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On Friday, the US State Department notified the eight federal agencies involved in the process (the Departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency) that it will provide them more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project.
The State Department said that the agencies needed additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state.
In addition, the State Department, which is ultimately responsible for determining whether or not to award the Presidential Permit that would allow the pipeline to cross the US-Canada border, will review and “appropriately consider” the approximately 2.5 million public comments received during the public comment period that closed on 7 March 2014.
The State Department emphasized that the agency consultation process is not starting over. The process is ongoing, it said, and the Department and relevant agencies are “actively continuing” work in assessing the Permit application.
The Permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents. The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views.—US Department of State
The Keystone XL pipeline project was first proposed in 2008. In 2012, the original application for a Presidential Permit was denied. TransCanada subsequently filed a new application, including proposed new routes through the state of Nebraska.
Magna International’s Magna Exteriors operating unit is producing the North American automotive industry’s first all-thermoplastic, fully recyclable liftgate module for the 2014 Nissan Rogue crossover utility vehicle.
The Rogue liftgate is unique in that all materials are fully olefinic and therefore fully recyclable at the end of the vehicle’s life, and it features the first painted outer panel made from thermoplastic olefin. The full liftgate assembly is 30% lighter than comparable stamped steel systems, which helps contribute to the vehicle’s overall fuel economy increase.
The liftgate was recognized in November 2013 by the Society of Plastics Engineers as the year’s most innovative use of plastics in the auto industry.
Magna developed the liftgate in collaboration with Nissan, Hitachi Chemical, and materials suppliers LyondellBasell and Advanced Composites Inc. Magna serves as the Tier 1 supplier in North America. The liftgate assembly is made by Magna Exteriors’ Decostar division in Carrollton, Georgia, and is delivered to Nissan as a module for single-point installation at its Smyrna, Tennessee, assembly plant.
The economics of combating climate change may depend on an underfunded technology.
When it comes to technology for averting climate change, renewable energy often gets the limelight. But a relatively neglected technology—capturing carbon dioxide from power plants—could have a far bigger impact on the economics of dealing with climate change, according to a U.N. report released earlier this week.
Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed and have filed a patent on a new fast pyrolysis process called Tail Gas Reactive Pyrolysis (TGRP), which removes much of the oxygen from bio-oils without the need for added catalysts.
Fast pyrolysis is the process of rapidly heating biomass from wood, plants and other carbon-based materials at high temperatures without oxygen. Using pyrolysis to break down tough feedstocks produces three things: biochar, a gas, and bio-oils that can be refined to end-products such as green gasoline.
The bio-oils are high in oxygen, making them acidic and unstable, but the oxygen can be removed by adding catalysts during pyrolysis. Although this adds to production costs and complicates the process, the resulting bio-oil is more suitable for use in existing energy infrastructure systems as a “drop-in” transportation fuel that can be used as a substitute for conventional fuels.
The ARS researchers modified the standard pyrolysis process by gradually replacing nitrogen gas in the processing chamber with the gases produced during pyrolysis. The TGRP process was very effective in lowering oxygen levels and acidity, and no additional catalysts were needed.
The team conducted a pilot-scale study using three types of biofeedstock with different characteristics: oak, switchgrass, and pressed pennycress seeds.
Bio-oils produced from oak and switchgrass by the new process had considerably higher energy content than those produced by conventional fast pyrolysis. The energy content of the oak bio-oil was 33.3% higher and contained about two-thirds of the energy contained in gasoline. The energy content for switchgrass was 42% higher, slightly less than three-fourths of the energy content of gasoline.
Ghasideh Pourhashem, Sabrina Spatari, Akwasi A. Boateng, Andrew J. McAloon, and Charles A. Mullen (2013) “Life Cycle Environmental and Economic Tradeoffs of Using Fast Pyrolysis Products for Power Generation,” Energy & Fuels 27 (5), 2578-2587 doi: 10.1021/ef3016206
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) is in the process of staging the release of the full Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (AEO2014), its annual report on projected energy use and analysis of select energy topics. The roll-out began on 7 April and will conclude on 30 April. Included in AEO2014 is a set of eight “Issues in Focus” articles, exploring topics of special significance, including changes in assumptions and recent developments in technologies for energy production and consumption.
