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Natural Gas

[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.]

Lifecycle study finds fuel switching from diesel to natural gas could produce net climate damage absent reductions in CH4 emissions and improved vehicle efficiency

May 20, 2015

A study by a team from the Environmental Defense Fund, in collaboration with a colleague from the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University has found that while switching a heavy-duty truck fleet from diesel to natural gas has the potential to produce climate benefits, realizing that potential would require a combination of significant reductions well-to-wheels methane emissions (i.e., addressing leakage) and efficiency improvements in the natural gas vehicles themselves. Otherwise, fuel switching can produce net climate damages (more radiative forcing) for decades.

The results, published in an open access paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, suggest that policymakers wishing to address climate change should use caution before promoting fuel switching to natural gas, the authors concluded.

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Canada targets cutting GHGs 30% below 2005 levels by 2030; new regulations for oil and gas, power, petrochemicals

May 15, 2015

Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced that Canada plans to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Canada formally submitted its target, referred to as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Canada will continue to take cooperative action with its continental trading partners, particularly the United States, in integrated sectors of the economy, including energy and transportation.

Minister Aglukkaq also announced the Government’s intention to develop new regulatory measures under its sector-by-sector approach that would build on actions already taken on two of Canada’s largest sector sources of GHG emissions: transportation and electricity. The new regulations include:

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Cummins Westport introducing new ISB6.7 G mid-range natural gas engine

May 06, 2015

At the opening reception at ACT Expo in Dallas, TX, Cummins Westport Inc. will unveil the ISB6.7 G, a 6.7-liter medium-duty, factory-built dedicated natural gas engine for school bus, shuttle bus, medium-duty truck and vocational applications. (Earlier post.) The new ISB6.7 G is currently in field trials with full production expected to commence in mid-2016.

The ISB6.7 G natural gas engine is based on the Cummins ISB6.7 diesel engine platform, the industry leader in the Cummins medium-duty engine family. The ISB6.7 G will operate exclusively on natural gas (CNG or LNG) utilizing Cummins Westport’s proprietary spark-ignited, stoichiometric combustion with cooled exhaust gas recirculation (SEGR) technology, first introduced with the 8.9-liter ISL G.

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2016 Ford F-150 offers ability to run on compressed natural gas, propane

May 05, 2015

Ford will offer the 2016 F-150 with an available gaseous-fuel prep package that enables 5.0-liter V8-powered models to run on compressed natural gas or propane, making Ford the only manufacturer of a CNG/propane-capable half-ton pickup.

The 2016 Ford F-150 with 5.0-liter V8 engine will be available to order this summer with a factory-installed, gaseous-fuel prep package that includes upgraded intake and exhaust valves and valve seats.

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Momentum Fuel Technologies introduces CNG storage system for Class 6-8 trucks

Newly launched Momentum Fuel Technologies, a division of Rush Enterprises, which operates the largest network of commercial vehicle dealerships in North America, introduced a complete compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel storage system for Class 6 to Class 8 trucks, offering support from design and manufacturing, to sales and ongoing service throughout the product life cycle.

The company plans to offer both side-mount and back-of-cab mount systems. Side-mount systems include a 40DGE (diesel gallon equivalent) with a range of 176-220 miles (283-354 km) and 45DGE with a range of 198-248 miles (319-399 km). The initial back-of-cab mount system will be 110DGE with a range of 506-633 miles (814-1,019 km). The company expects to offer another back-of-cab mount system, 150DGE with a range of 660-825 miles (1,062-1,328 km) in fall 2015.

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Opinion: Have Natural Gas Prices Bottomed?

April 29, 2015

by Leonard Brecken of Oilprice.com

Last Friday we finally got confirmation of where all the natural gas supply has been coming from as Cabot (COG) reported its earnings. Just like Chesapeake (CHK), they reduced natural gas output, but on a much grander scale. CHK has yet to report and will do so on May 6th providing even more color on the subject.

