Category Archives: Environmental protection

SuperTrucks – Revolutionizing the Heavy Tractor-Trailer Freight Industry with Science

Peter Lobner

1. Introduction

On a 2016 road trip to the Black Hills, I had long transit days each way on Interstate 90 through southern Minnesota and South Dakota.  One thing I noticed was that many of the heavy tractor-trailers on this high speed route were modern, streamlined vehicles that used a variety of aerodynamic devices that appeared useful for reducing aerodynamic drag and fuel consumption.

These tractor-trailers are Class 8 heavy trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of greater than 33,000 pounds (14,969 kg).  The maximum GVW is set on a case-by-case basis using the Federal Bridge Formula Weights published by the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) at the following link: https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/publications/brdg_frm_wghts/index.htm

For example, a long 5-axle tractor-trailer, commonly called an “18-wheeler,” can have a GVW up to 85,500 pounds (38,782 kg), but it is limited to a maximum GVW of 80,000 pounds (36,287 kg) when operating on federal interstate highways.  The higher weight limit may apply on other roads if permitted by state and local jurisdictions.

Class 8 Trucks make up only 4% of the vehicles on the road.  However, they use about 20% of the nation’s transportation fuel.  The following Department of Energy (DOE) video, entitled “Energy 101: Heavy Duty Vehicle Efficiency,” provides an introduction to what’s being done to introduce a variety of new technologies that will improve the performance and economy of Class 8 tractor-trailers while reducing their environmental impact:  https://www.energy.gov/eere/videos/energy-101-heavy-duty-vehicle-efficiency

In this post, we’ll take a look at the following:

  • Three US and Canadian programs to improve tractor-trailer aerodynamics, fuel efficiency and freight efficiency:
    • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) SmartWay® Transport Partnership
    • Canadian Center for Surface Transportation Technology
    • US Department of Energy (DOE) SuperTruck program
  • The North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s (NACFE) Annual Fleet Fuel Study for 2019, which provides insights into the current state of the US Class 8 tractor-trailer fleet. 
  • Accessories available to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of existing Class 8 tractor-trailers.
  • Aerodynamic Class 8 tractor-trailers from major US manufacturers, including:
    • Manufacturer’s flagship Class 8 trucks 
    • Test trucks developed for the DOE SuperTruck program
  • Other advanced Class 8 truck designs and test trucks that are demonstrating new freight vehicle technologies. 
  • Electric-powered Class 8 trucks that are about to enter service with the potential to revolutionize the freight trucking industry.

You can download this post as a pdf file here:  https://lynceans.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/SuperTrucks-–-Revolutionizing-the-Heavy-Tractor-Trailer-Freight-Industry-with-Science.pdf.    

In the body of this post are links to 12  individual articles I’ve written on advanced Class 8 trucks, each of which can be downloaded as a pdf file.  You’ll also find many other links to useful external resources.

2. US and Canadian programs to improve tractor-trailer aerodynamics and freight efficiency

Freight transportation is a cornerstone of the U.S. economy. In 2012, U.S. businesses spent $1 trillion to move $12 trillion worth of goods (8.5% of GDP).  However, freight accounts for 9% of all U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and trucking is the dominant mode.  The following programs are focused on reducing the GHG emissions of the freight trucking industry. 

2.1  US SmartWay® Transport Partnership

The trucking industry’s ongoing efforts to improve heavy freight vehicle performance and economics were aided in 2004 by the creation of the SmartWay® Transport Partnership, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). SmartWay® is a voluntarily program for achieving improved fuel efficiency and reducing the environmental impacts from freight transport.  The goal is, “to move more freight, more miles, with lower emissions and less energy.”  The SmartWay® website is at the following link:  https://www.epa.gov/smartway

SmartWay® is promoting the following strategies to help the heavy trucking industry meet this goal:

  • Idle reduction
  • Speed control
  • Driver training
  • Aerodynamics
  • Tire technologies
  • Lubricants
  • Hybrid power trains
  • Improved freight logistics
  • Vehicle weight reduction
  • Intermodal freight capability
  • Alternative fuels
  • Long combination vehicles (LVCs, such as double trailers)

A truck and trailer fitted out with all the essential efficiency features can be sold as a SmartWay® “designated” model. A “designated” tractor-trailer combo can be as much as 20% more fuel-efficient than the comparable standard model. 

2.2  Canadian Center for Surface Transportation Technology 

In May 2012, the Canadian Center for Surface Transportation Technology (CSTT) issued technical report CSTT-HVC-TR-205, entitled, “Review of Aerodynamic Drag Reduction Devices for Heavy Trucks and Buses.”  In Table 2 of this report, CSTT provides the following table showing the relative power consumption of aerodynamic drag and rolling / accessory drag as a function of vehicle speed for a representative heavy truck on a zero grade road with properly inflated tires.  Results will be different for streamlined trucks that have already have taken steps to reduce aero drag.

Relative magnitude of drag components. Source: CSTT, 2012

In this example, rolling / accessory drag dominates at lower speeds typical of urban driving.  At 50 mph (80 kph) aerodynamic drag and rolling / accessory drag are approximately equal.  At higher speeds, aerodynamic drag dominates power consumption.  The speed limit on I-90 in South Dakota typically is 80 mph (129 kph). At this speed the aero drag contribution is even higher than shown in the above table.

