; and a $10-million alternative fuels voucher fund for New York City, which also includes compressed natural gas, hybrid-electric vehicles and retrofitting diesel engines with emission control devices.

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Aviat, Aviation Foundation unveil concept CNG-fueled single-engine aircraft

July 31, 2013

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Aviat Husky CNG. Click to enlarge.

Airplane manufacturer Aviat Aircraft, Inc. and Minneapolis-based Aviation Foundation of America, Inc. unveiled the first dual-fuel, piston-powered aircraft to operate on both compressed natural gas (CNG) and aviation gasoline. The Aviat Husky CNG is on display outside the Innovations Pavilion throughout AirVenture 2013 in Oshkosh, Wis. (29 July through 4 August).

The proof-of-concept Aviat Husky CNG, which flew more than 1,000 miles from Aviat’s headquarters in Afton, Wy., to be at AirVenture, can be powered by CNG or 100LL aviation gasoline with the flip of a switch. It is a mostly standard Aviat Husky A1-C that has been fitted with a 3600 psi (248 bar) CNG fuel tank in addition to its standard aviation gasoline tanks. The only modification made to the engine, a Lycoming IO-360-A1 D6, was the installation of new pistons to increase the compression ratio from 8.50:1 to 10:1.

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Ford to offer 2014 F-150 with natural gas option

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CNG Ford F-150. Click to enlarge.

Ford will offer the 2014 F-150 with the ability to run on compressed natural gas, making Ford the only manufacturer in the US with an available CNG/LPG-capable half-ton pickup. GM offers a CNG bi-fuel option for its HD pickups (e.g., Silverado 2500HD and 3500 HD and Sierra HD). (Earlier post.)

The 2014 Ford F-150 with 3.7-liter V6 engine will be available this fall with a factory-installed, gaseous-fuel prep package that includes hardened valves, valve seats, pistons and rings so it can operate on either natural gas or gasoline through separate fuel systems.

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Lifecycle analysis of energy use and pollution from gasoline, CNG and electric vehicles in 6 southwestern states highlights variability of benefits

July 29, 2013

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Comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles in 2020, EVs by state power mix. Percentages are relative to gasoline baseline. Click to enlarge.

A report for policymakers issued by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) has found that in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, electric vehicles offer the cleanest ride, while in New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming that’s not necessarily the case. SWEEP promotes greater energy efficiency in a six-state region that includes Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

The report, “Transportation Fuels for the Southwest”, compared the well-to-wheels energy use and air pollution emitted by vehicles fueled by gasoline, compressed natural gas and electricity in order to determine which fuel is cleanest in each of the six southwestern states.

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DOE releases draft of $8B loan guarantee solicitation for advanced fossil energy projects

July 03, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a draft for comment of an $8-billion loan guarantee solicitation for innovative and advanced fossil energy projects and facilities that substantially reduce greenhouse gas and other air pollution. The program is part of President Obama’s climate action plan. (Earlier post.)

The Advanced Fossil Energy Projects solicitation, authorized by Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 through Section 1703 of the Loan Guarantee Program, will be open for comments from industry, stakeholders, and the public until early September.

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Audi opens power-to-gas facility in Werlte/Emsland; e-gas from water, green electricity and CO2

June 25, 2013

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Audi’s e-gas plant. Click to enlarge.

Audi has opened its e-gas plant in Werlte, making it the first automobile manufacturer to develop a chain of sustainable energy carriers. (Earlier post.)

The Audi e-gas plant, which can convert 6MW of input power, utilizes renewable electricity for electrolysis to produce oxygen and hydrogen. Because there is not yet a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 in a methanation unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas. The e-gas is virtually identical to fossil natural gas and will be distributed via an existing infrastructure—the German natural gas network—to the CNG filling stations beginning in Germany in fall 2013.

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Navigant forecasts global natural gas fleet of 34.9M by 2020

June 20, 2013

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Cumulative natural gas vehicles in use by segment, world markets: 2013-2020. Source: Navigant Research. Click to enlarge.

In a new report, Navigant Research forecasts that the number of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) on roads worldwide will reach 34.9 million by 2020. The increase is largely driven due to a combination of low-cost natural gas and sustained higher prices for gasoline and diesel in many countries, Navigant suggests.

Natural gas is about 41% the cost of gasoline, Navigant says, noting that compressed natural gas (CNG) equipment adds between 10% to 40% to the cost of the vehicle due to the CNG cylinders and engine equipment, while liquefied natural gas (LNG) adds 60% to 80% due to the more expensive storage tanks. The differential in the cost of the fuels determines the payback on this additional equipment (currently between 2.5 and 6 years, depending on the vehicle).

