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The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued US Patent Nº 8,597,914 to Proterro, Inc., protecting Proterro’s unique, biosynthetic sugar-making process. (Earlier post.)
The only biofeedstock company that makes sugar instead of extracting it from crops or deconstructing cellulosic materials, Proterro has developed a process that integrates unique transgenic sugar-producing microorganisms with a robust, modular photobioreactor made from off-the-shelf materials. This process yields a fermentation-ready sucrose stream, rather than a mixture of sugars, simplifying downstream processes and reducing their costs.
The photosynthetic microorganisms and their genetic code are already protected by U.S. Patent No. 8,367,379, a composition of matter patent specifically covering “the sequence and assembly of discrete genes of engineered cyanobacteria and the cyanobacteria themselves,” said Proterro CEO Kef Kasdin, who added that the design of the photobioreactor is itself patent pending.
This method patent protects the technology that will provide a cost-effective, continuous, high-yield process to produce fermentable sugar from the transgenic cyanobacteria using water, carbon dioxide and sunlight. While our first, cornerstone patent protects the genetic blueprint of our cyanobacteria, this patent protects our entire process of making fermentable sugar, from introducing the microorganisms into the photobioreactor through isolating the sugar.—Kef Kasdin
Proterro’s unique sugar-making process removes the price volatility that comes with crop-based feedstocks and eliminates the complex and costly steps required to produce cellulosic sugars derived from biomass. The result is an economically stable, fermentation-ready sugar feedstock for the scalable, affordable production of a variety of commercial scale fuels and chemicals through standard industrial fermentation methods.
Late in November, the AutomotiveCampusNL in Helmond at Brainport opened the third hydrogen station in the Netherlands. Built by Dutch construction multinational Ballast Nedam in cooperation with Hydrogenics, the station will serve VDL Bus and Coach to test its future fuel cell buses. Within the next few months the station will be expanded to include a 700 bar dispenser to make it suitable for passenger cars. Operated by WaterstofNet, the Flemish/Southern Netherlands hydrogen network station is co-financed by the EU Interreg program.
The station features a Hydrogenics HySTAT electrolysis system designed and built by Hydrogenics’ Belgium-based On-Site Generation division. The station consists of a 20ft containerized water electrolyzer that includes a water treatment system, gas purification, cooling system and a 350 bar dispenser to supply up to 65 kg of hydrogen fuel per day. The station will be used to fuel new prototypes of hydrogen buses and a small fleet of hydrogen powered garbage trucks.
On the day of the opening, VDL Bus & Coach, a major Dutch bus manufacturer, unveiled a new fuel cell bus concept. This new VDL Bus & Coach concept incorporates an energy power plant where the only interface to the vehicle is a 600 VDC cable connector and a vehicle communication port.
Hydrogenics Power Systems division designed and supplied the energy power plant which included a HyPM HD90 fuel cell power module, which is used as a range extender for the electric bus, giving it a range of more than 200 km (124 miles). (VDL is also working with a long-range battery-electric bus with a range of 100-150 km, as well as a fast-charging electric bus with a range of 20-30 km.) The unit can be deployed in standard, articulated and double-articulated buses.
Researchers in Taiwan report on the production of hydrogen from rice straw fed into a microwave plasma system in a paper in the journal Fuel. They evaluated the conversion rate according to the concentration of hydrogen and other gas products (CO2 and CO).
When feed rice straws into the microwave plasma system at 800 W, 900 W, and 1000 W using an upstream method, the concentrations of hydrogen production were 48%, 53%, and 56%, respectively.
Using a downstream method, the concentrations of hydrogen production were 34%, 40%, and 45%, respectively. These results indicate that the upstream feeding method is more favorable than the downstream for hydrogen production, and an increase of power can enhance the production of hydrogen.
Optimal hydrogen production is achieved when rice straws are fed into the system using the upstream method at a power of 1000 W; each gram of rice straw produced approximately 40.47 mg of hydrogen (conversion rate = 67.45%).—Lin et al.