Last month they announced a 2% reduction in NGAS volumes to 1-3% for 2015 vs. 3-5%. But the ramp up of supply from Marcellus, and to a lesser extent Utica, and a corresponding flat to up rig count in natural gas rigs in those areas appears to be the reason why NGAS has crashed some 30% despite a relatively cold winter in the mid-west and East especially. The magnitude of the supply increase is simply stunning, begging the question: what was Cabot’s management thinking by increasing NGAS production in Marcellus by some 40% to 162 BCF in 1Q15 and up 12.5% sequentially from 4Q14? And, to boot, 4Q14 was up over 13% sequentially from 3Q14!

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The Game-Changing Water Revolution: Interview with Stanley Weiner

April 15, 2015

by James Stafford for Oilprice.com

Globally, water demand is threatening to dangerously outpace supply, while in the US, dry states such as Texas and California are suffering from shortages and the future forebodes more suffering. For the North American shale boom, the lack of water is suffocating. Amid this doom and gloom, a water revolution is emerging, led by energy industry figures who realized the endless potential of tapping into new water sources and processing them with advanced desalination technology that, for the first time ever, is economically feasible.

The water revolution is here, according to Stanley Weiner, CEO of STW Resources-a Texas-based company that has the exclusive North American license for Dutch-developed next-generation Salttech desalination technology. [Earlier post.] In an interview with James Stafford Oilprice.com, Weiner discusses:

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Researchers find that abiotic methane can charge deepsea Arctic gas hydrates

April 14, 2015

Researchers from the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE) at the Arctic University of Norway have discovered a growing Arctic abiotic methane- and methane hydrate–charged sediment drift on oceanic crust in the deep Fram Strait of the Arctic Ocean. This is a previously undescribed process of hydrate formation; most of the known methane hydrates in the world are formed with methane from the decomposition of organic matter (biotic methane).

Their study, reported in the journal Geology, suggests that abiotic methane could supply vast systems of methane hydrate throughout the Arctic.

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Lux: alternative fuels in China could replace up to 483B GGE in 2020; coal-to-ethanol conversion offers near-term potential

China’s shift toward alternative fuels in order to cut its reliance on imported oil is creating large opportunities, notably in natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and in the conversion of coal to ethanol, according to a new report from Lux Research. China is seeking to reduce its imports of oil from the current 50% of domestic demand. Further, its plans to limit coal-fired power plants due to pollution problems, means that oversupplied coal is available for conversion to alternative fuels.

Lux Research analysts evaluated China’s alternative fuels landscape to assess opportunities and identified potential domestic partners across diverse feedstocks, technologies and fuels. Among their findings:

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UPS to add 1,400 new CNG vehicles over next year; building 15 new CNG fueling stations

April 02, 2015

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UPS CNG package truck. Click to enlarge.

UPS announced plans to purchase and deploy 1,400 new CNG vehicles over the next year, representing a 27.5% increase to UPS’ current industry-leading alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet of 5,088 vehicles worldwide.

To support the purchase and planned deployment of the 1,400 new CNG vehicles, UPS plans to build 15 compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations. Twelve of the CNG stations will be in new natural gas vehicle deployment areas, and three will replace existing CNG stations with more robust, higher capacity equipment.

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U Toronto LCA suggests that with CNG as primary vehicle energy source, EVs best targeted at non-attainment areas

April 01, 2015

A team at the University of Toronto has examined the life cycle air emissions (climate change and human health) impact benefits and life cycle ownership costs of compressed natural gas (CNG) use directly in conventional vehicles (CV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), and natural gas-derived electricity (NG-e) use in plug-in battery electric vehicles (BEV), using a gasoline-fueled conventional vehicle as a reference.

Among their findings, published in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, are that policies should for the foreseeable future focus on the niche adoption of plug-in vehicles in non-attainment regions, as CNG vehicles are likely more cost-effective at providing overall life cycle air emissions impact benefits.

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Total natural gas vehicle sales in US down 6.5% in 2014 due to 34% drop in light-duty sales; medium- and heavy-duty up

March 29, 2015

In 2014, light-, medium-, and heavy-duty natural gas vehicle (NGV) production/sales in the US totaled just over 18,000 vehicles, down 6.5% from 2013, according to NGVAmerica’s 2014 NGV Production/Sales Report. The report is based on the organization’s annual survey of OEMs and approved aftermarket suppliers.