The most recent of these In Focus articles explores the impact of demographics and behavior on light-duty vehicle (LDV) energy demand. LDVs accounted for 61% of all transportation energy consumption in the United States in 2012—8.4 million barrels of of oil equivalent per day—and represented nearly 10% of world petroleum liquids consumption. LDV energy use is driven by both LDV fuel economy and travel behavior, as measured by vehicle miles traveled (VMT). LDV VMT per licensed driver peaked in 2007 at 12,900 miles per year and has since decreased to 12,500 miles in 2012.
The shift in VMT highlights the importance of travel behavior and its influence on LDV energy consumption. Before the 2007 peak, travel behavior in the United States tracked closely with economic growth. Since 2007, trends in US LDV travel have not followed the trends in economic indicators such as income and employment as closely. Although economic factors continue to influence travel demand, demographic, technological, social, and environmental factors also have shown the potential to affect LDV travel.—Hutchins and Maples
The Reference case in AEO2014 assumes that VMT per licensed driver begins to increase after 2018. The compound annual rate of growth in total VMT for LDVs from 2012 to 2040 in this case is 0.9%—below the 1.7% rate from 1995 to 2005 but higher than the 0.7% average annual growth rate from 2005 through 2012. AEO2014 also includes Low and High VMT cases.
The Low VMT case assumes an environment in which travel choices made by drivers result in lower demand for personal vehicle travel, consistent with the recent trend. In the Low VMT case, total US LDV travel demand in 2040 is 19% lower than in the Reference case with annual increase in total LDV VMT from 2012 through 2040 averaging only 0.2%.
In the Low VMT case, US LDVs consume 18% less than in the Reference case: i.e., 5.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2040. This results in total transportation sector CO2 emissions roughly 9% lower than in the Reference case.
The High VMT case assumes changes in travel behavior that result in an increase in VMT per licensed driver compared with the Reference case. In the High VMT case, total US LDV travel demand in 2040 is nearly 6% higher than in the Reference case—an annual increase in total LDV VMT from 2012 through 2040 averaging 1.1%.
In the High VMT case, LDVs consume 5% more than in the Reference case—i.e., 6.7 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2040,—resulting in total transportation sector CO2 emissions more than 2% higher than in the Reference case.
Factors influencing VMT. Travel demand depends on economic, demographic, technological, social, and environmental factors, the EIA analysts noted. In general, they suggested, demand for LDV travel is likely to decline when licensing rates fall; use of telework increases; or fuel prices are relatively high. On the other hand, fuel use by LDVs is likely to rise when the driving-age population grows; during periods of expanding economic activity; or when fuel prices are relatively low.
Despite the data showing a recent decoupling of travel from economic indicators, there are still strong links between economic activity, employment and commuting. When the labor force participation rate declines, retirees and people having difficulty finding jobs may reduce their travel as compared with people who have similar demographic profiles and are employed. When labor force participation rates rise, VMT per driver is likely to increase, particularly for millennials (those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s).
Income, fuel prices, the costs of purchasing a vehicle, and other vehicle operating costs also all influence the extent to which an individual can afford LDV travel. While all these economic factors play a significant role, demographic factors such as population, age distribution, and licensing rates also are important determinants of LDV travel demand, the EIA report says. Population age groups have different gender distributions, licensing rates, and travel behaviors. As the age groups change over time, long-term effects on VMT will become apparent, particularly for the age groups that have the greatest influence on VMT.
Since 1990, licensing rates generally have been declining for the two youngest age groups and increasing for the two oldest groups. For males, most age groups have seen declining or stagnant licensing rates, with the only exception being males 65 years and older. The female age groups have seen similar stagnation for most of the younger age groups and an increase for females 65 years and older.
Since about 1990, the average age of males who are licensed drivers has been higher than the average age of the male population 16 years and older (the male driving population). That trend is projected to continue as fewer young males obtain licenses or delay obtaining licenses until later in life. Conversely, the average age of female licensed drivers has been lower than the average age of the female driving population, but it is projected to be higher than the average age before 2020 and to continue rising through 2040. For both males and females, the average age of the driving population and average age of licensed drivers increase in the Reference case, with fewer younger individuals obtaining licenses and more choosing to wait until later in life to become licensed drivers.
The population age 34 years and below has seen a decrease in both licensing rates and VMT per licensed driver, with the licensing rate for the group falling by 5% over the past decade.
Since 2000, VMT per licensed driver for the population under 20 has dropped by 13%. In 1990, 52% of eligible individuals under 20, and 92% of those between 20 and 34 years of age, obtained their licenses. In 2010, those shares were 43% and 86%, respectively. If the trend persists, licensing rates could continue to decline or flatten out for the youngest driving populations, further reducing VMT per capita. If the licensing rate returns to historic levels, total VMT will increase.