Yuan-Chung Lin, Tzi-Yi Wu, Wan-Yu Liu, Yi-Hsing Hsiao (2014) “Production of hydrogen from rice straw using microwave-induced pyrolysis,” Fuel, Volume 119, Pages 21-26, doi: 10.1016/j.fuel.2013.11.046
Scientists at the University Claude Bernard Lyon have discovered a simple process for producing copious volumes of hydrogen. The researchers will present a paper on the discovery at the American Geophysical Union’s annual Fall Meeting in San Francisco this week.
In a microscopic high-pressure cooker called a diamond anvil cell (within a tiny space about as wide as a pencil lead), Muriel Andreani, Isabelle Daniel, and Marion Pollet-Villard combined aluminum oxide, water, and the mineral olivine. After 24 hours at 200 to 300 degrees Celsius and 2 kilobars pressure—comparable to conditions found at twice the depth of the deepest ocean—they produced hydrogen.
Dr. Daniel explains that when water meets the ubiquitous mineral olivine under pressure, the rock reacts with oxygen (O) atoms from the H2O, transforming olivine into another mineral, serpentine. The process also leaves hydrogen molecules separated from oxygen atoms in water.
Finding the reaction completed in the micro space overnight instead of over months as expected was a surprise. The experiments produced H2 some 7 to 50 times faster than the natural “serpentinization” of olivine.
Scaling this up to meet global energy needs in a carbon-free way would probably require 50 years. But a growing market for hydrogen in fuel cells could help pull the process into the market.—Jesse Ausubel of The Rockefeller University and a founder of Deep Carbon Observatory
Dr. Daniel noted that until now it has been a scientific mystery how the rock + water + pressure formula produces enough hydrogen to support such an abundance of chemical-loving microbial and other forms of life abounding in the hostile environments of the deep.
Scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Sandia National Laboratories have developed conductive metal-organic frameworks (MOFs)—MOFs with the ability to conduct electricity. These porous and conductive MOFs may be the first in an entirely new class of materials that could be used for sensing, conformal electronics (electronics that can bend and conform to unusual shapes), and other as-yet-unknown applications.
MOFs are three-dimensional crystalline materials with nanoscale pores made up of metal ions linked by various organic molecules. MOFs have huge surface areas, and scientists can easily control the size of their pores and how the pores interact with molecules by tinkering with their chemistries. These characteristics make them ideal for use as catalysts, membranes or sponges for gas storage or for drug delivery, among other applications. Thousands of new MOF structures are discovered and characterized each year.
The NIST/Sandia team developed a method to modify the electrical conductivity of MOF thin films and to control it over six orders of magnitude. Their findings will appear in the journal Science.
MOFs are typically extremely poor electrical conductors because their constituent building blocks, the organic linkers and the metal ions, don’t really talk to each other in terms of electrical conduction. Our work points to a way of controlling and increasing their conductivity.—NIST materials engineer Andrea Centrone
The group accomplished this by infiltrating an insulating MOF with redox-active, conjugated guest molecules—i.e., they infused and bound electron-sharing molecules into MOF thin films to create a material that is stable in air and approximately a million times more conductive than the unaltered MOF.
Based on several spectroscopic experiments, we believe that the guest molecules serve two important purposes: they create additional bridges between the metal ions—copper, in this case—and they accept electrical charge.—NIST chemist Veronika Szalai
According to NIST physicist Paul Haney, who provided some modeling for the experimental data, the arrangement of the guest molecules in the MOF creates a unique conductivity mechanism while preserving the benefits of the porous MOF crystalline structure.
Our discovery gives chemists and engineers a whole new degree of freedom to tailor these materials for their technological applications. I would not be surprised if solar cells could be made using this new class of materials.—Andrea Centrone
A.A. Talin, A. Centrone, A.C. Ford, M.E. Foster,V. Stavila, P. Haney, R.A. Kinney, V. Szalai, F. El Gabaly, H.P. Yoon, F. Léonard and M.D. Allendorf (2013) “Tunable electrical conductivity in metal-organic framework thin-film devices,” Science doi: 10.1126/science.1246738
SUPERVALU INC. has purchased 35 Class 8 Volvo trucks that operate on compressed natural gas (CNG). The fleet, which operates out of SUPERVALU’s Mechanicsville, Va., distribution center and currently serves approximately 500 grocery stores in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Washington, D.C. and North Carolina, is the largest private fleet of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic region.