Key points from this CSTT report include the following:

  • For tractor-trailers, pressure drag is the dominant component of vehicle drag, due primarily to the large surface area facing the main flow direction and the large, low-pressure wake resulting from the bluntness of the back end of the vehicle. 
  • Aero-tractor models can reduce pressure drag by about 30% over the boxy classic style tractor.
  • Friction drag occurring along the sides and top of tractor-trailers makes only a small contribution to total drag (10% or less), so these areas are not strong candidates for drag-reduction.
  • The gap between the tractor and the trailer has a significant effect on total drag, particularly if the gap is large. Eliminating the gap entirely could reduce total drag by about 7%.
  • Side skirts or underbody boxes prevent airflow from entering the under-trailer region.  These types of aero devices could reduce drag by 10 – 15%.
  • Wind-tunnel and road tests have demonstrated that a “boat tail” with a length of 24 – 32 inches (61 – 81 cm) is optimal for reducing drag due to the turbulent low-pressure region behind the trailer.
  • Adding a second trailer to form a long combination vehicle (LCV), and thus doubling the freight volumetric capacity, results in a very modest increase in drag coefficient (as low as about 10%) when compared to a single trailer vehicle. 
  • In cold Canadian climates, the aerodynamic drag in winter can be nearly 20% greater than at standard conditions, due to the ambient air density. For highway tractor-trailers, this results in about a 10% increase in fuel consumption from aerodynamic drag when compared to the reference temperature, further emphasizing the importance of aerodynamic drag reduction strategies for the Canadian climate. 

You can read an executive summary of this CSTT report at the following link:  https://www.tc.gc.ca/en/programs-policies/programs/ecotechnology-vehicles-program/etv-technical-papers/review-aerodynamic-drag-reduction-devices-heavy-trucks-buses.html

2.3  Department of Energy (DOE) SuperTruck Program

SuperTruck is major DOE technology innovation program with many industry partners representing a broad segment of the US industrial base for heavy tractor-trailers.  This program, run by DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office, is being conducted in two phases.

Following is an overview of the SuperTruck program.  Additional sources of information are listed at the end of this post.

SuperTruck I (2010-2016)

The first phase, known as SuperTruck I, was a $284 million public-private partnership in which industry matched federal grants dollar-for-dollar.  Four Class 8 truck manufacturers led teams in the SuperTruck I program:

  • Freightliner (Daimler North America)
  • International (Navistar)
  • Peterbilt (teamed with Cummins)
  • Volvo North America
DOE SuperTruck I teams.  Source:  DOE

Objectives for the DOE SuperTruck I program were: 

  • Demonstrate a 50% freight efficiency improvement from a “baseline” 2009 model year Class 8 tractor-trailer.  
    • Freight efficiency is the product of payload weight (in tons) and fuel economy (in miles per gallon), with results reported in North America as ton-miles per gallon. 
    • Performance would be measured with a demonstration SuperTruck operated at 65,000 pounds GVW.
    • Average fuel efficiency of the baseline tractors in SuperTruck I was 6.2 mpg.  
  • Improve engine efficiency by 8% to achieve 50% brake thermal efficiency (BTE), and thereby boost fuel efficiency by 16%.  
    • The BTE of an engine is the ratio of Brake Power (BP) to Fuel Power (FP).   
    • Brake power (BP) is the amount of power available at the crankshaft, taking into account engine friction losses (i.e., between cylinder and walls, crankshaft bearing, etc.).
    • Fuel power (FP) is a measure of the calorific value of the fuel used to deliver a particular value of BP.
    • Typical Class 8 truck diesel engines operate at 41 – 43% BTE. This means that 41 – 43% of the calorific value of the fuel is converted into power available at the crankshaft.  The remaining 57 – 59% of the calorific value of the fuel is lost as heat that is carried off by the engine cooling system and engine exhaust system.  In some advanced engines, turbochargers and waste heat recovery systems are used to increase BTE by recovering some energy from exhaust gases.
  • Show pathways for a further 5% improvement in engine efficiency (to achieve a BTE of 55%).

The four SuperTrucks developed by the respective teams are described in Section 5.  All teams met or exceeded the SuperTruck I objectives set by DOE.

SuperTruck II (2017 – 2022)

SuperTruck II is a five-year, $160-million public-private partnership with industry matching federal grants dollar-for-dollar.  Five teams are participating in the SuperTruck II program:

  • In August 2016, DOE announced that the four teams from SuperTruck I would continue their participation in SuperTruck II.
  • A new team led by PACCAR, with truck manufacturer Kenworth as a team member, joined SuperTruck II in October 2017.

Objectives for the DOE SuperTruck II program are:

  • Improve freight efficiency (ton-miles per gallon) by 100% relative to a “best in class” 2009 truck (same baseline as in SuperTruck I), with a stretch goal of 120%.
  • Demonstrate 55% Brake Thermal Efficiency on an engine dynamometer.
  • Develop technologies that are commercially cost effective in terms of a simple payback.

