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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.]

Proof-of-principle of cost-effective methane cracking technology for H2 production without CO2; 50% cleaner than SMR, comparable to electrolysis

November 19, 2015

Researchers of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have achieved the proof-of-principle for a innovative technique to extract hydrogen (H2) from methane (CH4) without the formation of CO2 as a byproduct.

At this stage, cost estimates are uncertain, since methane cracking is not yet a fully mature technology. However, preliminary calculations show that it could achieve costs of €1.9 to €3.3 per kilogram of hydrogen at German natural gas prices—without taking the market value of the solid black carbon byproduct of the process into consideration.

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Audi highlights its range of electrification efforts; Q7 diesel PHEV, A7 fuel cell PHEV, BEV, 48V and more; 750 Wh/l by 2025

November 17, 2015

Audi presented a range of its ongoing work on electromobility and efficiency—from fuels and systems to full vehicles—under the “Future Performance Days 2015” banner.

On the full vehicle side, Audi put forward the Audi Q7 e-tron 3.0 TDI quattro plug-in hybrid (earlier post); the Audi A7 h-tron quattro fuel cell vehicle (earlier post); the Audi e-tron quattro concept battery-electric SUV (earlier post); the Audi TT clubsport turbo concept (earlier post); the Audi RS 5 TDI competition concept (earlier post); and the Audi R18 e-tron quattro (earlier post). On the systems and fuels side, Audi discussed battery technology; wireless charging; 48 V electrification (earlier post); Audi fuel cell technology; and Audi e-fuels (earlier post).

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Westport to begin delivering HPDI 2.0 early production-design-intent components to OEMs in Q1 2016

November 02, 2015

Westport Innovations Inc. announced that early production-design-intent components in the Westport High Pressure Direct Injection (Westport HPDI) second-generation (HPDI 2.0) development program for dual-fuel diesel/natural gas engines (earlier post), including the latest-generation injector from Delphi, are undergoing engine testing at Westport, and will be delivered to OEM customers for validation and vehicle testing early in the first quarter of 2016.

Since the announcement of the HPDI 2.0 system in September 2014, Westport has worked with its development partners and suppliers to complete component testing and system validation. The latest generation of HPDI injectors, developed under a Joint Development Agreement with Delphi (earlier post), feature a new direct-connected architecture and incorporate technologies from both companies and higher performance, lower cost and much easier packaging on the engine than prior HPDI injection system.

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New flexible MOF for enhanced adsorbed natural gas storage on vehicles

October 27, 2015

An international team of researchers led by a group at the University of California, Berkeley has developed a flexible metal-organic framework (MOF) material for enhanced adsorption and desorption of natural gas (CH4). The material, described in a paper in the journal Nature, could bolster the development of on-board adsorbed natural gas (ANG) systems that don’t require the high pressures or cold temperatures of today’s compressed or liquefied natural gas vehicles.

The “flexibility” is the result of a reversible phase transition. The iron and cobalt compounds Fe(bdp) and Co(bdp) (bdp2− = 1,4-benzenedipyrazolate) undergo a structural phase transition in response to specific methane (CH4) pressures, resulting in adsorption and desorption isotherms that feature a sharp step. Such behavior enables greater storage capacities than have been achieved for classical adsorbents, the team found, while also reducing the amount of heat released during adsorption and the impact of cooling during desorption.

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DOE issues RFI on advanced thermal insulation for cold/cryogenic compressed gas on-board fuel storage

October 21, 2015

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) has issued a request for information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001420) on advanced thermal insulation for sub-ambient temperature alternative fuel onboard storage systems. Alternative fuels could include hydrogen or natural gas stored onboard the vehicle at sub-ambient temperatures as a compressed gas, liquefied gas or adsorbed onto a porous material.

DOE is requesting information on how to maintain vacuum stability of systems; use of advanced composites within the systems; and accelerated test methods to determine performance and applicability of materials and systems for long-term cold and cryogenic based alternative fuel storage systems for onboard vehicle applications.

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Linde pilot testing dry reforming process to generate syngas from CO2 and methane for production of fuels and chemicals

October 16, 2015

As part of its R&D strategy, Linde has built a pilot reformer facility at Pullach near Munich—Linde’s largest location worldwide—to test dry-reforming technology. The dry reforming process catalytically combines CH4, the principal component of natural gas, and CO2 to produce syngas (CO and H2). Syngas is then used to produce valuable downstream products such as base chemicals or fuels.

The dry reforming process differs from steam reforming, which combines CH4 and water (H2O) in the form of steam to produce the syngas. Producing the steam is energy-intensive; dry reforming requires far less water, and hence avoids the energy burden of steam production. In addition to reducing energy consumption, the dry reforming process also consumes recycled carbon dioxide.