To power the new trucks, Trillium CNG, a provider of compressed natural gas fueling solutions, built and will operate a fast-fill CNG station at SUPERVALU’s Mechanicsville distribution center. The conversion to natural gas will reduce the fleet’s annual oil consumption by more than 1 million gallons and result in 1,300 fewer tons of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to the environmental benefits, the new CNG fleet and fast-fill station is expected to reduce SUPERVALU’s operating costs given the lower cost of compressed natural gas.
Utilizing Trillium’s high-performance fast-fill hydraulic intensifier, the new station can fuel trucks at a rate of 8-to-10 gallons per minute.
The fill station is the first of two Trillium stations planned in the Richmond, Va., area. The second is under construction at GRTC Transit System, the public transit agency jointly owned by the City of Richmond and Chesterfield County, and is expected to be operational in three to four months. By the end of the second quarter 2014, Trillium CNG will be operating 81 CNG stations nationwide, with 54 of them having public access.
In addition to serving hundreds of independently owned grocery stores, the Mechanicsville distribution center supplies SUPERVALU’s Farm Fresh Food & Pharmacy banner, which operates 42 stores primarily in Virginia, as well as more than 50 Shoppers Food & Pharmacy stores in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.
SUPERVALU operates 20 distribution centers across the United States and has slightly more than 400 trucks in its national company-owned fleet, excluding its Save-A-Lot network that operates separately. The Mechanicsville distribution center has a total of 105 tractors in its fleet, and has set a goal of converting approximately 65% of its total fleet to natural gas by 2015.
A new report by the US PIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group details reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in the US’ most populous urbanized areas, as well as greater use of public transit and biking in most cities. The average American drives 7.6% fewer miles today than when per-capita driving peaked in 2004.
The report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities,” is based on the most current available government data and is, according to US PIRG, the first national study to compare transportation trends for America’s largest cities and lists results for each. Among the report’s national findings:
The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle—either alone or in a carpool—declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and the 2007-2011 period averaged in US Census data.
The proportion of residents working from home has increased in 100 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas since 2000.
The average number of vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita declined in 54 out of the 74 large urbanized areas the trends of which could be analyzed between 2006 and 2011.
New Orleans has seen the largest drop in per-capita VMT (22%) since 2006, possibly a result of Hurricane Katrina. The urbanized areas containing two Wisconsin cities, Milwaukee and Madison, saw the second and third biggest drops in per-capita VMT: 21% and 18%, respectively. Two Pennsylvania urbanized areas, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, saw the fourth and fifth biggest drops in per-capita VMT: 14: and 13:, respectively.
The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011. The proportion of households with two cars or more cars decreased in 86 out of the 100 of these areas during that period.
The proportion of residents bicycling to work increased in 85 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.
The number of passenger-miles traveled per capita on transit increased in 60 out of 98 of America’s large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2005 and 2010.
The study found that cities with the largest decreases in driving were not those hit hardest by the recession. Rather, the economies of urbanized areas with the largest declines in driving appear to have been less affected by the recession according to unemployment, income and poverty indicators.
Between 2006 and 2011, the average increase in the unemployment rate in the 15 urbanized areas with the highest per-capita declines in VMT was 3.9 percent, while the average increase in all other urbanized areas was 4.6 percent.
Between 2006 and 2011, the average increase in the poverty rate of the 15 urbanized areas with the highest per-capita declines in VMT was 2.7 percent, while the average increase in all other urbanized areas was 3.6 percent.
The Millennial generation, which will constitute the largest share of future travelers, is leading these trends. Previous research by US PIRG Education Fund and others has shown that young people have the steepest reductions in driving. Americans 16 to 34 years of age reduced their average driving miles by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009.
The report makes a number of policy recommendation based on its findings:
Revisit transportation plans. Many existing transportation plans continue to reflect assumptions that the number of miles driven will continue to rise steadily over time. Officials at all levels should revisit transportation plans to ensure that they reflect recent declines in driving and new understandings of the future demand for travel.
