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LiquidPiston, Inc. (LPI), the developer of engines based on its High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle (HEHC) (earlier post), has entered into an agreement totaling $991,557 with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to advance the development of its efficient, power-dense rotary internal combustion engine X-Mini (earlier post) for portable and small-engine applications.
Under this agreement, LiquidPiston’s primary objective is to demonstrate a pathway towards a rotary JP-8 fueled engine that has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by 50% and to increase power density by threefold compared to today’s conventional heavy-fuel piston engines. JP-8, or Jet Propellant 8, is a kerosene-based jet fuel used widely by the US military.
Today’s diesel/JP-8 engines and generators are extremely heavy. For example, a typical 3kW heavy-fuel generator weighs over 300 pounds, requiring six people to move it around. LiquidPiston’s engine technology may enable a JP-8 generator of similar output weighing less than 30 pounds that could fit in a backpack.—Dr. Nikolay Shkolnik, LiquidPiston’s Founder and CTO, and Co-Principal Investigator of the DARPA project
The ultimate goal of the funded effort is to demonstrate a pathway to a heavy-fueled engine that could deliver above 50% average brake efficiency, 57% peak brake efficiency and high power density (>1 hp/lb), using a test-bed environment.
Such efficiency would reduce fuel consumption by approximately one half compared to today’s conventional piston engines. The effort will demonstrate key enabling components of the engine technology, as well as initial experiments with JP-8 fuel. As part of the agreement, LiquidPiston is investing 40% of the project costs.
Early LiquidPiston prototypes have validated the principles and confirmed compression ignition of diesel and JP-8 fuels. LiquidPiston has built 70-horsepower and 40-horsepower compression ignition heavy-fuel engine alpha prototypes, and recently unveiled a 70-cubic centimeter (3- to 5-horsepower) gasoline powered rotary four-stroke engine prototype, which would serve as the test platform for the work with DARPA.
HEHC. HEHC is an improved thermodynamic cycle optimized for fuel efficiency that combines features of four existing cycles: high compression ratio (Diesel); constant volume (isochoric) combustion (Otto); over-expansion to atmospheric pressure (Atkinson); and internal cooling with air or water (Rankine).
LiquidPiston’s engines, have only two primary moving parts—a shaft and rotor—resulting in compact size and low-vibration operation. Although they are rotary engines, LiquidPiston’s engines are not Wankel engines; they are uniquely configured to adopt the company’s patented thermodynamic cycle and its associated efficiency and low-noise benefits.
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has teamed up with local and federal agencies to increase significantly enforcement of California’s Heavy-Duty Diesel regulations statewide. ARB says that the partnerships leverage its ability to bring vehicles that are operating illegally into compliance and level the playing field for those that have already met requirements.
ARB currently has extended agreements with various local air districts and ports to enforce its diesel-related regulations. Through these partnerships, air districts can write citations for non-compliant vehicles and equipment subject to various diesel regulations, helping support extensive enforcement of the truck and bus regulation. ARB also recently developed an agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency for enforcement of rules for drayage trucks and aftermarket parts.
Although partnering districts typically refer violations to ARB for settlement, the district can also issue a citation immediately without waiting for inspectors from ARB to respond. This is particularly useful when the district receives a complaint from a member of the public who has observed a violation.
The US EPA also works with ARB to enforce its Truck and Bus and Drayage Truck regulations under authority of the federal Clean Air Act. In addition to conducting their own investigations and audits, EPA also assists ARB in joint investigations and audits to help enforce the rules and create a level playing field for all trucks that operate in California. In turn, ARB works closely with EPA to ensure consistent enforcement.
EPA also works closely on cases involving illegal aftermarket parts used by diesel powered vehicle owners to gain horsepower. These parts significantly increase emissions and can lead to engine damage and manufacturers’ warranties being voided.