The peak driving age group, between 35 and 54 years of age, has experienced a small decline in licensing, from 95% in 1990 to an estimated 92% in 2010. Drivers in this age group traveled an average of almost 15,000 miles annually in 2012, the highest rate of VMT per licensed driver for any age group. This relatively large age group, accounting for 34% of the population in 2012, has a limited influence on changes in total VMT, because neither the licensing rate nor the share of the population has changed drastically through history or is projected to change significantly in the future. Much of that stability results from high employment rates for this age group, as a result of the interaction between economic and demographic factors.
The overall population share in the oldest age group, 65 years and older, has grown steadily since 2000 and is expected to reach 24% of the total population ages 16 and above in 2025, up from a 17% share in 2012. Although the size of this segment of the population has grown since 2000, personal travel (VMT per capita) by the oldest age group dropped by 7% between 2008 and 2009, and its total VMT dropped by 10%. More members of the older population are obtaining their licenses than in the past, but they also have altered their travel behavior, increasing their use of public transportation by 40% during the period from 2001 to 2009.
Demographic changes can also interact with other factors to influence VMT, the report says. Technological, social, and environmental factors also can influence VMT.
Alternative modes of travel affect VMT to the degree that the population has access to substitutes for personal LDVs.
The increasing fuel efficiency of LDVs can influence personal travel by lowering the marginal cost of driving per mile. As vehicle efficiency improves, individuals can drive the same distance with less fuel and therefore at a lower cost, which may result in an increase in VMT.
Telecommuting, e-commerce, urbanization, and social media can supplant or complement personal vehicle use.
Spatial development patterns may also begin to play a different role in determining VMT than is suggested by history, as suburban sprawl gives way to other development patterns.
VMT sensitivity analysis. The High and Low VMT cases suggest possible future changes in travel behavior and their potential impacts on VMT and on LDV energy demand.
The Low VMT case assumes a 0.5% annual decrease in VMT per licensed driver from 2013 to 2040 for each age and gender group. VMT per licensed driver for all drivers decline throughout the projection, to about 10,400 miles per year in 2040—a 19% decrease from 12,800 miles per year in 2040 in the Reference case.
Total LDV VMT increase only slightly in the Low VMT case, to almost 2.8 trillion miles in 2040.
The High VMT case assumes a pattern of annual increases in VMT per licensed driver: 0.3% starting in 2013, 0.4% starting in 2016, 0.5% starting in 2019, and 0.6% starting in 2023, slowing to 0.5% starting in 2027, 0.4% starting in 2032, and 0.3% from 2036 through 2040. VMT per licensed driver for all drivers rise to 13,500 miles per year in 2040.
Total LDV VMT increase to 3.6 trillion miles in 2040 in the High VMT case.
Patricia Hutchins and John Maples (2014) “Light-duty vehicle energy demand: demographics and travel behavior” Issues in Focus, AEO2014 DOE/EIA-0383(2014)
Researchers from The University of Queensland (Australia) have devised a composite cathode material for lithium-sulfur batteries: graphene-wrapped carbon nanospheres with sulfur uniformly distributed in between, in which the carbon nanospheres act as the sulfur carriers. The graphene contributes to direct coverage of sulfur to inhibit the mobility of polysulfides, whereas the carbon nanospheres undertake the role of carrying the sulfur into the carbon network.
The composite achieves a high loading of sulfur (64.2 wt %) and provides a maximum discharge capacity of 1,394 mAh g−1 at a current rate of 0.1 C with stability up to 100 cycles. The composite also delivered 746 g–1 at 1 C and 604 mAh g–1 at 2 C.
The researchers attributed the improved electrochemical properties of this composite material to the dual functions of the carbon components, which effectively restrain the sulfur inside the carbon nano-network.
A paper on their work is published in Chemistry, a European Journal.
Wang, B., Wen, Y., Ye, D., Yu, H., Sun, B., Wang, G., Hulicova-Jurcakova, D. and Wang, L. (2014) “Dual Protection of Sulfur by Carbon Nanospheres and Graphene Sheets for Lithium–Sulfur Batteries,” Chem. Eur. J. doi: 10.1002/chem.201400385
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO), on behalf of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), intends to issue a funding opportunity FOA titled “Clean Energy Supply Chain and Manufacturing Competitiveness Analysis for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies” (DE-FOA-0000854).