Reallocate resources. With driving stagnating in many areas and demand for transit, bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure increasing, officials should reallocate resources away from highway expansion projects and toward system repair and programs that expand the range of transportation options available to Americans.
Remove barriers to non-driving transportation options. In many areas, planning and zoning laws and transportation funding rules limit public officials’ ability to expand access to transportation choices. Officials at all levels should remove these barriers and ensure access to funding for non-driving forms of transportation.
Use innovative travel tools and services. New technologies and techniques provide transportation officials with new tools to address transportation challenges. Transportation agencies should encourage the use of carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing and provide real-time travel information for public transit via smartphone.
Get better data. Transportation agencies should compile and make available to the public more comprehensive, comparable and timely data to allow for better informed analysis of the causes and magnitude of changes in driving trends. Officials at all levels should eliminate inconsistencies in the reporting of transportation data, increase the frequency of surveys that shed light on changes in transportation preferences and behaviors, and use emerging new sources of information made possible by new technologies in order to gain a better grasp of how driving trends are changing and why.
Renmatix and Virent announced a strategic collaboration to convert affordable cellulosic sugars to renewable chemicals and bio-based packaging materials. The two companies, both ICIS Innovation Awards winners, made the announcement at the ICIS awards ceremony in London.
Under the terms of the multi-phase development project, Renmatix’s Plantrose platform will be evaluated and potentially optimized to provide an affordable sugar stream for Virent’s Bioforming process for the large-scale production of bio-based paraxylene.
Paraxylene is a basic raw material used in the manufacture of purified terephthalic acid (PTA), an important chemical in the production of plastic bottles and fibers made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Integrating local feedstock processing with on-site commercial production will lower costs and increase the viability of using renewable chemicals in bio-based packaging and plastics for industrial and consumer goods.
Selected by ICIS as the Best Innovation by a small- to mid-sized enterprise, Renmatix’s Plantrose process produces affordable cellulosic sugars as the bridge between upstream biomass and downstream plant-based chemicals. An alternative to current petro-based materials, Renmatix’s C5 (xylose) and C6 (glucose) Plantro sugars are produced by an advanced water-based method known as supercritical hydrolysis.
In lieu of more expensive chemical and enzymatic routes to cellulosic sugar that are still in use today, Plantrose leverages supercritical hydrolysis to economically convert a range of renewable global feedstocks into the bio-based building blocks that can be used in everyday products like paints, diapers, laundry detergent, or bottles and other types of plastic packaging.
Virent’s bio-based paraxylene product, trademarked BioFormPX, won this year’s ICIS award for Best Innovation for Sustainability. Virent’s BioFormPX is chemically identical to paraxylene made from petroleum and allows manufacturers to offer customers 100% bio-based PET packaging, fibers and films.
Virent and The Coca-Cola Company entered into a strategic partnership in 2011 to accelerate the commercialization of 100% renewable, recyclable PlantBottle packaging.
(The Coca-Cola Company and Ford Motor Company are collaborating on the first interior fabric made from the same renewable material used to produce Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle Technology packaging. (Earlier post.)
A team from the Engine Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ford Motor, and Ford Forschungszentrum Aachen have developed new multi-component surrogate models for three different diesel fuels, and then examined their fidelity in capturing the characteristics of a diesel engine operated under various conditions, including conventional and low-temperature combustion (LTC) modes.
Fuel and EGR effects were also explored in the two different combustion modes using the developed surrogate models. In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they reported that the results showed that the combustion trends in conventional combustion are less affected by fuel or EGR changes, while LTC conditions exhibit a much higher sensitivity, thus demanding more realistic fuel models precisely to describe advanced combustion modes.
The way diesel engines operate is being changed from operating in a high temperature to a low temperature regime in order to suppress the formation of both NOx and soot. … Although there are several acronyms for the new diesel combustion systems, viz., premixed charge compression ignition (PCCI), homogenous charge compression ignition (HCCI), reactivity controlled compression ignition (RCCI), stratified charge compression ignition (SCCI), high efficiency clean combustion (HECC), etc., all of these strategies operate under low temperature combustion (LTC) conditions. It has been demonstrated that both NOx and soot formation can be avoided even under rich fuel−air conditions by maintaining temperatures lower than 1700 K. However, important challenges in LTC conditions include a detailed understanding of fuel effects for precise combustion control to provide a wider operating load range.