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CWI ISL G Near Zero natural gas engine certified to near zero NOx; 90% below current standard

October 06, 2015

Cummins Westport Inc. (CWI) announced that its new ISL G Near Zero (NZ) natural gas engine is the first mid-range engine in North America to receive emission certifications from both US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Air Resources Board (ARB) in California that meet the 0.02 g/bhp-hr optional Near Zero NOx Emissions standards for medium-duty truck, urban bus, school bus and refuse applications.

Cummins Westport ISL G NZ exhaust emissions will be 90% lower than the current EPA NOx limit of 0.2 g/bhp-hr and also meet the 2017 EPA greenhouse gas emission requirements. CWI natural gas engines have met the 2010 EPA standard for particulate matter (0.01 g/bhp-hr) since 2001.

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Oak Ridge AMIE demo integrates 3D-printed building, natural gas hybrid with bi-directional wireless power transfer

September 24, 2015

A research demonstration unveiled at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (DOE ORNL) combines clean energy technologies into a 3D-printed building and a 3D-printed natural gas-powered hybrid vehicle to showcase a new approach to energy use, storage and consumption. The Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) demonstration, displayed at DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Industry Day event, is a model for energy-efficient systems that link buildings, vehicles and the grid.

An ORNL team worked with industrial partners to manufacture and connect a natural-gas-powered hybrid electric vehicle with a solar-powered building to create an integrated energy system. Power can flow in either direction between the vehicle and building through a lab-developed wireless technology. The approach allows the car to provide supplemental power to the 210-square-foot building when the sun is not shining.

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Ricardo in EU-funded HDGAS; seeking >30kW/L, 10% improvements in power, torque and GHG in natural-gas fueled heavy-duty trucks

September 23, 2015

Ricardo is one of 19 collaborating commercial and academic partners in the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Green Vehicle Initiative project HDGAS—a project that aims to develop, demonstrate and optimize advanced powertrain concepts for dual-fuel and pure natural gas-powered heavy duty vehicles. Particular areas of focus for the company will be the development of engine and aftertreatment systems that offer the prospect of delivering real driving emissions well below Euro VI limits for heavy duty vehicles.

Long haul trucks are an essential element of the transportation mix of modern, industrialized society. They are, however, inherently less amenable to the type of electrification and hybridization strategies that are already contributing to reduced carbon emissions and potential long-term sustainability for the light vehicle sector. A key global imperative is, therefore, the substantial improvement of heavy vehicle engine efficiency and reduction of environmental impact.

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Bosch leading Direct4Gas consortium to develop direct injection for monovalent natural gas engines

September 11, 2015

Bosch is leading a consortium in a German government-funded project to develop a direct injection system for monovalent natural gas engines—i.e., engines that run exclusively on CNG. Compared with present systems that use manifold gas injection, a direct injection system for natural gas could deliver as much as 60% more torque at low rpm, and offer the prospect of an even more dynamic driving experience in the CNG cars of the future.

Today’s CNG vehicles are generally bivalent, running on gasoline and CNG with engines designed for gasoline direct injection. For CNG operation, they are fitted with an additional manifold injection system for methane. However, because methane behaves differently from gasoline when injected directly, it is important to optimize the combustion process for methane.

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Westport and Fuel Systems Solutions to merge; alternative fuel vehicle and engine company with expanded reach

September 01, 2015

Westport Innovations Inc. and Fuel Systems Solutions, Inc. have entered into a merger agreement to create a premier alternative fuel vehicle and engine company. The transaction will result in a combined equity value of $351 million based on the closing trading prices for the shares of both companies on 31 August 2015 and combined annual revenues ranging from $380 to $405 million projected for 2015.

Traditionally, Westport Innovations has focused the majority of its technological development and commercialization efforts in the heavy-duty and high horsepower natural gas arena, while Fuel Systems has significant experience and focus with gaseous fuel systems and components for light- and medium-duty automotive and industrial applications. The complementary industry expertise provides a rationale for the merger, as the combined company’s product development efforts will span passenger car to heavy-duty trucks to locomotives and marine applications to stationary power.

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Joint IEA-NEA report details plunge in costs of renewable electricity; nuclear competitive with other baseload power sources

August 31, 2015

2010 and 2015 LCOE ranges for solar and wind technologies. Source: IEA/NEA. Click to enlarge.

The cost of producing electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar has been falling for several years. A new report, a joint project by the International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency, provides in detail the contrasting costs for different power generation technologies around the world and shows that renewable sources can produce electricity at close to or even below the cost of new fossil fuel-based power stations, depending upon conditions such as resources and appropriate market and regulatory frameworks.

The report, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2015 Edition, also shows that new nuclear power plants generate electricity more cheaply than other established “baseload” sources—mainly coal- and gas-fired power plants—over the full lifetime of facilities when financing costs are relatively low.