The heavy-duty market segment grew at a healthy pace, up 30% over 2013. The medium-duty market segment also grew steadily, up 24% over 2013. The light-duty segment fell 34% from 2013, mostly related to a drop in orders from the gas and oil exploration and production (E&P) sector.

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BLM issues final rule for fracking on public lands; new rule on deepsea blowout preventers coming

March 22, 2015

The US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released final rule covering hydraulic fracturing on public and American Indian lands. As of 30 June 2014, there were approximately 47,000 active oil and gas leases on public lands, and approximately 95,000 oil and gas wells. Of wells currently being drilled, more than 90% use hydraulic fracturing. This final rule will supplement the existing requirements, which will remain in place. The rule applies only to development on public and tribal lands—which represent about 25% of US unconventional oil and gas—and includes a process so that states and tribes may request variances from provisions for which they have an equal or more protective regulation in place.

The Department will also propose a rule in the coming weeks that raises the bar on blowout preventers for offshore wells and well control measures based on technological progress advanced by industry, said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell during her remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) several days prior to the release of the fracking rule. Other reforms will also include important measures to target where oil and gas leasing occurs and protect sensitive areas that are too special to drill.

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Study: natural gas heavy-duty trucking fleet could benefit economy, but has mixed environmental effects

February 20, 2015

Switching from diesel fuel to natural gas may hold advantages for the US heavy-duty trucking fleet, but more needs to be done to reach the full environmental benefits, according to a new white paper released by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, and Rice University.

The recent shale-driven emergence of natural gas as an abundant, inexpensive fuel in the US has raised the possibility of a “momentous shift” in the level of natural gas used in transportation. The cost advantage of natural gas over diesel fuel is particularly appealing for vehicles with a high intensity of travel and thus fuel use. In the paper, the team investigated the possibility that natural gas could be utilized to provide fuel cost savings, geographic supply diversity and environmental benefits for the heavy-duty trucking sector—and whether it can enable a transition to lower carbon transport fuels.

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DOE workshop report on common opportunities and challenges in expanding use of H2 and natural gas vehicles

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Hydrogen and natural gas share a number of common entry to market barriers. Image from DOE EERE Fuel Cell Technologies Office. Click to enlarge.

Sandia National Laboratories, supported by the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies and Fuel Cell Technologies Offices, recently released the workshop report “Transitioning the Transportation Sector: Exploring the Intersection of Hydrogen Fuel Cell and Natural Gas Vehicles.”

Held in September 2014, the workshop considered common opportunities and challenges in expanding the use of hydrogen and natural gas as transportation fuels. Organized by Sandia, the American Gas Association, and Toyota, the workshop included participants from the auto industry, freight delivery fleets, gas suppliers, gas storage developers, utilities, academia, industry associations, national laboratories, and federal and state governments.

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New black silicon-supported catalyst for photoreduction of CO2 to methane

February 16, 2015

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a catalyst comprising of black silicon nanowire supported ruthenium ( Ru/SiNW) for the photochemical and thermochemical reduction of gaseous CO2 to methane (methanation) in the presence of hydrogen under solar-simulated light. An open access paper on their work is published in the new journal Advanced Science.

The Ru/SiNW catalysts activated the Sabatier reaction at a rate of 0.74 mmol g−1 h−1 under 14.5 suns intensity of solar-simulated irradiation in a hydrogen atmosphere at 15 psi and a H2:CO2 ratio of 4:1. The team suggested that much higher reaction rates could be achieved by optimizing the dispersion of the Ru over the SiNW support.

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ICCT reviews real-world tractor-trailer fuel economy in US, China and Europe

February 15, 2015

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has published a new paper reviewing and summarizing data on commercial vehicle sales and real-world fuel consumption for heavy-duty tractor-trailers in the three key markets of the US, China and Europe, which together account for more than 70% of HDV sales worldwide.