FCTO’s Manufacturing R&D Program aims to improve processes and reduce the cost of manufacturing components and systems for hydrogen production and delivery, hydrogen storage, and fuel cells for multiple applications.
In addition, cross-cutting technologies and capabilities such as metrology and quality control, standardization, modeling and simulation tools for efficient manufacturing processes, and the development of a domestic supplier base are necessary for a robust, domestic hydrogen and fuel cell manufacturing industry.
As the market for hydrogen and fuel cells grows, the need to develop a robust supply chain to fuel mass production of these systems grows as well, FCTO says. In addition, key opportunities must be identified in the hydrogen and fuel cell supply chain where the US can achieve or maintain a competitive advantage.
The new FOA will solicit outreach- and analysis-type projects to:
Conduct outreach to develop strategies and new approaches to facilitate the development and expand the domestic supply chain of hydrogen and fuel cell related components in the US.
Conduct an extensive global manufacturing competitive analysis for hydrogen and fuel cell-related technologies.
The ultimate goal for both topic areas is to identify and capitalize on key opportunities in the hydrogen and fuel cell supply chain where the US can achieve or maintain a competitive advantage and increase US manufacturing competitiveness.
A team from the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division (NAWCWD) at China Lake, with colleagues from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), have demonstrated that renewable high density fuels with net heats of combustion ranging from ~133,000 to 141,000 Btu gal-1—up to 13% higher than commercial jet fuel (~125,000 Btu)—can be generated by combining heterogeneous catalysis with multicyclic sesquiterpenes produced by engineered organisms. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.
This advance has the potential to produce a range of higher-density biofuels to improve the range of aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles without altering engine configurations, they suggested.
A number of renewable jet and diesel fuels have been now developed that can be broadly classified as synthetic paraffinic kerosenes (SPKs). (Earlier post.) These SPK fuels are composed of linear and branched alkanes, and are of moderate densities due to their lack of aromatics or cyclic hydrocarbons (napthenes). While these fuels are excellent for diesel or jet propulsion, their lower densities and lack of aromatics has required blending of SPK fuels with conventional jet fuel to meet specifications, the researchers note.
An alternate approach is the alcohol-to-jet pathway (earlier post, earlier post), in which fuels are synthesized from renewable alcohols that can be produced from lignocellulosic biomass by dehydrating the cellulosic alcohols to olefins and then selectively oligomerizing the olefins to generate fuels. (The China Lake team has also worked on butanol-to-jet fuels.)
Regardless of the process, these fuels have similar properties to other SPK fuels and represent a bottom-up approach in which organisms generate small molecules that are then deoxygenated and combined to produce longer chain fuel molecules.
In contrast to the bottom-up approach represented by Fischer–Tropsch and ATJ fuels, a number of research groups have developed biosynthetic approaches in which microorganisms directly generate larger hydrocarbons required for jet and diesel fuel. After direct fermentation to generate a fuel-like molecule, these hydrocarbons are then converted to stable, high-performance fuels through straightforward chemical processes including hydrogenation, isomerization, and distillation. This approach has the potential to reduce capital costs by removing much of the chemical processing required for bottom-up methods, while utilizing either CO2 or biomass-derived sugars as the carbon feedstock to produce fuels. Remarkable progress has been made in the direct production of renewable fuels and oils by organisms including cyanobacteria, bacteria, algae, and yeast. Much of this work has focused on long chain linear alkanes and alkenes.
One of the most promising approaches to high-performance biosynthetic fuels is to utilize the tools of metabolic engineering to overproduce specific molecules with structures of interest. Terpenoid structures are an obvious choice based on the vast number of naturally occurring terpenoids (~50,000) and the structural diversity of these molecules including branched chain, cyclic, and multicyclic hydrocarbons. In particular, monoterpenes (C10) and sesquiterpenes (C15) are of interest for both jet and diesel fuels.
… to develop renewable fuels that have the potential to outperform conventional petroleum fuels in regard to density and net heat of combustion, the current work explores the synthesis and fuel properties of both pure hydrogenated multicyclic sesquiterpenes and complex mixtures of isomerized sesquiterpenes.—Harvey et al.
In the study, the researchers hydrogenated and isomerized three multicyclic sesquiterpenes: valencene and premnaspirodiene biosynthesized from glucose, and natural caryophyllene. While the first two can be produced biosynthetically (the researchers acquired the biosynthetics from Allylix, Inc.), caryophyllene is a prime candidate for biosynthesis.