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EERC working with Fuel Cell Energy on $3.5M ARPA-E project for electrochemical cell to convert natural gas to methanol

August 29, 2015

The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is working with FuelCell Energy, Inc., an integrated stationary fuel cell manufacturer, to develop a durable, low-cost, and high-performance electrochemical cell to convert natural gas and other methane-rich gas into methanol, a major chemical commodity with worldwide applications in the production of liquid fuels, solvents, resins, and polymers.

The US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) awarded $3,500,000 to the project, led by Fuel Cell Energy, as part of its REBELS (Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems) program. (Earlier post.) The project is directed at developing an intermediate-temperature fuel cell that would directly convert methane to methanol and other liquid fuels using advanced metal catalysts.

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Clean Energy to build new CNG stations for multiple transit agencies and large school district; agreements with trucking, refuse and others

August 26, 2015

Clean Energy Fuels Corp. will construct new compressed natural gas (CNG) stations for Arlington Transit (ART) in Arlington County, Virginia; Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) in Long Island, NY; and North Kansas City (MO) School District, which is set to become the largest school district in the US to transition its school bus fleet to CNG. The company also announced additional agreements across transportation market segments of transit, refuse, trucking and the bulk fuel market.

Transit. NICE has awarded Clean Energy the contract to design, build and operate and maintain a new CNG station that will, upon completion, replace its existing Mitchel Field station, and operate and maintain the existing CNG stations. The five-year contract valued at just over $13 million will extend the partnership between NICE and Clean Energy and will support a fleet of over 200 CNG buses. Clean Energy currently supports another 100 CNG buses at an additional station and provides a total of 4.6 million GGEs of CNG annually for the NICE bus fleet. Completion of the new station is expected for summer 2017.

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Berkeley Lab researchers advance hybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to~chemicals conversion; 50% electrical-to-chemical, 10% solar-to-chemical efficiencies

August 25, 2015

A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have hit a new milestone in their development of a hybrid bioinorganic system for solar-to-chemical energy conversion. (Earlier post.) The system first generates renewable hydrogen from water splitting using sustainable electrical and/or solar input and biocompatible inorganic catalysts. The hydrogen is then used by living cells as a source of reducing equivalents for conversion of CO2 to the value-added chemical product methane.

The system can achieve an electrical-to-chemical efficiency of better than 50% and a solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency of 10% if the system is coupled with state-of-art solar panel and electrolyzer, said Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and one of the leaders of this study. A paper on their work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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CMU analysis finds BEVs powered with natural gas-based electricity have about 40% of the lifecycle GHGs of a conventional gasoline vehicle

August 21, 2015

According to a new lifecycle analysis by a team at Carnegie Mellon University, a battery electric vehicle (BEV) powered with natural gas-based electricity achieves around an average 40% lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction when compared to a conventional gasoline vehicle. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), either with a 30- or 60-km range, when powered by natural gas electricity, have the second lowest average emissions. Both BEVs and PHEVs provide large (more than 20%) emissions reductions compared to conventional gasoline, but none of them is a dominant strategy when compared to gasoline hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), the team found.

Gaseous hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have comparable life cycle emissions with conventional gasoline, offering limited reductions with 100-year global warming potential (GWP) yet leading to increases with 20-year GWP. Other liquid fuel pathways using natural gas—methanol, ethanol, and Fischer–Tropsch liquids—have larger GHG emissions than conventional gasoline even when carbon capture and storage technologies are available. The study is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

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Synbio company Intrexon and Dominion partner to commercialize bioconversion of natural gas to isobutanol in Marcellus and Utica Basins

August 20, 2015

Intrexon Energy Partners (IEP), a joint venture of synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation and external investors (earlier post), and Dominion Energy, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, have entered into an agreement to explore the potential for commercial-scale biological conversion of natural gas to isobutanol in the Marcellus and Utica Shale Basins.

Intrexon’s proprietary methanotroph bioconversion platform uses optimized microbial cell lines to convert natural gas into higher carbon compounds such as isobutanol and farnesene under ambient temperatures and pressures. This novel approach avoids costly, resource-intensive thermochemical gas-to-liquids (GTL) conversion methods, and offers a biofuel that does not utilize sugar or other plant-based feedstock.

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NREL examines potential of blending ethanol with condensate for flex-fuels and high-octane mid-level blends

July 21, 2015

A team at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with a colleague at EcoEngineering, has explored the potential of blending ethanol with natural gasoline (condensate) to produce flex-fuels (ASTM D5798-13a) and high-octane, mid-level ethanol blends (MLEBs). A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

The study addresses two current market conditions: first, more ethanol is produced domestically than can legally be blended in E10 (the ethanol blend wall). Second, as a result of recent increases in crude oil and natural gas production in the US, condensate—a component of natural gas liquids (NGLs) found in rich gas—is produced in abundance and could potentially serve as a lower-cost blendstock. Current US production of condensate is estimated at 1.5 × 108 m3 annually compared to 9.7 × 107 m3 annually 10 years ago.