The review found that in the US, average tractor-trailer fuel consumption rates for the entire fleet are approximately 39 L/100 km (6 mpg). For the newest US models, fuel consumption is typically between 33 and 36 L/100 km (6.5–7 mpg). A fleet-wide analysis done for the European Commission estimates tractor-trailer fuel consumption at roughly 31 L/100 km (7.6 mpg), while tests of individual vehicles done by trucking magazines suggest somewhat higher average rates of consumption at approximately 36 to 38 L/100 km (6.5 to 6.2 mpg). Chassis dynamometer testing performed as part of the regulatory development process in China reveals that tractor-trailers seem to have much higher fuel consumption rates, on average, than in the US and the EU, with laboratory results yielding an average of 44 L/100 km (5.4 mpg).

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Extensive materials genome modeling study suggests best adsosrbent materials for natural gas storage already designed; 70% of ARPA-E target

February 03, 2015

Using a materials genome approach, a collaboration between EPFL, the University of California at Berkeley, Rice University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has searched for high-performance adsorbent materials to store natural gas in a vehicular fuel tank.

In their study, published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, they simulated more than 650,000 designs for nanoporous materials. They found that the best candidates for natural gas storage have already been designed—but that those best materials meet only 70% of the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) targets for natural gas storage on vehicles. (Earlier post.)

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Researchers ID structure of key intermediate in enzyme converting methane to methanol; potential for synthetic fuels

January 26, 2015

A team from the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University has identified the structure of the key intermediate “Q” in the enzyme methane monooxygenase (MMO). MMO catalyzes the O2-dependent conversion of methane to methanol in methanotrophic bacteria, thereby preventing the emission into the atmosphere of approximately one billion tons of this potent greenhouse gas annually.

Q is one of the most powerful oxidizing intermediates occurring in nature. Exploiting this extreme oxidizing potential is of great interest for bioremediation and the development of synthetic approaches to methane-based alternative fuels and chemical industry feedstocks, the authors noted in their paper, published in the journal Nature. The insight gained into the formation and reactivity of Q from the structure reported is an important step towards harnessing this potential, the authors suggested.

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Obama Administration recommends designating most of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness

On Sunday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its revised proposed comprehensive conservation plan and final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the 19.64-million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The FWS’ preferred alternative recommends an additional 12.28 million acres—including the Coastal Plain—for designation as “Wilderness”. (“Wilderness” (with a capital “W”) refers to designated Wilderness areas, with accompanying restrictions.) The FWS also recommends four rivers—the Atigun, Hulahula, Kongakut, and Marsh Fork Canning—for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Currently, more than 7 million acres of the refuge are managed as Wilderness. However, more than 60% of the refuge—including the Coastal Plain—does not carry that designation. Implementation of the preferred alternative would change that.

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China Yuchai LNG engine powers the “Fuel Efficient Heavy-Duty Truck of the Year 2014” in China

China Yuchai International announced that a “K-Gold” model C&C truck equipped with the YC6K1340N liquid natural gas (LNG) engine has won the “Fuel Efficient Heavy-Duty Truck of the Year 2014” at China’s largest annual commercial vehicle event.

At 13 liters, the YC6K1340N engine has the largest displacement and highest torque power among comparable natural gas engines in China. Variants in the K13N range span power ratings from 340-440 PS (250-324 kW, 335-434 hp), with 1950 N·m of torque at 1200 ~ 1500 rpm. By utilizing lean-burn technology, it reduces average energy consumption by approximately 25% compared with diesel engines of similar size and power. The model YC6K1340N is the only engine in China that utilizes the JACOBS in-cylinder brake technology, and has LNG braking power up to 17 kW/L.

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California approves another $18M for clean energy projects; $12M for alternative vehicles

January 15, 2015

The California Energy Commission approved nearly $18 million to fund projects that will help the state meet its climate and energy goals. Twelve million dollars will go toward three alternative fuel projects, $4 million will help fund two geothermal projects and $3.5 million will help fund local energy efficiency projects.

The three alternative fuels projects will receive funding through the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), which supports technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on petroleum-based fuels. Recipients include:

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Navigant forecasts LD natural gas vehicles to account for 2.8% of global vehicle parc by 2024

December 31, 2014

Navigant
Cumulative light-duty NGV sales by segment. Source: Navigant. Click to enlarge.