Michael Berube, head of DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office, acknowledged that the SuperTruck II objectives are beyond what the participants think they can achieve.  However, with industry receiving  dollar-for-dollar federal grants, Berube said, “…the program will allow them to try higher-risk technologies than they might on their own.” 

Among the candidate technologies for SuperTruck II are:

  • Engines with waste heat recovery
  • Various forms of hybrid diesel-electric systems 
  • More radical aerodynamic improvements, including active devices and completely redesigned cabs.

“Think of the benefit to the industry and to the country if they can meet that goal of doubling freight efficiency. There are 1.7 (to 2.5) million Class 8 trucks out there, each traveling an average of 66,000 miles a year. Doubling their efficiency could reduce petroleum consumption by 300 million barrels a year,” Berube said.  At today’s fuel costs, that would save operators up to $20,000 per truck per year.

3. The NACFE Annual Fleet Fuel Study

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) (https://nacfe.org/) describes its mission as working to “drive the development and adoption of efficiency enhancing, environmentally beneficial, and cost-effective technologies, services and methodologies in the North American freight industry.”  

One of NACFE’s important products is the Annual Fleet Fuel Study, which reports on the adoption of 85 technologies and practices for improving freight efficiency among major North American Class 8 truck fleets operators.  The 2019 Annual Fleet Fuel Study was based on data from 21 fleets operating 73,844 tractors and 239,292 trailers.  You can download the NACFE 2019 Annual Fleet Fuel Survey here:  https://nacfe.org/annual-fleet-fuel-studies/

The following chart shows adoption rates among NACFE member fleets in seven technology categories.  Tractor aerodynamic improvements (light blue line) have a high rate of adoption, at about 62% in 2018.  In contrast, trailer aerodynamic improvements (purple line) have a much lower rate of adoption, at about 25% in 2018. 

Source: NACFE 2019 Annual Fleet Fuel Study

The Annual Fleet Fuel Study includes an analysis of the average fuel economy delivered by the combined Class 8 tractor-trailer fleet.  Over the 16 years of this study, the average year-on-year improvement in fuel economy has been 2.0%.  Fuel economy results are summarized in the following chart.

Source: NACFE 2019 Annual Fleet Fuel Study

Key points in this chart are:

  • The blue line represents the average fuel economy of the NACFE fleet from 2003 to 2018.  In 2018, the NACFE fleet-wide average fuel economy increased to 7.27 mpg.
  • The red line is a hypothetical “business as usual” case, which is an estimate of what NACFE fleet fuel economy would be based only on improvements in engine efficiency.  In 2018, “business as usual” would have yielded 6.37 mpg.
  • The difference between the blue and red curves represents the fuel efficiency improvements attributable to all other technologies and practices.  In 2018, that difference was 0.9 mpg, meaning that actual performance was 14% better than the “business as usual” case.
  • The lowest (purple) curve is based on actual data reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for the approximately 2.5 million over-the-road tractor-trailers operating in the US.  This average fleet fuel efficiency in 2017 was 5.98 mpg, well behind the fuel efficiency performance reported by NACFE fleet operators (which is included in the FHWA data). 

4.  Accessories available to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of existing tractor-trailers

The typical big rig has an aerodynamic drag coefficient, CD, of over 0.6, which has a huge effect on fuel economy, particularly during high-speed highway driving.  Many truck manufacturers and third-party firms offer add-on kits with a variety of devices that can be installed on an existing tractor-trailer to improve its aerodynamic efficiency.  Here we’ll look at a few of those devices:

  • Trailer tails (tapered boat-tails on the back of the trailer)
  • Trailer skirts
  • Aerodynamic wheel covers

The U.S. firm STEMCO (http://www.stemco.com) offers two aero kits for improving conventional tractor-trailer aerodynamics:  

  • TrailerTail®, which is installed at the back of the trailer, reduces the magnitude of the turbulent low-pressure area that forms behind the trailer at high speeds.
  • EcoSkirt®, which is installed under the trailer, reduces aerodynamic drag under the trailer where air hits the trailer’s rear axles. The side fairings streamline and guide the air around the sides and to the back of the trailer.

Both of these aerodynamic devices are shown in the following figure.     This was a tractor-trailer configuration that I saw frequently on I-90.

Source: STEMCO

STEMCO allocates the primary sources of tractor-trailer aerodynamic drag as shown in the following figure.

Source: STEMCO

STEMCO claims the following benefits from their aero kits:

  • “TrailerTail® fuel savings complement other aerodynamic technologies.”
  • “A TrailerTail® reduces aerodynamic drag by over 12% equating to over 5% fuel efficiency improvement at 65 mph (105 kph) and over 12% fuel efficiency improvement when combined with STEMCO’s side skirts and other minor trailer modifications.”

STEMCO TrailerTail® meets the SmartWay® advanced trailer end fairings criteria for a minimum of 5% fuel savings and the STEMCO EcoSkirt® meets the advanced trailer skirts qualifications with greater than 5% fuel savings. The payback period for these aero devices is expected to be about one year.

