Wednesday, May 28, 2014

CNG a logical step for the Coachella Valle

Here in the Coachella Valley we have public fueling stations from Desert Hot Springs to Indio, and there is soon to be a CNG Public Fueling Station in Coachella. CNG - cleaner, cheaper and domestic! Seems the folks at The St. Augustine Record in St. Augustine Florida are discovering what we here in the Coachella Valley already have. Six public CNG Fueling Stations:
  • Desert Hot Springs,
  • Palm Springs Airport,
  • Cathedral City at the Arco Station,
  • SunLine, 1000 Palms,
  • Palm Desert at the Burrtec Yard,
  • Indio at the SunLine Clean Air Center
  • and soon in the City of Coachella at their Maintenance Facility
One of the pluses that's not likely to change is the amount of natural gas ready to be harvested in the United States. Current estimates are that, under current usage, there's around 90 years of gas available. So if having a domestic stock of fuel is important, along with less dependence on foreign fuels, this is.

Another obvious plus of CNG is how much cleaner it burns than gas or diesel. According to the EPA, CNG can reduce carbon-monoxide emissions by over 90 percent, and nitrogen-oxide by over 50 percent, when compared to gasoline. So if reducing emissions is a goal, this is pointed in the right direction. Consumer Reports writes that CNGs will still not be as clean as the electric hybrid technology.

A third advantage — at least today — is that fuel costs are estimated to be about 35 percent lower for the consumer.

Another is that, should a CNG tank rupture in some kind of vehicle collision or other accident, the fuel vaporizes and disappears, rather than puddling and exploding.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Question Of The Month: Fuel Cell Terminology

Question of the Month: What are the key terms to know when discussing hydrogen fuel, fuel cell vehicles, and hydrogen fueling infrastructure?

Answer: It is important to know how to "talk the talk" when it comes to hydrogen and hydrogen-fueled vehicles. Becoming familiar with the terms below will help you better understand the fuel so you can ask the right questions and make informed decisions.

Considered an alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct), hydrogen (H2) can dramatically reduce emissions and has the potential to significantly reduce our dependence on imported petroleum. While pure hydrogen is not abundant, it is present in water (H2O), hydrocarbons (e.g., methane, CH4), and other organic matter.

Although hydrogen is not currently widely used as a transportation fuel, government and industry are developing clean, economical, and safe hydrogen fuel and hydrogen-fueled vehicles. The first commercially available hydrogen vehicle is expected to be offered in select dealerships this year.

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are zero emission vehicles fueled by pure hydrogen gas stored directly in the vehicle. FCEVs are two to three times more efficient than a conventional vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. FCEVs produce no harmful tailpipe emissions, have the ability to refuel in as little as three minutes, can achieve a range of more than 300 miles on a single fill-up, and may use other advanced efficiency technologies, such as regenerative braking systems.

Similar to battery electric vehicles, FCEVs use electricity to power a motor located near the vehicle's wheels. However, unlike other electric vehicles, FCEVs produce electricity from hydrogen using the fuel cell, leaving heat and water as byproducts. A fuel cell is a device that can convert the chemical energy of hydrogen into an electrical current through a chemical reaction with an oxidizing agent, such as oxygen. The most common type of fuel cell for vehicle applications is the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM). A PEM fuel cell is composed of an electrolyte membrane positioned between a cathode (positive electrode) and an anode (negative electrode). The hydrogen gas is introduced to the anode, while oxygen is introduced to the cathode. A catalyst (typically platinum) induces an electrochemical reaction that splits the hydrogen molecule into hydrogen ions. The protons are allowed to pass through the membrane while the electrons are forced to travel through an external circuit to produce electricity for the car. Then the electrons combine with the protons and oxygen at the cathode to form water, which is the fuel cell's exhaust.

The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas provides about the same FCEV driving range as a conventional sedan propelled on 1 gallon on gasoline. Due to hydrogen's low energy content by volume, the fuel must be stored as a gas in the fuel tank at high pressures (10,000 pounds per square inch). Additional research is currently underway to optimize fuel storage.

At this time, FCEVs are more expensive than conventional vehicles, but are nearing commercial readiness. Many major original equipment manufacturers, including Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota, have announced plans to begin selling or leasing FCEVs to the public in 2014 and 2015 in certain markets.

Fuel Production
Hydrogen can be produced domestically from a variety of sources, such as natural gas, coal, and renewable resources (solar, wind, and biomass). The environmental impact and energy efficiency of hydrogen depends on how it is produced. A challenge of using hydrogen is efficiently and inexpensively producing hydrogen fuel.

