Biofuels

Top Award from Intel Science Research for 2013? Biodiesel from 2nd Gen Feedstock

Sara Volz’s long-term goal, she says, is to understand the universe. But in the shorter term, the 17-year-old is working on developing algae that create biofuels more efficiently. In her home lab — it’s under her loft bed — she’s been artificially selecting algae that produce higher oil content, with the idea that these will produce biofuel more cheaply and efficiently. Not only is that an awesome project to have in your bedroom, it won her the prestigious Intel Science Research Foundation Talent Search contest and the accompanying $100,000 prize. NBC News explains why her super-oily algae have an advantage in the push to make commercially viable algae-based biofuels: Other researchers have approached the problem by tweaking the algae genome or selecting the prime environmental conditions for algae growth. Volz’s approach, she said, is different and lower cost. It relies on an herbicide that kills algae cells with low levels of an enzyme crucial to making oil. “The idea is, if you introduce this chemical, you kill everything with really low oil production,” she explained. “What you are left with is a population of cells with very high oil production.” We salute anyone who decides to live with tubes of algae under their bed in service of the greater good. (And Volz is so hardcore, she’s also decided to sleep on the same light cycle as her little green charges.) But we also salute Volz for being an all-around awesome geek: She’s field captain of her high school’s Science Olympiad Team and captain of the Science Bowl team. Also, she likes improv and musical theater. She’s going to MIT...
President Obama Supports Biodiesel

President Obama Supports Biodiesel

Earlier this month the Obama Administration showed strong support for the biodiesel industry when it finalized a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume increase for biodiesel. The EPA’s decision finalized the 2013 volume requirement under the RFS for biomass-based diesel to 1.28 billion gallons. This represents a modest increase from the industry’s record production in 2011 of nearly 1.1 billion gallons and puts the industry on course for steady, sustainable growth in the coming years. “This was an incredibly important decision, and the Obama Administration got it right,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. “It will allow biodiesel plants across the country to invest and expand, creating thousands of jobs. At the same time, it sends a strong signal that the U.S. is standing firm behind its commitment to producing clean, American-made energy to strengthen our energy security and break our dependence on petroleum.” The EPA is responsible for developing and implementing regulations to ensure that transportation fuel sold in the United States contains a minimum volume of renewable fuel. The RFS program regulations were developed in collaboration with refiners, renewable fuel producers, and many other stakeholders. “This decision will continue to diversify our fuel supplies so that we’re not so vulnerable to global petroleum markets and this endless cycle of price spikes,” said Jobe. “The Renewable Fuel Standard is clearly working to do that, and the benefits of doing so are clear: We’ll continue to create good jobs, expand our economy and reduce harmful emissions. It’s just smart energy...

Auto Giant Honda Joins the Migration

Sharmistha Mukherjee/New Delhi – 2012-09-23 Japanese auto giant Honda Motor Co Ltd is set to introduce its first diesel vehicle in India — an entry-level sedan based on the Brio platform — in the next financial year.  The move comes at a time when Honda is battling slowing sales of its petrol vehicle. The move is significant as its Indian subsidiary, Honda Cars India Ltd, is battling slowing sales as its portfolio of petrol vehicles is becoming less attractive in a market which is increasingly preferring diesel-powered vehicles. The company is likely to invest close to Rs 3,200 crore to commence assemblying diesel engines and introduce diesel variants in a bid to fast ramp up its operations in the country. The new diesel engine will be sequentially adopted to new models the company has scheduled for introduction in the market starting 2013-14. “The new diesel engine will be assembled at our second unit in Rajasthan. It will be fitted on the entry-level sedan slated for launch next year and on new models thereafter. It will not be adopted on to the existing products in our portfolio,” said Jnaneswar Sen, senior vice-president, sales and marketing, Honda Cars India. Outlining the company’s plans till 2017, Takanobu Ito, global chief executive officer of Honda Motor, said in Tokyo today: “In India, an all-new diesel engine will be adopted sequentially to new models, starting in FY2014. In addition to the high fuel efficiency, the cost competitiveness of the all-new diesel engine will be enhanced through local sourcing and local production to make new diesel models more affordable for customers.” Overall, Honda Motor aims...