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US Maritime Administration to fund projects on reducing emissions from marine vessels, study on LNG bunkering

June 15, 2013

The US Maritime Administration (MARAD) Office of the Environment has issued two funding opportunities; the first (DTMA-91-R-2013-0020) will award up to an estimated $900,000 for up to 2 projects that demonstrate criteria pollutant emissions of carbon emissions reductions from marine vessels through repowering, re-engining, or using alternative fuel/energy.

The second (DTMA-91-R-2013-0009) will award up to $500,000 for a comprehensive study on the issues associated with the bunkering (supplying a ship with fuel) of LNG for marine vessels. One of the largest obstacles to widespread take-up of LNG as ship fuel—and hence its viability as an option to meet ECA (Emission Control Areas) requirements—is the lack of a bunkering infrastructure, according to Lloyd’s Register. (Earlier post.)

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SoCalGas, California agencies funding $9M RFP to develop ultra-low NOx heavy-duty natural gas engines

June 13, 2013

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) are jointly funding a request for proposals (RFP) (P2013-22) issued by SCAQMD to support the development of ultra-clean natural gas engines for a variety of heavy-duty vehicle applications in the South Coast Air Basin (SCAB) and San Joaquin Valley Air Basin (SJVAB).

The initiative, funded up to $9 million by the participating agencies together with $500,000 in matching funds from SoCalGas, aims to demonstrate natural gas engines capable of achieving aggressive, near-zero emission standards for on-road, heavy-duty vehicle applications suitable for refuse, goods movement, drayage, transit, or school bus applications.

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Calif. Energy Commission to award more than $44M for hydrogen refueling and alternative fuel vehicle projects

In two packages of awards, the California Energy Commission approved more than $44 million to expand the hydrogen fueling infrastructure and increase the number of alter alternative fuel vehicles on the road in the state.

These awards were made through the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, created by Assembly Bill 118. For the current fiscal year, the program is slated to invest approximately $90 million to encourage the development and use of new technologies, and alternative and renewable fuels, to help the state meet its climate-change goals. It is paid for through surcharges on vehicle and boat registrations, and smog check and license plate fees.

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New EIA report boosts estimates of global recoverable shale oil resources 10-fold to 345 billion barrels

June 10, 2013

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Map of basins with assessed shale oil and shale gas formations, as of May 2013. Source: US EIA. Click to enlarge.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released a new report that estimates that shale oil and shale gas resources in the United States and in 137 shale formations in 41 other countries represent 10% of the world’s crude oil and 32% of the world’s natural gas technically recoverable resources—i.e., those that can be produced using current technology without reference to economic profitability.

Among the highlights in the 2013 report is a 10-fold increase in the estimate of technically recoverable shale / tight oil from 32 billion barrels (from the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2011) to 345 billion barrels. The report also estimates technically recoverable shale gas resources of 7,299 trillion cubic feet—10% higher than an estimate in an earlier 2011 report on recoverable shale gas resources.

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Westport launches LNG tender product for locomotives; Canadian National Railway orders four

June 05, 2013

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Earlier CN testing of LNG using a tank-car (non-Westport)-based tender with two converted test locomotives. Click to enlarge.

Westport Innovations Inc. launched a liquefied natural gas (LNG) locomotive tender product solution with an order for four tenders from Canadian National Railway (CN); CN is currently testing two Electro-Motive Diesel locomotives converted for operation on natural gas. (Earlier post.) The first tender to supply fuel to an adjacent natural-gas powered locomotive will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Westport is collaborating with INOXCVA, a leading manufacturer of cryogenic transportation equipment, on these tenders. Westport and INOXCVA have entered into an agreement for cryogenic systems to be able to rapidly meet the near-term demand in the rail industry.

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“Project Volt Gas Volt” proposes long-term financing plan to support widespread implementation of power-to-gas systems

June 02, 2013

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Project Volt Gas Volt is based on a long-term financing plan and the use of existing technologies for the large-scale conversion of surplus renewable electricity to methane, with subsequent reuse. Diagram: Isabelle Plat. Click to enlarge.

Corinne Lepage, Member of the European Parliament (and former French Minister of the Environment) and Professor Robert Bell, Brooklyn University, City University of New York, are proposing Project Volt Gas Volt (VGV) as a technology pathway for using renewable energy to “keep the lights on” on the broadest scale without disruption, together with a long-term financing proposal for the project. Although they are targeting an initial implementation France, they see it as broadly applicable.