Hydrogenating the sesquiterpene molecules produced saturated hydrocarbons with net heat of combustion (NHOC) “significantly higher” than Diesel #2 and Jet A. However, the viscosities are higher, and out of spec for Jet A. (Although blending with petroleum fuels is a possibility.) Their cetane numbers were much lower than diesel (e.g., 23 to 29, as opposed to >41.)
The researchers then became interested in evaluating other structures that might have improved performance, and could be produced by the isomerization of the parent sesquiterpenes with the heterogeneous acid catalyst Nafion SAC-13.
This resulted in high density fuels with the net heats of combustion ranging from ~133,000– to 141000 Btu gal-1.
In addition to high-performance fuels, the coupling of metabolic engineering, catalytic isomerization, and conventional synthetic organic chemistry has the potential to uncover new routes for the preparation of fine chemicals. For example, although the isomerization of valencene and premnaspirodiene did not result in structures that would likely lead to improved fuel properties, it did result in a formal synthesis of δ-selinene. This same type of strategy applied to other biosynthetic sesquiterpenes will allow for the synthesis of a wide variety of functional hydrocarbons that are rare and prohibitively difficult to isolate from plant extracts or prepare through a purely biosynthetic approach.—Harvey et al.
Benjamin G. Harvey, Heather A. Meylemans, Raina V. Gough, Roxanne L. Quintana, Michael D. Garrison and Thomas J. Bruno (2014) “High-density biosynthetic fuels: the intersection of heterogeneous catalysis and metabolic engineering,” Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. doi: 10.1039/C3CP55349C
According to EPA’s most recent data from the EPA Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) used to establish a transparent market for RINs, biofuel producers produced 57,860 gallons of cellulosic biofuels during the first quarter of 2014—the vast majority of that being D3 cellulosic biofuel (57,388 gallons), the remainder (472 gallons) being D7 cellulosic diesel.
The Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS2) incorporates the concept of the Renewable Identification Number (RIN); establishes a RIN market; expands the RIN market over a period of years; and maintains a consistent Renewable Volume Obligation and reporting requirements for production, blending, refining, and use activity on a quarterly and annual basis.
The EMTS data flow supports the reporting of all RIN transactions including the generation, separation, purchase and sale, and retirement of RINs.
RINs are numerical codes created with every gallon of biofuel domestically produced or imported into the US. RINs play the dual role of a renewable fuel credit to incentivize renewable fuel use, and a tracking mechanism to monitor the production, movement and blending of biofuels. The D-code (D#) of a RIN identifies the renewable fuel standard category for a particular fuel based on its projected greenhouse gas reduction requirement.
EPA currently has five RIN D-codes (D3, D4, D5, D6 and D7). D3 and D7 are for cellulosic biofuels with a GHG reduction requirement of 60%; D6 is for corn ethanol (GHG reduction 20%); D4 is for biomass-based diesel (50% GHG reduction); and D5 is for advanced biofuels, including sugarcane ethanol and biogas (50% GHG reduction).
RINS are not generated on a 1:1 basis with the actual volume of the biofuel; the RIN-gallon total equals the product of the liquid volume of renewable fuel times its energy equivalence value (EV) relative to a gallon of ethanol. For example, biodiesel has an EV of 1.5; non-ester renewable diesel can have EVs ranging from 1.5 to 1.7.
Nonetheless, along with its reporting of RINs generated, EPA also reports the volumes of liquid fuels used to generate those RINS. As an example, in March, 134.8 million gallons of biomass-based diesel (D4) generated 208.4 million RINs.
For the first quarter of 2014, EMTS reported a total of 3.8 billion gallons of renewable fuel, 90.6% of it (3.36 billion gallons) corn ethanol (D6); biomass-based diesel (D4) accounted for 8.82% (327 million gallons); advanced biofuels (D5) for 0.62% (22.9 million gallons); cellulosic biofuels for 0.0015% (57,388 gallons); and cellulosic diesel 0.000013% (472 gallons).
For comparison, during the first quarter of 2013, EMTS reported a total of 3.4 billion gallons of renewable fuel, 87.6% (3 billion gallons) of it ethanol (D6); 8.5% (290 million gallons) biomass-based diesel (D4); 3.9% (133 million gallons) advanced biofuels (D5); 0% for cellulosic biofuels (D3); and 0.0003% (9,802 gallons) cellulosic diesel (D7).