You’ll find more details on STEMCO’s tractor-trailer drag reduction products, including a short “Aerodynamics 101” video, at the following link:  http://www.stemco.com/aero-u/

More details on TrailerTail®, including its automatic deployment and operational use, are shown in a short video at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPrM3-CCth8

Another firm, Aerotech Caps, offers a range of aero kits for improving truck aerodynamics, including aerodynamic wheel covers, aerodynamic trailer skirts, tail fairings and vortex generators.  You can see their product line at the following link:  https://aerotechcaps.com/#aerotechcaps

Source:  Aerotech Caps

Aerotech Caps claims that its aerodynamic wheel covers deliver about 2.4% increased miles per gallon when installed on rear tractor and all trailer wheels.  Payback period for this aero kit is expected to be about one year.

5.  Aerodynamic Class 8 production tractor-trailers and SuperTrucks from major US manufacturers

Conventional, top-of-the-line tractor-trailers on the market today have significantly improved aerodynamic and fuel efficiency performance in comparison to their predecessors.  The aero gains have been achieved by integrating many of the aero features described above into the basic designs for the latest Class 8 tractor-trailers on the market. In addition, optional aero kits are available to further improve performance.

Class 8 truck manufacturers’ market share in the U.S. as of December 2019 is shown in the following chart.

Source: Statista, 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/274937/market-share-of-truck-manufacturers-in-the-united-states/

Note that Freightliner is a Daimler North America brand along with Western Star.  Peterbilt and Kenworth are PACCAR brands.  International is a Navistar brand and Mack is a Volvo brand. 

Now we’ll take a look at the most aerodynamic tractor-trailers offered by the top five manufacturers in the US Class 8 truck market. Collectively, these manufacturers account for almost 90% of the US Class 8 heavy truck market. 

Four of the five top manufacturers, Freightliner, Peterbilt, International and Volvo, led teams in the DOE SuperTruck I program (2010-2016) and are continuing their participation in the SuperTruck II program (2017 – 2022).  Kenworth did not participate in SuperTruck I, but is participating in SuperTruck II as a member of a new team led by their parent firm, PACCAR.

You’ll find my articles on these tractor-trailers at the following links:

6.  Other advanced Class 8 tractor-trailer designs and test trucks

The future of heavy freight vehicles is certain to include increasingly aerodynamic tractor-trailers with more efficient diesel and hybrid powertrains. While the five teams participating in the DOE SuperTruck program are demonstrating significantly improved Class 8 tractor-trailer performance, other firms have been working in parallel to develop their own advanced truck concepts and test trucks. In this section, we’ll take a look at the following advanced integrated tractor-trailers. 

You’ll find my articles at these tractor-trailers at following links:

7.  Advanced electric-powered Class 8 tractor-trailers

A variety of electric-powered heavy trucks and tractor trailers are being developed for the worldwide market and several are being operationally tested.  The most common electric energy sources are be battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell + battery. 

Regarding these two electric power sources, CleanTechnica reported (https://cleantechnica.com/2019/04/22/):

  • “Battery electric vehicles are around 90% efficient with the electricity that flows into the charger when it is converted into motion by the onboard motors.”
  •  “Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are understandably less efficient, using the source electricity to break apart water, compress it, transfer it into the vehicle, and then convert the hydrogen back into electricity by combining it with ambient oxygen. Estimates for the efficiency of the electricity used to produce hydrogen, then get converted back to electricity in fuel cell vehicles, is around 40%.” 

Lithium-ion batteries currently are the dominant type of battery used in electric vehicles. Boston Consulting Group reported that one particular type, the lithium nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) battery, has good overall performance, excels on specific energy, has the lowest self-heating rate, and is a preferred candidate for electric vehicles.  For more information, see the 10 July 2019 Battery University article, “BU-205:  Types of Lithium-ion Batteries,” at the following link:  https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/types_of_lithium_ion

While less efficient in overall energy conversion, the hydrogen fuel cell weighs much less and can store much more energy than a comparably-sized, current-generation battery packaged for a heavy-duty truck application.  For more information on hydrogen fuel cells, see the May 2017 University of California (UC) Davis presentation, “Fuel Cells and Hydrogen in Long-Haul Trucks,” at the following link:  https://steps.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Andy-Burke-Hydrogen-Fuel-Cell-Trucks.pdf

Some heavy-duty electric truck designs are adaptations of existing Class 8 tractor-trailers with all-new electric powertrains. Examples are shown in the following table.

Some designs are “clean-sheet” advanced electric-powered Class 8 tractor-trailers that also may offer a future path toward autonomous vehicle operation.  Examples include:

Then there are even more advanced electric-powered heavy trucks that are designed originally as autonomous freight haulers without provisions for a driver’s cab.  For example:

You can get a good overview of the current state of electric-powered heavy truck development in the following October 2019 video by Automotive Territory:  “10 All-Electric Trucks and Freighters Showcasing the Future of Cargo Vehicles” (11:17 minutes):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smAleMBEszs

In this section, we’ll take a look at the “clean-sheet” advanced electric-powered Class 8 tractor-trailers.  You’ll find my articles at these tractor-trailers at following links:

8. Conclusions:

Freight currently accounts for 9% of all U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and trucking is the dominant mode. The gradual phase-in of tractor-trailers with refined aerodynamics and diesel engines is improving fleet-wide fuel economy and thereby helping to decrease the carbon footprint of long-haul trucking.  