… Since the molecular composition of diesel fuels is much more complex due to the inclusion of thousands of hydrocarbons, modeling diesel composition effects on the combustion process is usually realized using a few representative hydrocarbon species referred to as “surrogates”. A variety of surrogates for diesel fuels have been suggested in the literature depending on the intended application targets, viz., spray, ignition, combustion chemistry, and emissions. … The major challenge in diesel surrogate modeling includes capturing both the spray and combustion characteristics using a single surrogate mixture. Further, modeling diesel chemistry within the realistic computer time limits can only be realized by developing more accurate multicomponent reduced reaction mechanisms.
Although research efforts have been made in the past to understand fuel effects through experiments, corresponding modeling studies are very limited. Also, there is a need to study the fuel effects in modern technology engines, which may need to be operated in advanced combustion modes to meet future emissions standards. A deeper insight into fuel effects is possible through the development and application of more realistic surrogate fuel models. —Anand et al.
Precise combustion control and a wider operating load range are the two major challenges in the application of LTC, as the combustion process is chemical kinetically driven and thus is sensitive to the fuel composition. The use of simple single- or two-component surrogate models leads to inaccuracies when modeling advanced combustion systems due to differences between the model and real fuel compositions, they explained.
In the study, they considered three diesel fuels with varying saturate and aromatic compositions, representing high-, medium- and low-cetane fuels. The high-cetane fuel composition and properties meet the EC1 Swedish diesel fuel specifications (>51 cetane, < 5% vol. aromatics) and the mid- and low-cetane fuels have properties typical for North American diesel fuel (>40 cetane, <35% vol. aromatics).
The researchers took a hybrid surrogate model approach, developing two groups of surrogates for the fuels; one group for representing the physical/spray properties of a fuel, the other for the chemistry calculations.
They arrived at their surrogate compositions by first modeling the distillation profiles of the three fuels using the KIVA-ERC code incorporated with a Discrete Multicomponent (DMC) fuel model. They judged the fidelity of the surrogate compositions based on validation of important properties, such as density; H/C ratio; heating value; and cetane number. These developed surrogate compositions were used only for representing the physical/spray properties of diesel fuels.
For the chemistry calculations, they arrived at a separate group of surrogates based on a Group Chemistry Representation (GCR) method. They then applied the two groups of surrogates to predict the combustion and emission characteristics of a single cylinder diesel engine operated with the three diesel fuels under varying conditions including conventional and LTC modes.
Among the conclusions were:
Modeling the distillation profiles of real fuels was found to be an effective tool for accurately representing their composition and properties.
A hybrid surrogate modeling approach with the use of two separate groups of surrogates to model the spray and chemistry of the three diesel fuels provided flexibility in terms of the choice of surrogates with a lower computational load.
The developed surrogate models captured well the combustion and emission trends of the three fuels under conventional and low-temperature combustion conditions.
Low-temperature combustion conditions showed much higher sensitivity to fuel changes, while the changes in combustion and emission parameters with fuel type was very marginal in conventional combustion.
Changes in EGR rate controlled the start and progress of combustion and emission formation under LTC conditions with the low-CN fuel showing much higher sensitivity than the high-CN fuel, while conventional combustion was less sensitive to up to 10% changes in EGR.
The locations of unburned emissions in the combustion chamber were significantly different in LTC and conventional combustion. They were mostly located along the cylinder wall regions in LTC, while they originated along the cylinder axis under mixing dominated conventional combustion.
K. Anand, R. D. Reitz, E. Kurtz, and W. Willems (2013) “Modeling Fuel and EGR Effects under Conventional and Low Temperature Combustion Conditions.” Energy & Fuels doi: 10.1021/ef401989c
Statoil announced its fifth discovery in Block 2 offshore Tanzania. The discovery of an additional 2-3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas in place in the Mronge-1 well brings the total of in-place volumes up to 17-20 Tcf in Block 2. (1 Tcf gas = 180 million barrels of oil equivalent.)