Hydrogen for use in FCEVs is split from other molecules through either reforming (using steam) or electrolysis (using electricity and water). Currently, natural gas reforming is the cheapest and most efficient process to produce hydrogen in the United States.

If the hydrogen is produced through electrolysis from clean, renewable energy, FCEVs could produce zero lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. There are projects underway to decrease the costs associated with these production methods.

Fueling Infrastructure
Hydrogen stations are typically located in areas of current or expected FCEV deployment, and can either be designed to store delivered hydrogen, or to produce hydrogen on-site (via electrolosys or reforming). Fueling sites include storage tanks, compression, and fuel dispensing equipment. Hydrogen fueling stations can be standalone operations or co-located with conventional fuel or natural gas dispensers. Applicable safety standards and codes specific to hydrogen fuel include the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)'s NFPA 2: Hydrogen Technologies Code.

To date, most existing hydrogen fueling stations have been constructed as part of demonstration projects. Earlier this month, the California Energy Commission (CEC) awarded nearly $47 million in grants for the development of a network of retail hydrogen fueling stations throughout the state. For additional information, please see the CEC's Notice of Proposed Awards. As the FCEV market expands, fueling infrastructure is expected to continue to grow to meet the demand.

For more information on hydrogen fuel, vehicles, and infrastructure, you can visit the Alternative Fuels Data Center Hydrogen page and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program page.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Alternative Fuel Quiz

This should be easy. If you give a wrong answer, the quiz provides a link to where you can get more information.

Friday, May 16, 2014

What Do You Call A Fleet Of 8000 CNG Vehicles?

Answer: "A good start."

AT&T deplayed its 8000th CNG vehicle, a Chevy Express, to a work center in St. Louis. The corporation's goal is to have 15,000 alternative fuel vehicles by 2018.

Clean Cities Annual Shareholder Meeting Presentation

A presentation made by Clean Energy at the recent 2014 Annual Shareholders meeting spotlights the breadth and scope of the natural gas industry in the U.S. and the progress being made in the number of natural gas vehicle platforms available today, the growth of the natural gas fueling industry, and the number of stations in development. These are exciting times for clean air advocates and those who look forward to lessening our dependence on foreign oil.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ohio's Clean Energy "Freeze"

The senators who spoke in favor of SB 310 used a series of mistaken, misleading, or irrelevant 'facts' while urging its passage."

Thank goodness California sees the benefit of clean energy use, especially in the Coachella Valley where we have 6 public CNG Fueling Stations - the envy of the country - where are they:
  1. Desert Hot Springs - Off Park Lane
  2. Palm Springs Airport
  3. Cathedral City - Arco Station
  4. 1000 Palms - SunLine Transit
  5. Palm Desert - Burrtec
  6. Indio - SunLine Clean Air Facility
and soon to be 7; one is coming to the City of Coachella thanks to the Sentinel Mitigation program.

Using Natural Gas at UPS

Use of Natural Gas Vehicles by UPS.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Question Of The Month For May

What emerging alternative fuels are under development or are already developed and available in the United States?

Answer: Clean Cities coordinators and stakeholders are familiar with the most commonly used alternative fuels, which have been covered over the last several months in the Question of the Month "key terms" series. However, there are also several emerging fuels that are currently under development or already in use in the United States. Like other alternatives, these fuels can increase energy security, reduce emissions, improve vehicle performance, and stimulate the U.S. economy. In addition, some are considered alternative fuels under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and may qualify for federal and state incentives.

Below we have listed a few emerging alternative fuels, their characteristics, and their benefits:

  • Biobutanol (butyl alcohol):
    • Composition and production: Biobutanol is a 4-carbon alcohol that can be produced from the same feedstocks as ethanol, including corn, sugar beets, and other biomass wastes.
    • Use as a transportation fuel: Biobutanol can be blended with other fuels for use in conventional gasoline vehicles.
    • Benefits:
      • Domestically produced from various feedstocks
      • Produces fewer emissions than gasoline
      • High energy content
      • Blends well with gasoline and ethanol
      • Can be produced using existing ethanol production facilities with some modifications
      • Less soluble in water than ethanol, thus less likely to cause a sludge build-up in fuel tanks