In a new report, Navigant Research forecasts that light-duty natural gas vehicle (LD NGV) sales will grow 119% between 2014 and 2024, culminating in 42.1 million NGVs on the world’s roads and accounting for 2.8% of all vehicles on the roads.

Overall, Navigant expects the worldwide market for LD NGVs to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6% between 2014 and 2024, with the number of passenger car sales growing at a slightly slower rate (5.3% CAGR) than light trucks (5.6% CAGR). Asia Pacific will remain the largest market, with more than 2.0 million LD NGVs sales in 2024.

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Rice U team uses new computational methodology to identify high capacity MOFs for on-board natural gas storage

December 18, 2014

Researchers from Rice University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley have developed a computational methodology to support the experimental exploration of potential high-capacity metal organic frameworks (MOFs) for use in on-board storage of natural gas. The advantages to using MOFs as a storage medium are many and start with increased capacity over the heavy, high-pressure cylinders in current use.

In a paper in the ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry C, they report identifying 48 materials with higher predicted deliverable capacity (at 65 bar storage, 5.8 bar depletion, and 298 K) than MOF-5—the currently best available for the natural gas storage application. The best material identified by the researchers has a predicted deliverable capacity 8% higher than that of MOF-5.

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Westport Innovations acquires alt fuel systems company Prins Autogassystemen for €12.2M

December 03, 2014

Natural gas engine and vehicle company Westport Innovations Inc. has acquired Netherlands based Prins Autogassystemen Holding B.V. for €12.2 million (US$15.1 million) through a combination of €6.6 million (US$8.2 million) in assumed liabilities and €5.6 million (US$6.9 million) in cash.

Founded in 1986, Prins is a leading developer of high quality alternative fuel systems powered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or propane), compressed natural gas (CNG), and liquefied natural gas (LNG) for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty applications. Prins operations in Europe will be combined under the Westport Applied Technologies business unit.

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Start-up Eco-Motive developing dual-fuel “H” engine; parallel, independently fueled piston banks

December 01, 2014

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The H-engine—basically two separate engines housed within the same engine block—comprises two switchable parallel piston banks, independently fueled by gasoline and CNG. Click to enlarge.

Startup Eco-Motive has developed what it calls the first dual-fuel “H” engine; it recently received a patent (#8807098) on the design. The H-shaped engine comprises parallel left-side and right-side vertical inline piston banks, each having a crankshaft and pistons, a cylinder head, and individual fuel feeds, but sharing a common power transmission system. Each piston bank operates independently of the other but is housed within the same engine block and has separate lubrication systems.

The Eco-Motive H-motor—basically two separate engines housed within the same engine block—can be powered by either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG), at the driver’s decision. The chosen engine is mechanically or electrically selected via an engine bank selector box using a selector control which selects the fuel type and engages a drive gear on the crankshaft of the selected engine, and transfers power to the transmission. The selector control actuates a transfer system that prevents simultaneous operation of both engines. The vehicle stays in that fuel mode until changed by the driver.

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

October 22, 2014

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

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

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

October 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

October 10, 2014

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

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

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

October 01, 2014

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

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

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

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

September 28, 2014

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MANs TGX hybrid concept at IAA. Click to enlarge.

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

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

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

September 27, 2014

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

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

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

September 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

September 23, 2014

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

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

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

September 12, 2014

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

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

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

September 04, 2014

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

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

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

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

August 26, 2014

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

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

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Volvo Trucks introduces new monofuel natural gas version of FE

August 20, 2014

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Volvo FE CNG. Click to enlarge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 19, 2014

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

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

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

August 08, 2014

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

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

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

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

July 20, 2014

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

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

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

July 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2014

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

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

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

July 08, 2014

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

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

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

July 07, 2014

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

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

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

June 30, 2014

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Greenkraft truck. Click to enlarge.

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

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

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

June 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

June 19, 2014

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

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

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DOE releases report on water-energy nexus

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

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

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

June 03, 2014

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

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

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

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