Large improvements in freight efficiency (the product of payload weight in tons and fuel economy in miles per gallon; ton-miles per gallon) were demonstrated during the DOE SuperTruck I program, and greater gains are expected in SuperTruck II, which continues through 2022.  In the meantime, truck manufacturers are implementing SuperTruck technologies in their production model tractor-trailers.  This is a significant step in the right direction.

With the introduction of electric-powered tractor-trailers in the next decade, the trucking industry has an opportunity to revolutionize its operations by deploying fleets of zero-emission trucks.  The very aerodynamic, electric-powered Tesla Semi and the hydrogen fuel cell-powered Nikola One seem to be good first steps in starting the electric freight revolution. 

For the electric-powered trucks to compete effectively with diesel and hybrid-powered truck, the truck manufacturers and the freight industry needs to support deployment of the diverse nation-wide infrastructures for very-high capacity battery recharging and hydrogen refueling.  With these new infrastructures in place, electric-powered freight operations can become routine and make a big contribution to reducing GHG emissions and the environmental impact of the nation’s freight hauling industry.

In spite of all of these opportunities for improving heavy tractor-trailer performance, there always will be cases when few of these are actually practical.  As evidence, I offer the following photo taken at 80 mph on I-90 in South Dakota during my 2016 road trip.  How do you optimize that giant drag coefficient?

Source: Author photo

9.  For additional information:

General tractor-trailer aerodynamics

DOE SuperTruck Program

Converting Carbon Dioxide into Useful Products

Peter Lobner

In my 19 December 2016 post, “What to do with Carbon Dioxide,” I provided an overview of the following three technologies being developed for underground storage (sequestration) or industrial utilization of carbon dioxide:

  • Store in basalt formations by making carbonate rock
  • Store in fractures in deep crystalline rock
  • Make ethanol

You can read this post here:

https://lynceans.org/all-posts/what-to-do-with-carbon-dioxide/

In the past two years, significant progress has been made in the development of processes to convert gaseous carbon dioxide waste streams into useful products.   This post is intended to highlight some of the advances being made and provide links to additional current sources of information on this subject.

1. Carbon XPrize:  Transforming carbon dioxide into valuable products

The NRG / Cosia XPrize is a $20 million global competition to develop breakthrough technologies that will convert carbon dioxide emissions from large point sources like power plants and industrial facilities into valuable products such as building materials, alternative fuels and other items used every day.  You’ll find details on this competition on the XPrize website at the following link:

https://www.xprize.org/prizes/carbon

As shown in the following timeline from the above website, this competition started in September 2015.

Carbon XPrize schedule

In April 2018, the following ten international teams were selected as finalists:

  • Four teams from Canada:  Carbicrete, Carbon Upcycling Technologies, CarbonCure and CERT
  • Three teams from USA:  C2CNT, Carbon Upcycling UCLA and Newlight
  • One team from UK:  Carbon Capture Machine
  • One team from India:  Breathe
  • One team from China:  C4X

The processes being developed by these teams will produce a range of valuable products:

You can read more about each of the competing teams and their intended products in the XPrize finalist selection report here:

https://assets-us-01.kc-usercontent.com/5cb25086-82d2-4c89-94f0-8450813a0fd3/ec5aba69-e68b-48c8-99b0-151e21749d67/XPRIZE%20Carbon%20Finalist%20Team%20Deck.pdf

The competition is now in the testing and certification phase.  Each team is expected to scale up their pilot systems by a factor of 10 for the operational phase, which starts in June 2019 at the Wyoming Integrated Test Center and the Alberta (Canada) Carbon Conversion Technology Center.  

The teams will be judged by the amount of carbon dioxide converted into usable products and the value of those products.  We’ll have to wait until the spring of 2020 for the results of this competition.

2. World’s largest post-combustion carbon capture project

Post-combustion carbon capture refers to capturing carbon dioxide from flue gas after a fossil fuel (e.g., coal, natural gas or oil) has been burned and before the flue gas is exhausted to the atmosphere.  You’ll find a 2016 review of post-combustion carbon capture technologies in the paper by Y. Wang, et al., “A Review of Post-combustion Carbon Dioxide  Capture Technologies from Coal-fired Power Plants,” which is available on the ScienceDirect website here:

https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S1876610217313851?token=477195C9DBC9D5A1FCDBD7EB6CF04B595E1E377350690F4D2EC6E3D945DA570279962F3A75EE2B281A209A2F52B42A81

In January 2017, NRG Energy reported the completion of the Petra Nova post-combustion carbon capture project, which is designed to remove 90% of the carbon dioxide from a 240 MW “slipstream” of flue gas at the existing W. A. Parish generating plant Unit 8.  The “slipstream” represents 40% of the total flue gas flow from the coal-fired 610 MW Unit 8.  To date, this is the largest post-combustion carbon capture project in the world.  Approximately 1.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide will be captured annually using a process jointly developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) and the Kansai Electric Power Co.  The US Department of Energy (DOE) supported this project with a $190 million grant.