  • Drop-In Biofuels:
    • Composition and production: Drop-in biofuels are hydrocarbon fuels that are substantially similar to petroleum-based gasoline, diesel, or jet fuels. They can be produced from various biomass feedstocks, such as crop residues, woody biomass, dedicated energy crops, vegetable oils, fats, greases or algae.
    • Use as a transportation fuel: Drop-in biofuels are in an early stage of development, with several commercial plants in the United States and abroad. The focus is aimed at eventually replacing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
    • Benefits:
      • Domestically produced from biomass feedstocks
      • Produces fewer emissions than conventional fuels
      • Compatible with existing engines and infrastructure
      • Can be used as replacement fuel for diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline
      • Can be produced from various feedstocks and production technologies at stand-alone plants or those located alongside petroleum refineries where drop-in fuels can be inserted into the refinery process

  • Methanol:
    • Composition and production: Methanol, or wood alcohol, has similar chemical and physical fuel properties to ethanol. Methanol can be produced using various feedstocks, including carbon-based feedstocks, such as coal. However, natural gas is currently the most economical feedstock.
    • Use as a transportation fuel: In the 1990s, 100% methanol and 85% methanol/15% gasoline blends (M85) were used in compatible vehicles, similar to ethanol flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) on the market today. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is currently researching ways to use methanol for fuel cell vehicles.
    • Benefits:
      • Domestically produced
      • Produces fewer emissions than conventional fuels
      • Low production costs
      • Improves safety compared to gasoline due to lower risk of flammability

  • Renewable Natural Gas (Biomethane):
    • Composition and production: Renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane, is pipeline-quality gas that is fully interchangeable with fossil natural gas. RNG is essentially biogas (also known as swamp gas, landfill gas, or digester gas) that has been processed to purity standards. Biogas is typically composed of 50-80% methane, 20-50% carbon dioxide, and trace gases such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen. It is produced by decomposing organic matter, such as sewage, animal byproducts, and agricultural, industrial, and municipal solid wastes.
    • Use as a transportation fuel: Renewable natural gas can be used in existing natural gas vehicles without modification.
    • Benefits:
      • Can be produced domestically at facilities alongside landfills, sewage treatment plants, or livestock operations. This allows for the systems to use the biogas as a renewable power source to run their operations.
      • Reduces emissions by capturing methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and keeping it from being released into the atmosphere
      • Reduces the cost to landfills to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency combustion requirements
      • Reduces landfill, sewage, and livestock wastes and odors, produces nutrient-rich fertilizer, and requires less land than aerobic composting

  • xTL Fuels (Fischer-Tropsch):
    • Composition and production: Synthetic liquid transportation fuels, otherwise known as xTL fuels, are produced through various conversion processes. These processes convert fuels from carbon-based feedstocks to yield various fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, ethanol, and methanol. In particular, the Fischer-Tropsch process produces liquid fuels from coal and natural gas. Coal can also be converted into liquids through liquefaction.
    • Use as a transportation fuel: Much like drop-in biofuels, xTL fuels can replace conventional petroleum diesel for use in vehicles without modifications to the engine or fueling infrastructure.
    • Benefits:
      • Can be produced domestically using the United States' vast coal reserves and natural gas
      • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
      • Fischer-Tropsch diesel emits little or no particulate emissions due to its low sulfur and aromatic content, as well as its reduced hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions
      • Compatible with current diesel and gasoline powered vehicles and fueling infrastructure
      • Provides similar or better vehicle performance than conventional fuels
      • Converts relatively inflexible energy sources, such as coal or biomass, into useful transportation fuels

  • Dimethyl ether (DME):
    • Composition and production: DME isa non-toxic, colorless gas that can be easily liquefied to a biodegradable synthetic liquid fuel. It is produced from various feedstocks, such as natural gas, coal, biomass, or even carbon dioxide.
    • Use as a transportation fuel: DME can be used in conventional diesel engines and stored in similar vehicle storage tanks to those used for propane fuel.
    • Benefits:
      • Domestically produced
      • Emits no particulate matter, no sulfur oxides, and very low levels of nitrous oxides and carbon dioxide
      • Provides similar or better vehicle performance than conventional fuels due to the high cetane number
      • Easy to store and transport, and liquefies at low pressure, removing the need for costly, high-pressure storage containers

More information on emerging alternative fuels can be found on the AFDC Emerging Alternative Fuels page. We encourage you to check out this page, as it was recently updated with new content.

For more information on DME, please see SAE International's presentation DME from Natural Gas or Biomass: A Better Fuel Alternative

Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team