Drilled by the drillship Discoverer Americas, the Mronge-1 site is located 20 km (12.4 miles) north of the Zafarani discovery, and at a water depth of 2,500 meters (8,202 feet).
We have initiated a new and ambitious drilling campaign offshore Tanzania following four successful discoveries during the first drilling phase. The Mronge-1 well discovered additional gas volumes and furthers the potential for a natural gas development in Tanzania. The new drilling program also allows us to fully explore the remaining exploration potential in Block 2.—Nick Maden, senior vice president for Statoil’s exploration activities in the Western hemisphere
The Mronge-1 well discovered gas at two separate levels. The main accumulation is at the same stratigraphic level as proven in the Zafarani-1 well in Block 2. The Zafarani-1 discovery was made in 2012 and was a play opener for the block. The secondary accumulation was encountered in a separate, younger gas bearing reservoir, in a play which previously has not been tested in Block 2.
The Mronge-1 discovery is the venture’s fifth discovery in Block 2. It was preceded by three successful high-impact gas discoveries during the first drilling phase with Tangawizi-1, Zafarani-1 and Lavani-1, and a deeper discovery in a separate reservoir in Lavani-2.
The Statoil-operated partnership started its new drilling campaign in Block 2 in September 2013. In addition to Mronge-1, the campaign includes drilling of several new prospects and appraisal of previous discoveries. Following Mronge-1, the partnership is scheduled to appraise the 2012 Zafarani discovery.
Statoil operates the licence on Block 2 on behalf of Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) and has a 65% working interest, with ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Tanzania Limited holding the remaining 35%. Statoil has been in Tanzania since 2007, when it was awarded the operatorship for Block 2.
Southwest Research Institute is now serving as a Connected Vehicle Affiliated Test Bed, recognized by the US Department of Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). As a Connected Vehicle Test Bed, SwRI supports public and private sector research, testing and demonstrations of innovative, next-generation intelligent transportation technologies.
A connected vehicle network—vehicles exchanging information with the highway infrastructure and other vehicles using safe, interoperable wireless communications—could improve traffic safety, mobility and environmental impacts. The DOT estimates that traffic congestion costs the US economy $87.2 billion annually, with 4.2 billion hours and 2.8 billion gallons of fuel wasted sitting in traffic. Connected vehicle applications can potentially provide transportation agencies with significantly improved real-time traffic, transit and parking data, making it easier to manage transportation systems for maximum efficiency and minimum congestion.
Advanced traffic management systems have been shown to reduce secondary collisions, mitigate congestion and, most importantly, save lives. Integrating 5.9 GHz dedicated short range communications (DSRC) infrastructure will further enhance these systems. As an affiliated test bed, SwRI will continue to serve the intelligent transportation community by conducting advanced research and development in connectivity.—Michael Brown, a staff engineer in SwRI’s Intelligent Systems Department
SwRI is one of multiple sites across the country that will support ongoing research, development, testing and demonstration of connected vehicle applications, standards and innovative products. SwRI has numerous facilities and capabilities to support this research, including a 5.9 GHz DSRC antenna test field, a test track and dedicated intelligent vehicle laboratories.
The DOT test bed project facilitates information exchange as well as access to tools and resources across other test bed facilities to support and encourage consistent future deployment of connected vehicle technologies. The project aims to advance the technology for full deployment through information sharing and developing a common technical platform.
The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) released the first comprehensive report on the status of Alberta’s species in the Athabasca Oil Sands Area (AOSA). Found in northeastern Alberta, the AOSA makes up 14% of Alberta’s land area, and is central to Alberta’s economy. Situated within the Boreal Forest Natural Region, the AOSA has a robust forest industry. It also contains the Athabasca oil sands deposit, which represents 77% of Canada’s proven oil reserves and supports a growing energy extraction sector.
“The Status of Biodiversity in the Athabasca Oil Sands Area” assessed the current condition of more than 350 species in the entire AOSA; the active in-situ oil sand production sub-region; and the mineable sub-region and found the Biodiversity Intactness Index to be, on average, 94%, 91%, and 86% for each of the regions, respectively.