2013 EPA Ruling on Biodiesel

In today’s action EPA is establishing an applicable volume of 1.28 bill gallons for biomass-based diesel (BBD) for 2013. EPA is setting this volume based on consideration of the factors specified in the statute, including a consideration of biodiesel production, con­sumption, and infrastructure issues. As required under the statute, EPA also assessed the likely impact of BBD production and use in a variety of areas. Under the Clean Air Act Section 211(o), as amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, EPA is required to determine and promulgate the applicable volume of BBD that will be required in 2013 and beyond, as the statute specifies a minimum volume for the BBD category (of 1 billion gallons) for years after 2012. EPA proposed a volume requirement for 2013 of 1.28 billion gallons on July 1, 2011. EPA is able to take final action now after sufficiently evaluating the many comments on the proposal, as well as gathering additional information to enhance our analysis. Final Rule (PDF) (65 pp, 808K, signed September 14,...
BMW drops their 335d for 2013

BMW drops their 335d for 2013

BMW has chosen to discontinue sales of their 335d model for 2013 in the U.S. market.  A shame for drivers holding out for the 3-series refresh which occurred in 2012. With the release of the ActiveHybrid 3 Series we are led to believe that BMW has joined the media hype favoring hybrid vehicles.  Yet, a plug-in hybrid contains 2 separate systems so there are far more materials (minerals and metals) for the manufacture, more technologies and therefore more points of failure, higher maintenance and ultimately the extremely high replacement cost of the hybrid battery – $12K for this particular BMW.  Also, the hybrid still runs on gasoline.  The following articles provide a more detailed and real-world perspective. EV’s and Hybrids are not our Future EV Tech – Postmortem BMW diesel lovers still have options in the 2013 U.S. market lineup with the X5 35d (EPA 19/36MPG) and the new 3-series sports wagon is expected to get a diesel version as well.  There are also some rumblings about a 7-series diesel coming to the U.S. market so BMW might one day actually compete with Daimler and Audi per their full-line fleet offerings in the U.S. Market. The 2013 328i offers similar EPA emission and mpg results as the outgoing 2012 335d suggesting that BMW dropped the “d” version because their diesel engine tech had slipped in relation to their economical petrol-sipping variety. Then again, the new BMW 328i comes with a small turbocharged and direct-injected 240-bhp 2.0-liter N20 inline-4. BMW calls this engine TwinPower not because of twin turbocharging, but because of the combination of its double VANOS variable camshaft...
Carl Pope on Romney’s Energy Plan

Carl Pope on Romney’s Energy Plan

TAKING THE INITIATIVE: Carl Pope’s Blog Tampa, Florida  August 24, 2012 $5 Gallon – the Romney-Koch Price of Gas As the Republicans ponder preponing Mitt Romney’s roll-call and nomination speech so they can get out of Tampa before Hurricane Isaac brings the wrath of – we are assured – God, not global warming, down on the Gulf Coast, Romney released his own energy platform, drafted from all appearances by Koch Industries, and laying the framework for a major increase in the price of driving. This, of course, was not the packaging. In releasing his energy platform yesterday, Romney claimed he was aiming for North American Energy Independence by 2020. Most analysts scoffed at the proposal on its face. What no one has yet done is calculate what Romney’s path would cost if we tried it? When you do, it turns out Romney’s plan guarantees gasoline at $5/gallon or higher – if we take it seriously. Here’s why. The price of oil is determined by the most expensive barrel that the market uses.  So you can’t reduce the price of oil by producing expensive oil – and the Canadian tar sands oil that Romney is counting on to achieve “energy independence” in 2020 is some of the most expensive oil on earth.  A few weeks ago, when oil was selling for $90/barrel, tar sands producers were cancelling big projects, because new supplies from that region are not sufficiently profitable even at $4/gallon. North America does have enough oil to be energy independent. But it’s very expensive oil. Bringing it to market would require a very high world price to come to market...
Price of NG to double by 2015

Price of NG to double by 2015

2012-05-18 Shell CEO Expects Natural Gas Prices to Rise Shell’s chief executive told The Financial Times the company expects natural gas prices in the U.S., which are near 10-year lows, to double by 2015. In an interview, chief executive Peter Voser said Shell is using a price of $4 to $6 per million Btu for 2014-2015, up from the current $2.55. The price increase will be driven by increased demand, “as coal is replaced by gas in electricity generation, and natural gas in transportation takes off.” Shell is also looking into turning U.S. natural gas into diesel. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Shell is considering building a plant in Louisiana similar to an existing gas-to-liquids facility in Qatar. At $6 is NG still a bargain for transportation fuels?  In a word, no.  About the time the NG market hits $8 and above, there will be a significant amount of remorse from all those fleet managers for ever considering CNG conversions.  CNG requires high maintenance compressors, a multi-$Trillion distribution system, serious environmental impact for extraction (fracking) and is not only the most volatile (unstable and explosive) transportation fuel, but also has the most volatile price history of any energy source over the past 10 years. CNG is a fossil fuel with a finite volume available. It has little future for achieving large scale production status for transportation. [2010 – $75 petroleum barrel equiv.; 2008 – $340 barrel equiv.; 2006 – $225 barrel equiv.] Join the Migration...
Chrylser making history-2013 Ram 1500 Diesel