The DOE reported: “The project will utilize a proven carbon capture process, which uses a high-performance solvent for carbon dioxide absorption and desorption. The captured carbon dioxide will be compressed and transported through an 80 mile pipeline to an operating oil field where it will be utilized for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and ultimately sequestered (in the ground).”

Process flow diagram for Petra Nova carbon dioxide capture and processing.  
Source: National Energy Technology Laboratory
The Petra Nova site.  Source: Petra Nova, a joint venture between NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration
The Petra Nova large-scale carbon dioxide scrubber.  
Source: Business Wire

You’ll find more information on the Petra Nova project at the following links:

3. Pilot-scale projects to convert carbon dioxide to synthetic fuel

Thyssenkrupp pilot project for conversion of steel mill gases into methanol

In September 2018, Thyssenkrupp reported that it had “commenced production of the synthetic fuel methanol from steel mill gases. It is the first time anywhere in the world that gases from steel production – including the carbon dioxide they contain – are being converted into chemicals. The start-up was part of the Carbon2Chem project, which is being funded to the tune of around 60 million euros by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)……..‘Today the Carbon2Chem concept is proving its value in practice,’ said Guido Kerkhoff, CEO of Thyssenkrupp. ‘Our vision of virtually carbon dioxide-free steel production is taking shape.’”

You can read the Thyssenkrupp press release here:

https://www.thyssenkrupp.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/press-release-141984.html

Berkeley Laboratory developing a copper catalyst that yields high efficiency carbon dioxide-to-fuels conversion

The DOE Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has been engaged for many years in creating clean chemical manufacturing processes that can put carbon dioxide to good use.  In September 2017, Berkeley Lab announced that its scientists has developed a new electrocatalyst comprised of copper nanoparticles that can directly convert carbon dioxide into multi-carbon fuels and alcohols (e.g., ethylene, ethanol, and propanol) using record-low inputs of energy.  For more information, see the Global Energy World article here:

http://www.globalenergyworld.com/news/30336/copper_catalyst_yields_high_efficiency_co2-to-fuels_conversion.htm

4. Pilot-scale “Negative Emissions Technology” plants

The term negative emissions technology (NET) refers to an industrial processes designed to remove and sequester carbon dioxide directly from the ambient atmosphere rather than from a large point source of carbon dioxide generation (e.g. the flue gas from a fossil-fueled power generating station or a steel mill).  Think of a NET facility as a carbon dioxide removal “factory” that can be sited independently from the sources of carbon dioxide generation.

The Swiss firm Climeworks is in the business of developing carbon dioxide removal factories using the following process:

“Our plants capture atmospheric carbon with a filter. Air is drawn into the plant and the carbon dioxide within the air is chemically bound to the filter.  Once the filter is saturated with carbon dioxide it is heated (using mainly low-grade heat as an energy source) to around 100 °C (212 °F). The carbon dioxide is then released from the filter and collected as concentrated carbon dioxide gas to supply to customers or for negative emissions technologies.  Carbon dioxide-free air is released back into the atmosphere. This continuous cycle is then ready to start again. The filter is reused many times and lasts for several thousand cycles.”

This process is shown in the following Climeworks diagram:

Source: Climeworks

You’ll find more information on Climeworks on their website here:

http://www.climeworks.com

Climeworks NET in Iceland

In 2017, Climeworks began operation in Iceland of their first pilot facility to remove carbon dioxide from ambient air and produce concentrated carbon dioxide that is injected into underground basaltic rock formations, where the carbon dioxide gets converted into carbonite minerals in a relatively short period of time (1 – 2 years) and remains fixed in the rock.  Climeworks uses waste heat from a nearby geothermal generating plant to help run their carbon capture system.  This process is shown in the following diagram.

Source: Climeworks

This small-scale pilot facility is capable of removing only about 50 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year, but can be scaled up to a much larger facility.  You’ll find more information on this Climeworks project here:

https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/green-tech/news/a28629/first-negative-emissions-plant/

Climeworks NET in Italy

In October 2018, Climeworks began operation in Italy of another pilot-scale NET facility designed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  This facility is designed to remove 150 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year and produce a natural gas product stream from the atmospheric carbon dioxide, water, and electricity.  You’ll find more information on this Climeworks project here:

https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/green-tech/a23621438/climeworks-co2-methane-facility/

5. Consensus reports on waste stream utilization and negative emissions technologies (NETs)

The National Academies Press (NAP) recently published a consensus study report entitled, “Gaseous Carbon Waste Streams Utilization, Status and Research Needs,”  which examines the following processes:

  • Mineral carbonation to produce construction material
  • Chemical conversion of carbon dioxide into commodity chemicals and fuels
  • Biological conversion (photosynthetic & non-photosynthetic) of carbon dioxide into commodity chemicals and fuels
  • Methane and biogas waste utilization

The authors note that, “previous assessments have concluded that …… > 10 percent of the current global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions….could feasibly be utilized within the next several decades if certain technological advancements are achieved and if economic and political drivers are in place.”