The Biodiversity Intactness Index is a measure of how much more or less common a species is relative to an undisturbed landscape free of human footprint. The high intactness value for the overall AOSA is due to its relatively low human footprint, the report found.
As of 2010, 6.8% of the AOSA showed visible evidence of human footprint, with forest harvesting accounting for the largest human footprint type in the region at 3.1%. Human footprint in the Active In-situ region was 7.7%; whereas, in the Surface Mineable Region, it measured 20.8%. Energy infrastructure was the largest human footprint type in the Surface Mineable Region at 16.8%.
In the Mineable Region, where human footprint is higher, the biodiversity intactness is 8% lower. Even though active surface mines have a biodiversity intactness near 0%, much of the land base in the Mineable Region is not currently developed. These undeveloped areas have higher biodiversity intactness.
At present, the report noted, the biggest ecological change in the AOSA is associated with higher-than-expected abundances of species that thrive in areas with human development, such as the coyote and song sparrow.
Species that prefer old-forest habitat, such as the marten, fisher, and bay-breasted warbler are examples of species found to be less abundant than would be expected in an undisturbed area.
Of species at risk in the AOSA, the Woodland Caribou has the highest public profile. Government of Alberta data show that Woodland Caribou populations in the AOSA have been consistently declining over the past 20 years. ABMI analysis shows that the total amount of human footprint in all Woodland Caribou ranges increased between 2007 and 2010. In 2010 human footprint varied from a low of < 1% in the Richardson population range to a high of 7% in the Nipisi population range.
The report also detected non-native weeds at 32% of the sites surveyed. At sites where they were found, an average of 2.1 non-native weed species were detected.
With the AOSA 94% intact today, there’s still significant opportunity for land and resource managers to make informed and deliberate choices about its future. As development continues to unfold in the region, the ABMI will continue to measure and report on the changing state of biodiversity. —“The Status of Biodiversity in the Athabasca Oil Sands Area”
Over the next few years, the ABMI will broaden its assessment of biodiversity to include status and trend reporting for lichens and wetlands, as well as trend analysis for all species groups included in this report. These same assessments will be generated for the Peace River and Cold Lake Oil Sands Areas.
Data and information used in this report was partially funded through the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) program, a joint federal-provincial environmental monitoring program established in 2012. JOSM was designed to ensure that air, water, biodiversity and toxicology monitoring efforts in the AOSA are independent, credible, coordinated and transparent.
Sekisui Chemical Co., Ltd. has developed a high-capacity film-type lithium-ion battery with a silicon anode using a coating process that has simultaneously tripled the battery capacity (900Wh/L) compared to other Sekisui Chemical products; increased its safety (as shown by nail penetration tests or crush tests); and sped up production by ten times (compared to other Sekisui Chemical products).
The new cells feature high lithium-ion conductivity (approximately ten times compared to other Sekisui products) with enhanced safety through the use of a high-performance gel-type electrolyte. Sekisui Chemical used its original materials technology to enable the application the novel high-performance gel-type electrolytes using a coating process instead of the standard vacuum infusion process.
By further adding its newly developed high-capacity silicon anode material in this process, the company can provide high-capacity film-type lithium-ion batteries with high productivity while being flexible, slim, long and covering a large area. (The company has not yet discussed cycle life for the Si anode battery.)
The cells can offer large savings in terms of space (a third the size of previous products for comparable density) and can be installed in any shape or form, giving rise to a large number of applications in automobiles, houses, appliances and so on, according to the company.
The assumed size of film-type lithium-ion batteries is currently 200cm long, 30cm wide, and 0.3-5mm thick, however, the size will differ according to the design capacity and application.
The process technology was developed with support from the Advanced Technology Research Project for the Application and Commercial Use of Lithium-Ion Batteries being run by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
Sekisui said that it will be exploring mass production with these film-type lithium-ion batteries, aiming at quickly realizing products for a variety of uses, including electric vehicles. The company will begin providing samples starting around next summer (2014).
The company will present the research at Eco-Products 2013 in Tokyo, 12-14 December.