Project VGV uses surplus electricity generated by renewable and nuclear sources to produce hydrogen via electrolysis. The hydrogen is combined with CO2 to produce methane, which is pumped into and stored in the existing natural gas grid and used like natural gas for use in power generation, transportation, or other thermal and industrial uses. The concept is the same embodied in Audi’s e-gas project (earlier post), to which the VGV proposal makes continued reference.

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EPA proposes adding renewable diesel and naphtha from landfill biogas and butanol pathways to RFS

May 21, 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rulemaking for modifications to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) program. The proposal also includes various changes to the E15 misfueling mitigation regulations (E15 MMR), ultra low sulfur diesel survey requirements as well as other technical amendments.

The proposed rules include various changes related to biogas, including changes related to the revised compressed natural gas (CNG)/liquefied natural gas (LNG) pathway and amendments to various associated registration, recordkeeping, and reporting provisions. It also adds new pathways for renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable electricity (used in electric vehicles) produced from landfill biogas.

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California Energy Commission adopts $100M investment plan for 2013-2014 for green vehicles and fuels

May 09, 2013

The California Energy Commission unanimously adopted the 2013-2014 Investment Plan Update to support the development and use of green vehicles and alternative fuels. The update sets funding priorities for the approximately $100 million in annual state funds under the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuels and Vehicle Technology (ARFVT) Program, created by Assembly Bill 118.

Funding priorities through the ARFVT Program support fuel and vehicle development to help attain the state’s climate change policies. In addition, the program funds projects that assist in fulfilling Governor Brown’s Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) Action Plan, with a target of installing enough infrastructure to support 1 million ZEVs by 2020, and a 2025 target of having 1.5 million ZEVs on the state’s roads.

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US DOE to award up to $20M for research on methane hydrates

May 08, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory has issued a solicitation (DE-FOA-0000891) for up to $20 million in funding for projects that focus on the following three technical topic areas: (1) characterization of methane hydrate deposits; (2) response of methane hydrate reservoirs to induced environmental change; and (3) response of methane hydrate systems to natural environmental change.

Selected projects will be intended to support program goals to determine the (1) likelihood of methane hydrates as a potential energy resource and (2) their role in the natural environment. The objective of the program is to fund research that significantly advances the current state of knowledge or technology with respect to methane hydrate science.

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New USGS oil and gas assessment for Bakken and Three Forks formations boosts estimates of recoverable oil two-fold, natural gas three-fold

May 02, 2013

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Map showing the Williston Basin Province, Bakken Total Petroleum System (TPS), and the Bakken Formation Assessment Units (AUs). Major structural features are also shown. Inset map shows location of the Bakken TPS (dark blue). Source: USGS. Click to enlarge.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) released an updated oil and gas resource assessment for the Bakken Formation and a new assessment for the Three Forks Formation in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana, resulting in a two-fold increase in the estimated technically recoverable oil, and a three-fold increase in estimated natural gas.

Technically recoverable resources are those producible using currently available technology and industry practices. USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of the US onshore and state waters.

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Former president of Shell Oil calls for aggressive action on alternative fuels to break oil monopoly on transportation

April 30, 2013

John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Company and founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy (CFAE), is joining the Fuel Freedom Foundation (FFF) Advisory Board. Fuel Freedom is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to opening the fuel market to allow alternative fuels such as ethanol, methanol, natural gas and electricity fairly to compete with gasoline at the pump. CFAE’s mission is to educate citizens and government officials about pragmatic, non-partisan affordable energy solutions.

The purpose and the focus [of FFF] is exactly in line with what I promoted as president of Shell and subsequently as the founder of CFAE,” Hofmeister said to Green Car Congress. “From [these organizations’ standpoints], the reason we have to get away from doing nothing is that the public doesn’t fully appreciate or understand the situation it faces with respect to fuels’ futures.

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EPA says methane emissions from natural gas production have dropped 36% from 2007-2011

April 29, 2013

In its recently released Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2011 (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that methane (CH4) emissions from the field production of natural gas have declined by 36% from 2007 to 2011 (from 83.1 to 53.4 Tg CO2 eq), after having increased by 43% from 1990 through 2006. Reasons the agency sited for this trend include factors such as increased voluntary reductions, as well as the effects of the recent global economic slowdown.

The finding may have an impact on future regulation of fracking for natural gas production, as opponents of the technology have pointed to higher rates of methane leak as being an argument against it.

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