September28, 2000

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected eight teams it believes will help pioneer a new generation of ultra-clean transportation fuels and tailpipe emission controls. At the same time, the Energy Department announced that the US Army will join the Ultra-Clean Transportation Fuels Initiative, providing a portion of funding for the new projects in return for project data it can use for fueling future military vehicles.

“President Clinton has challenged America’s transportation sector to make dramatic cuts in air pollutants over the next seven years”, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson said. “Now, the Energy Department is preparing to put federal research dollars into future fuels that can meet the President’s goal and perhaps go beyond it”.

Three of the winning project teams propose to use natural gas, rather than crude oil, as the starting point for making the low-polluting fuels. Rather than compressing it as is done today, the teams propose to chemically transform the gas into liquid fuels that could substitute for conventional diesel fuel or be used as a clean-burning fuel additive. Converting natural gas to liquid form allows it to be delivered and used without major changes in today’s existing fuel systems. Praxair, Tonawanda, NY; Conoco, Houston, TX; and Integrated Concepts and Research Corporation (Alexandria, VA)/Syntroleum (Tulsa, OK) will head teams pursuing the natural gas-to-liquids approach.

Three other teams - Phillips Petroleum Co., Bartlesville, OK; Petro Star Inc., Anchorage, AK; and Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, NC - will lead development efforts on new refining processes that remove sulfur pollutants from crude oil. A seventh team, headed by EnviRes LLC, Somerville, NJ, will study an innovative concept that converts coal and petroleum coke into clean fuels.

The eighth winning project, proposed by Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, MI, will focus on a new type of emission control system for future automobiles and trucks. The system will employ a chemical process that captures nitrogen oxides from the exhausts of internal combustion engines.

In total, the projects have a value of more than $176 million with the industrial sponsors proposing that the federal government share just over $74 million of the costs. Actual federal and private sector funding levels will be set during upcoming contract negotiations.

The eight teams are the first of two groups of projects the Energy Department plans to select in the next several months. Additional industry proposals are to be received by 4 January 2001, and the department will announce a second round of selections next spring. The US Army’s National Automotive Center in Warren, MI, has agreed to provide $700,000 in fiscal 2001 to support the project selections.

Most of the selected projects will focus on producing ultra-clean diesel fuels, considered the more technically challenging. Two major organizations in the Energy Department are combining in the initiative: the department’s Office of Fossil Energy is leading the fuels development effort, while the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is responsible for the vehicle system emission control projects.

Source: DOE