Source: National Academies Press

You can download a free pdf copy of this report here:

https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25232/gaseous-carbon-waste-streams-utilization-status-and-research-needs

Also on the NAP website is a prepublication report entitled, “Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration.” The authors note that NETs “can have the same impact on the atmosphere and climate as preventing an equal amount of carbon dioxide from being emitted from a point source.”

Source: National Academies Press

You can download a free pdf copy of this report here:

https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25259/negative-emissions-technologies-and-reliable-sequestration-a-research-agenda

In this report, the authors note that recent analyses found that deploying NETs may be less expensive and less disruptive than reducing some emissions at the source, such as a substantial portion of agricultural and land-use emissions and some transportation emissions. “ For example, NAPs could be a means for mitigating the methane generated from enteric fermentation in the digestive systems of very large numbers of ruminant animals (e.g., in the U.S., primarily beef and dairy cattle).  For more information on this particular matter, please refer to my 31 December 2016 post, “Cow Farts Could be Subject to Regulation Under a New California Law,” which you’ll find here:

https://lynceans.org/all-posts/cow-farts-could-be-subject-to-regulation-under-a-new-california-law/

Human Activities are Contributing to Global Carbon Dioxide Levels, but Possibly not in the Way You Think They Are

Peter Lobner

The Human Development Index (HDI), which is a measure of the quality of life, was developed in 1990 by the United Nations to enable cross-national comparisons of the state of human development. You can read about the HDI and download the UN’s annual Human Development Reports at the following link:

http://hdr.undp.org

As you might imagine, there are large HDI differences among the world’s many nations. In its 2016 Human Development Report, the following nations were at the top and bottom of the HDI international ranking:

  • The top five places in the global HDI rankings are: Norway (0.949), Australia (0.939), Switzerland (0.939), Germany (0.926) with Denmark and Singapore (0.925) sharing the 5th spot.
  • The bottom five countries in rank order of HDI are: Burundi (0.404), Burkina Faso (0.402), Chad (0.396), Niger (0.353) and Central African Republic (0.352).

The UN reported that the regional HDI trends from 1990 to 2015 are up in all regions of the world, as shown in the following figure.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) developed a general correlation between HDI and the annual per capita energy consumption in each nation, as shown in the following figure. Note that annual per capita energy consumption is not a factor in the UN’s determination of HDI.

Source: DOE “Nuclear Energy Research & Development Roadmap – Report to Congress”,     April 2010

DOE reports:

“Figure 3 illustrates that a nation’s standard of living depends in part on energy consumption. Access to adequate energy is now and will continue to be required to achieve a high quality of life.”

Based on the 25-year HDI trends reported by the UN (Figure 1.1, above), nations generally have been moving up the HDI scale. Based on the DOE correlation (Figure 3, above), many of these nations, especially the least-developed nations, also should be moving up the scale for per capita energy consumption (to the right in the chart above) as their HDI increases. The net result should be a worldwide trend toward higher median per capita energy consumption. While conservation efforts may help reduce the per capita energy consumption in highly developed nations, there is a large fraction of the world’s population living in less developed nations. In these countries the per capita energy consumption will grow significantly as the local economies develop and the local populations demand basic goods and services that are commonplace in more developed nations.

In his commentary on global warming, Nobel laureate Dr. Ivar Giaever takes issue with CO2 being the cause of global warming by noting that the key “evidence” is a claimed global average temperature increase of 0.8 degrees (288 to 288.8 K) between 1880 and 2013 and a supposed correlation of this temperature increase with the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Dr. Giaever takes the position that measuring a worldwide average temperature trend is a difficult task, particularly with the modest number of measurement points available more than a hundred years ago, the consistency of measurement over the period of interest, and the still-modest number of measurement points in many parts of the world today. In addition, he notes that a 0.8 degree K change in worldwide average temperature over a period of 133 years seems to be a very high level of consistency rather than an alarming trend. During that same period, Dr. Giaever noted that world population increased from 1.5 to 7 billion and many human activities contributed to environmental change, yet the impacts of all these additional people are rarely mentioned in the climate change debate. You can watch one of Dr. Giaever lectures at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXxHfb66ZgM

What is the impact of having 5.5 billion more people in the world today (and their many ancestors for the past 133 years) on global CO2 emissions? That’s hard to determine, but a simpler starting point is to assess the impact of one additional person.

That matter was addressed in a 2017 article by Seth Wynes and Kimberly Nicholas entitled, “The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions,” which was published in Environmental Research Letters. The authors developed a ranking for a wide variety of human activities relative to their contribution to CO2 emission reduction measured in tonnes (metric tons, 2205 pounds) of CO2-equivalent per year. I can tell you that the results are surprising.

A synopsis of these results is published in The Guardian using the following simple graphic.

The study authors, Wynes and Nicholas, concluded:

“We recommend four widely applicable high-impact (i.e. low emissions) actions with the potential to contribute to systemic change and substantially reduce annual personal emissions: having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year), living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), avoiding airplane travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per roundtrip transatlantic flight) and eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year). These actions have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling (four times less effective than a plant-based diet) or changing household lightbulbs (eight times less).”

Surprise!! Population growth adds CO2 to the atmosphere and the biggest impact a person can have on their own carbon footprint is to not have an additional child.

