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NREL and California Partners to Provide up to $13.5M to Support Natural Gas Engine and Vehicle Development; Focus on Medium and Heavy-Duty Trucks and Buses

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the California Energy Commission (CEC), and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) will invest up to $13.5 million to support the development of natural gas engines and vehicles. As part of the cost-shared projects, companies selected for awards will invest nearly $8 million in additional funds to support $21 million in total projects.

NREL will oversee the Natural Gas Engine Research and Development projects to develop highly efficient natural gas engines that: meet or exceed 2010 emission standards; integrate natural gas engines into different chassis and vehicle platforms; and verify fuel efficiency, petroleum reduction, and emissions benefits in real-world operation.

The focus is on medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses, which currently represent 22% of the fuel used in on-road vehicles.

Significant increases in the projected amount of natural gas available in the US have stimulated renewed interest in using it to fuel commercial vehicles. More engine and vehicle choices are needed, however, for natural gas to be a practical alternative to petroleum-based fuels for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses. And that’s where this project comes in.

—NREL Project Manager Margo Melendez

NREL issued a Request for Proposals in March that focused on expanding the availability of market-ready natural gas engines and vehicles. More than 20 companies submitted proposals, indicating significant industry interest in this program.

The following projects have been selected for awards:

  • Emissions Solutions, Inc., McKinney, Texas. Develop equipment and controls to retrofit a Navistar 13-liter diesel engine to operate on natural gas. These engines operate in a wide variety of Class 8 vehicles (such as short and long-haul delivery trucks) across the US today.

  • ISE Corporation, Poway, Calif. Develop a hybrid natural gas transit bus based on the Ford V10 gasoline engine.

  • Cummins Westport, Vancouver, Canada and Autocar LLC, Hagarstown, Ind. Develop an 11.9-liter natural gas engine and integrate it into refuse trucks and Class 8 delivery trucks around the nation to verify performance in different climates, altitudes, and driving environments (i.e., city and highway).

  • Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas and Autocar LLC, Hararstown, Ind. Redesign an existing Doosan engine to accommodate natural gas fueling. Build prototype engines for durability and emissions testing. Integrate engines into an Autocar ACX chassis, typically used for refuse hauling.

NREL is operated for DOE by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.



This is a bit off topic, but National Geographic just did a program about what would happen when the supply of oil ended. They did not mention much about natural gas, but the message was if we do not develop alternatives ahead of that event, we will be at a major disadvantage.


North America has a century of NG available at current consumption rates. That rate might increase with conversion of vehicles to CNG and replacing coal with NG fired power stations. NG will also fuel the new CHP Residential Power Units alleviating the burden on the grid.

Good news is eventually there will be a replacement for NG that IS renewable. More on that later.


Biomass can be gasified and turned into methane to fill the natural gas pipes. It is one of the best distribution models that there is. We have the network of pipes, we just need the gasification plants near farmlands and connect them to the network.

Joe Rollin

Current natural gas production techniques (specifically, hydraulic fracturing) have caused a serious negative impact on surrounding areas and downstream, due to gas developers' exemption from the Clean Water Act in the 2005 Energy Bill. Excellent recent documentary on this: Gasland (

Natural gas has advantages over other fossil fuels: more energy released/ CO2 generated, domestic, etc., but it is certainly not renewable, and should not be considered "clean energy". (Transition energy, maybe.) Given this, why would NREL be leading the charge here, and not NETL? Bad choice, and it supports a widespread misconception that natural gas is a clean alternative.

Now, biogas, such as from gasified biomass, would be a different story.


It is not difficult to gasify biomass like corn stalks and cobs into synthesis gas and then convert it to methane. It is a high yield process and the methane is much more pure than the natural gas that is in the pipeline networks now.


There recent reports on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) state concerns over the "rock eating chemicals" and "saline waste water disposal" In relation to a proposed and 'permitted?' project in lands surrounding Sydney's Warragamba Dam Water supply.

Other reports on in ground coal gasification (where underground coal is liquified via syngas) in Queensland have raised concerns over various hydrocarbon contaminants leakng to aquifers, bores and ground waters in the vicinity ,leading to all trials being "immediately stopped"


Fossil fuels are a messy business. Up until now it was seen that there were few alternatives if any, so we go along with it. I would rather gasify biomass and synthesize methane than fracture "tight gas".

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