(A hat-tip to RK!)
Deret Transport, one of France’s largest logistics companies, has recently opted for the Fuso Canter Eco Hybrid. The Deret Group now has one of the largest hybrid fleets in Europe, comprising 22 Canter Eco Hybrids. The Canter is the flagship model of Daimler subsidiary Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation (MFTBC). According to Deret spokesperson Jean-Luc Fournier, initial trips with the hybrid fleet have revealed a 25% reduction in fuel consumption compared with trucks with conventional engines.
The Fuso Canter Eco Hybrid, which was unveiled at the International Motor Show in Hanover in September 2012, is the first series production hybrid light-duty truck in Europe. In Europe, the Canter Eco Hybrid is always delivered with a permissible gross vehicle weight of 7.5 tonnes, whereby the chassis has a load capacity of up to 4.8 tonnes.
The core of the diesel-electric drive system is the 3.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine rated at 110 kW (150 hp), which is supported by an electric motor with an output of 40 kW (55 hp). The turbodiesel delivers 370 N·m (273 lb-ft) of torque in the rev range from 1320 to 2900 rpm. The electric motor manages 200 N·m (148 lb-ft).
The benefits of the diesel-electric drive come into play first and foremost in distribution and consolidation operations. These areas of work are carried out for the most part with box bodies, as is also the case with the Deret Group.
For city logistics, Deret uses a depot at the docks in the Paris suburb of Genneviller. The pallets with the goods for delivery in the morning are delivered here at night by truck from Deret’s central depot near Orleans and prepared according to the scheduled routes. In the interests of the environment, Paris has introduced even more stringent regulations, however. Diesel vehicles are only allowed to enter the city between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. During the day, only trucks with gas engines and with exhaust systems complying with the Euro VI standard or higher are permitted. Deret thus required a different solution for the trucks supplying the temporary storage facility in Genneviller. This task will be carried out in future by the Fuso Canter Eco Hybrids.
In October, MFTBC presented the new Canter range: the vehicles comply with Euro 5b+ or Euro VI, according to weight category (reference mass = curb weight). Beyond this, there are numerous other new features. The standard-fit “Ecofficiency” package comprises a variety of measures designed to reduce fuel consumption, such as higher injection pressures of 2000 bar, the use of fuel-efficient engine oil, engine start/stop function and longer axle ratios.
The variants with a permissible gross vehicle weight above 6.5 t and rated at 110 kW (150 hp) and 129 kW (175 hp) additionally feature tire with optimized rolling resistance and an enhanced diesel particulate filter. These engine variants employ BlueTec 6 technology with an SCR catalytic converter.
A new top weight variant with a GVW of 8.55 tonnes enables a load capacity of up to six tonnes for the chassis, marking a new benchmark. The Electronic Stability Program (ESP), ABS with electronic brake force distribution and an engine brake offering 50 kW of braking power all feature as standard. The “Duonic” automated dual clutch transmission also remains available ex factory. The Duonic enables driving without manual gear-shifting and greatly reduces the driver’s workload during maneuvering and in stop-and-go traffic.
In Barcelona, Ford revealed the Ka Concept, the company’s vision for a practical all-new global small car offering advanced technology around the world at an affordable price.
Ford has sold more than 1.8 million Ka cars since the vehicle was first launched in 1996 and the company projects that worldwide the small car segment will increase by 35% from 4 million units in 2012 to 6.2 million units by 2017.
Able to seat five comfortably, the Ka Concept is equipped with technology usually found in larger cars. MyFord Dock enables occupants to store, mount and charge mobile devices such as phones and satellite navigation systems; SYNC with Voice Control and AppLink enables drivers to activate apps, play music and make phone calls, while keeping both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
The Ka Concept builds on Ford’s small car expertise and success to offer the design and technology customers worldwide will be looking for over the coming years. Consumers increasingly expect to seamlessly transfer their mobile devices from home, to car, to workplace, and the Ka Concept shows how technology enabling them to do just that, will be extended to an attainable small car.—Stephen Odell, Ford executive vice president, Europe, Middle East and Africa
A production version of the Ka Concept will reach European showrooms in a couple of years.