The authors noted that average savings of 58.6 tCO2e per year for having one fewer child applies to developed countries, where we expect per-capita energy consumption to be high. In less developed nations, where we expect lower per-capita energy consumption, the average savings for having one fewer child will be smaller. However, as their HDI continues to increase, the per-capita energy consumption in less developed nations eventually will rise and may approach the values occurring now in medium- or high-developed countries.

You can read the synopsis of the Wynes and Nicholas analysis in The Guardian here:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/12/want-to-fight-climate-change-have-fewer-children

You can read the full paper in Environmental Research Letters here:

http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541

The mathematical approach for estimating the CO2-equivalent per year of an additional child is based on a 2009 paper by Paul A. Murtaugh and Michael G. Schlax entitled, “Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals,” and published in Global Environmental Change. The authors state:

“Here we estimate the extra emissions of fossil carbon dioxide that an average individual causes when he or she chooses to have children. The summed emissions of a person’s descendants, weighted by their relatedness to him, may far exceed the lifetime emissions produced by the original parent.”

“It is important to remember that these analyses focus on the carbon legacies of individuals, not populations. For example, under the constant-emission scenario, an extra child born to a woman in the United States ultimately increases her carbon legacy by an amount (9441 metric tons) that is nearly seven times the analogous quantity for a woman in China (1384 tons), but, because of China’s enormous population size, its total carbon emissions (from its human population) currently exceed those of the United States.”

“…..ignoring the consequences of reproduction can lead to serious under-estimation of an individual’s long-term impact on the global environment.”

You can read this complete paper here:

https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/pdfs/OSUCarbonStudy.pdf

How’s your carbon legacy doing?

Significant Progress has Been Made in Implementing the Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Strategic Plan (AMSP)

Peter Lobner

The Arctic Council describes itself as, “….the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.” The council consists of representatives from the eight Arctic states:

  • Canada,
  • Kingdom of Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands)
  • Finland
  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • United States

In addition, six international organizations representing Arctic indigenous people have permanent participant status. You’ll find the Arctic Council’s website at the following link:

http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/

One outcome of the Arctic Council’s 2004 Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland was a call for the Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working group to conduct a comprehensive Arctic marine shipping assessment as outlined in the AMSP. The key result of that effort was The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report (AMSA), which you can download here:

https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/54

Source: Arctic Council

This report provided a total of 17 summary recommendations for Arctic states in the following three areas:

I. Enhancing Arctic marine safety

A. Coordinating with international organizations to harmonize a regulatory framework for Arctic maritime safety.

B. Supporting International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards for vessels operating in the Arctic.

C. Developing uniform practices for Arctic shipping governance, including in areas of the central Arctic ocean that are beyond the jurisdiction of any Arctic state.

D. Strengthening passenger ship safety in Arctic waters

E. Supporting development of a multi-national Arctic search and rescue capability.

II. Protecting Arctic people and the environment

A. Conducting surveys of Arctic marine use by indigenous people

B. Ensuring effective engagement with Arctic coastal communities

C. Identifying and protecting areas of heightened ecological and cultural significance.

D. Where appropriate, designating “Special Areas” or “Particularly Sensitive Areas”

E. Protecting against introduction of invasive species

F. Preventing oil spills

G. Determining impacts on marine animals and take mitigating actions

H. Reducing air emissions (CO2, NOx, SO2 and black carbon particles)

III. Building the Arctic marine infrastructure

A. Improving the Arctic infrastructure to support development while enhancing safety and protecting the Arctic people and environment, including icebreakers to assist in response.

B. Developing a comprehensive Arctic marine traffic awareness system and cooperate in development of national monitoring systems.

C. Developing a circumpolar environmental response capability.

D. Investing in hydrographic, meteorological and oceanographic data needed to support safe navigation and voyage planning.

The AMSA 2009 Report is a useful resource, with thorough descriptions and findings related to the following:

  • Arctic marine geography, climate and sea ice
  • History of Arctic marine transport
  • Governance of Arctic shipping
  • Current marine use and the AMSA shipping database
  • Scenarios, futures and regional futures to 2020 (Bering Strait, Canadian Arctic, Northern Sea Route)
  • Human dimensions (for a total Arctic population of about 4 M)
  • Environmental considerations and impacts
  • Arctic marine infrastructure

Four status reports from 2011 to 2017 documented the progress by Arctic states in implementing the 17 summary recommendations in AMSA 2009. The fourth and final progress report entitled, “Status of Implementation of the AMSA 2009 Report Recommendations; May 2017,” is available at the following link:

https://www.isemar.fr/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Conseil-de-Arctic-rapport-Arctic-Marine-Shipping-Assessment-AMSA-mai-2017.pdf

Source: Arctic Council

Through PAME and other working groups, the Arctic Council will continue its important role in implementing the Arctic Marine Strategic Plan. You can download the current version of that plan, for the period from 2015 – 2025, here:

https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/413

Source: Arctic Council

For example, on 6 November 2017, the Arctic Council will host a session entitled, “The global implications of a rapidly-changing Arctic,” at the UN Climate Change Conference COP23 meeting in Bonn, Germany. For more information on this event, use this link:

http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/our-work2/8-news-and-events/473-cop23