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Argonne, Ford and FCA partnering to study natural gas and gasoline blending for 50% cut in gasoline, 10% boost in efficiency and power density

July 14, 2015

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are partnering with Ford Motor Company and FCA US LLC in pre-competitive research to study blending natural gas and gasoline using natural gas direct injection to enable more efficient engines. The project is a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) resulting from the 2014 DOE Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).

The project’s objective is to understand potential benefits and demonstrate targeted blending of gasoline and natural gas in an engine that uses half as much gasoline and shows a 10% increase in overall efficiency and a 10% improvement in power density.

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DOE selects 16 research projects for more than $19M in funding to advance Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected 16 solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology research projects for a total of more than $19 million ($19,358,915) in funding.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, NETL issued two funding opportunities announcements (FOAs) to support programs that enable the development and deployment of this energy technology. The projects selected under the two FOAs will receive funding through NETL’s Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Program. The FOAs were awarded with two primary objectives: to design, construct, and field-test a SOFC prototype system; and to support innovations that improve the reliability, robustness, and endurance of SOFC cell and stack technology.

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Audi launches next-gen A4 with new Millerized TFSI engine; g-tron model w/ Audi e-gas

June 29, 2015

Audi has unveiled the new-generation Audi A4 and A4 Avant, developed with a high priority on the reduction of CO2 emissions. Among other developments, the new A4 is the launch vehicle for the new high-efficiency 2.0L TFSI based on Miller cycle, introduced by Audi earlier this year at the Vienna Motor Symposium. (Earlier post.) The A4 Sedan and the A4 Avant will be launched in the market this fall.

The new models deliver CO2 emissions as low as 95 grams per kilometer (152.9 grams per mile) for the A4 Sedan 2.0 TDI ultra with 110 kW (150 hp). The new A4 Sedan has the best drag coefficient in its class at 0.23, while Avant has cd 0.26. Further, although compared with the previous model the car’s dimensions have grown, its weight has been reduced by up to 120 kilograms (265 lbs), depending on the engine. The body of the new Audi models is one of the lightest in its class due to an intelligent material mix and lightweight construction.

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Stanford launches major new natural gas research initiative

June 13, 2015


Stanford University has launched a new research initiative to study comprehensively the development and use of natural gas. The new program will expand Stanford’s research on energy and the environment by focusing additional resources on the growing importance of natural gas.

US production has risen almost 50% in the past 10 years, and global demand for gas is anticipated to outpace all other fossil fuels. More than 35 professors and research staff from a dozen Stanford academic departments have already affiliated with the Natural Gas Initiative.

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Hybrid-electric powertrain for road sweepers; natural gas genset

June 06, 2015

Empa, ETH Zürich and the road sweeper manufacturer Bucher Municipal have jointly developed a pioneering hybrid-electric powertrain for road sweepers in a CTI (Switzerland’s Commission for Technology and Innovation) project. The concept is based on a natural gas-driven engine, which provides power to the electric motors. Compared to conventional sweepers, the energy consumption has been halved and CO2 emissions reduced by more than 60%.

Bucher Municipal, the European market leader in compact sweeping vehicles, is currently working on a concept study based on its CityCat platform to investigate possible commercialization of the new technologies.

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EPA draft assessment finds no widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources from fracking

June 05, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft assessment on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing activities on drinking water resources in the United States. The assessment, done at the request of Congress, found that hydraulic fracturing activities in the US are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.

The assessment followed the water used for hydraulic fracturing from water acquisition; chemical mixing at the well pad site; well injection of fracking fluids; the collection of hydraulic fracturing wastewater (including flowback and produced water); and wastewater treatment and disposal. The assessment also identified potential vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle—some of which are not unique to hydraulic fracturing—that could impact drinking water.

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CMU study compares lifecycle GHGs of natural gas pathways for MHDVs; MD BEVs can deliver large reductions, but diesel hard to beat for Class 8

May 27, 2015

A study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers comparing life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from different natural gas pathways for medium and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs) found that the GHG reduction potentials of the pathways vary sharply between non-Class 8 MHDVs (e.g., pick-up trucks, parcel delivery trucks, and box trucks), Class 8 transit buses, and Class 8 MHDVs (e.g., refuse trucks and tractor-trailers).

Battery-electric (BEVs), LPG, and CNG pathways could reduce life cycle GHG emissions for non-Class 8 MHDVs compared to the baseline petroleum fuels. Similarly, BEVs achieve emission reductions for transit buses. On the other hand, none of natural gas pathways, CNG, LNG, and F-T liquids, achieve any emission reductions per unit of freight-distance moved for Class 8 trucks compared to conventional diesel. The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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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

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

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, 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

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

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

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

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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