Chrylser making history-2013 Ram 1500 Diesel

Chrysler is making history.  Their 2013 Ram 1500 has been spied with a diesel engine. Chrysler executives have hinted at such a product for years. In fact, Chrysler once had a contract in place with Cummins – the same diesel engine manufacturer that builds the 6.7-liter turbo-diesel I-6 found in Ram HD models – to develop a diesel V-8 for light-duty applications. That contract was voided during Chrysler’s bankruptcy, though Cummins has continued to develop small diesel engines, including some in partnership with the Department of Energy. Chrysler didn’t exactly pick up the contract again after its restructuring, but it didn’t abandon the idea of a light-duty diesel pickup, either. According to Allpar, the truck here boasts a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel DOHC V-6 sourced from Fiat subsidiary VM Motori SpA. If that engine sounds familiar, it should: it’s the same diesel engine offered in the European-spec Jeep Grand Cherokee, and will be offered in North American Grand Cherokees for the 2013 model year. The engine is more than up to the task of hauling the Ram around town. In Grand Cherokee guise, the engine produces 237 hp at 4000 rpm, and a stout 405 lb-ft of torque at 1800 rpm. According to VM’s spec chart for the A630 engine, that’s about as much torque as the DOHC V-6 can crank out, but its maximum power can be increased by roughly 10 hp. Compared to the 2013 Ram 1500’s new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, the VM V-6 is shy about 40 hp, but offers nearly double the torque – something pickup owners could appreciate when hauling cargo or towing heavy trailers. So,...
Mazda Joins the U.S. Migration to Diesel

Mazda Joins the U.S. Migration to Diesel

We are happy, but a bit surprised to learn that Mazda has joined the U.S. Migration to diesel even before Ford in offering their first 4 door sedan with a diesel powered drive train in the U.S. market. Meet the Takeri. The 2.2-liter Sky-D (other sizes are likely to follow) meets Euro 6 and U.S. Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions standards without using any NOx aftertreatment such as urea injection.  Now that the vehicle passed, Mazda may offer this 2014 model vehicle during the 2013 calendar year. This diesel engine is impressive.  Mazda decreased the compression ratio from 16.3:1 down to 14:1 in this diesel engine.  Doing so reduces cylinder pressures, and therefore temperatures, which reduces NOx production and also allows the fuel to mix better, avoiding locally rich areas that produce soot. Mazda claims that the lower friction from the reduced cylinder pressure alone is worth a 4- to 5-percent gain in fuel economy.  This reduced internal forces also allow components such as the rods and pistons to be substantially lighter. Here, too, a forged steel crankshaft replaces a cast-iron unit. The downside to lowering the compression ratio of a diesel is that, during warm-up, the engine temperature can be too low to support proper combustion, and misfires result. To get around this, Mazda added a two-stage variable valve-lift system on the exhaust side in order to be able to create additional valve overlap. This causes the hot exhaust gases to be drawn back into the next cylinder to warm it up.  Ingenious. While the performance tests are yet to be completed, the engineers are comfortable with a...
Jeep to offer Diesel in U.S. for 2013 Models

Jeep to offer Diesel in U.S. for 2013 Models

Chrysler Group has announced plans to launch a diesel version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and to add 1100 jobs at its Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan. A diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is set to arrive for 2013, will supplement the SUV’s current 3.6-liter V-6, 5.7-liter V-8, and 6.4-liter V-8 engine offerings. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne had previously revealed that a Jeep diesel would debut by 2013 in an interview in October. The engine is expected to be the same 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 offered in Europe, which produces 237 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. It should be significantly more fuel efficient than the Grand Cherokee’s gasoline engines; in Europe, the diesel Jeep is rated at the equivalent of 28 combined mpg. The company also will add 1100 jobs at the Jefferson North plant, which currently employs about 2890 people and builds the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. Adding more workers and a third shift will increase capacity for building these vehicles — including the aforementioned diesel Jeep. “We believe that investing in Detroit is not only the right thing to do, but it is a smart thing to do as we work to write the next chapter in our shared history,” Marchionne said in a prepared statement. Join the U.S....