While local and federal enforcement partnerships help leverage ARB’s compliance efforts, ARB’s enforcement teams continue to keep the pressure on throughout the state. This involves a variety of enforcement efforts including multi-agency strike forces, roadside inspections with California Highway Patrol, joint inspections with authorities at selected ports, and random inspections at truck stops and rest areas.
ARB conducts investigations and fleet audits based on tips from the public, from air districts, and from compliant fleets reporting non-compliant competitors to ARB’s Complaint Hotline.
Citations issued by ARB can result in substantial penalties. Monies collected go to the State Treasurer for deposit into the California Air Pollution Control Fund which provides funding for projects and research to improve California's air quality.
In some cases, companies can also place up to 25% of the total penalties into a Supplemental Environmental Project. This could fund, for example, the clean-up of school buses through adding diesel particulate filter retrofits, new engines or new buses. Monies used for school bus retrofits are administered by the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association and are distributed statewide with priority given to small districts with the greatest financial need.
Injection moulding machine manufacturer ENGEL is currently building an ENGEL v-duo 3600 machine for the Open Hybrid LabFactory (OHLF) public/private collaborative research partnership in Wolfsburg, Germany where the machine will support research into functionally integrated composite technologies. (BMW uses ENGEL duo injection moulding machines to manufacture car body shell components for the BMW i3 electric vehicle. Earlier post.)
With a clamping force of 36,000 kN, the ENGEL v-duo 3600 is the largest machine in its series. One machine in the same clamping force class is installed at BMW’s Landshut factory, where large structural components of fibre-reinforced plastic composites are manufactured using the HP-RTM process.
To ensure the machine can be deployed with maximum flexibility for various research purposes, the ENGEL v-duo 3600 for Wolfsburg will be fitted with two injection units. ENGEL has been adding this option to its injection moulding machines for years; the same feature is offered in the ENGEL v-duo series, thereby facilitating multi-component processes, to give one example. In addition to this, lightweight construction solutions can be combined with further injection moulding technologies.OHLF OHLF incorporates a 799 m2 laboratory, a 2,500 m2 technical center, and 4,692 m2 of office space. Participating organizations include Technical University of Braunschweig; the Fraunhofer Institute; Volkswagen; Siempelkamp; Engel; Magna; BASF; DowAkza; and Thyssen-Krupp. The Chairman of OHLF is Prof. Dr. Werner Neubauer who is responsible for the business area of components at Volkswagen.
ENGEL developed its v-duo series specifically for fibre-reinforced processing. In contrast to the presses conventionally used in such applications, ENGEL vertical machines have a relatively small footprint. The height and weight of the machines are much lower, which reduces the foundation building overhead. The clamping unit can be accessed from all four sides instead of just two; due to very high rigidity and the outstanding parallelism of the mould mounting platens, it guarantees the precision casting of even fine structures.
Since the ENGEL v-duo operates without a hydraulic accumulator and instead works with the servohydraulic ENGEL ecodrive as standard, the machine is also setting new standards of energy efficiency in the field of fibre-reinforced processing, the company said.
ENGEL is a founding member and sponsor of the research center which was initiated by Volkswagen in 2012 and supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The factory will be operated by the association together with Braunschweig University of Technology.
To cover the entire value chain for lightweight hybrid components—from concept and design to production and recycling—the association oversees every step in the process in partnership with international technology leaders, including ENGEL. The aim of the wide-ranging collaborative research is to unlock previously inaccessible potential in both market development and technology while speeding up the application of innovative lightweight construction technologies in the mass production of automobiles.
OHLF has defined a number of research projects to commence this autumn at a new research facility that is currently being built. Among other things, the new ENGEL machine is intended for the ProVorPlus project that focuses on functionally integrated process technologies for the pre-assembly of fibre-reinforced plastic/metal hybrids.
Machine and plant manufacturer Siempelkamp is also supplying a 2,500 t hybrid press to OHLF, also for use in the ProVorPlus project.
The 2,500 t press allows the forming of organosheets as well as the manufacture of fiber-reinforced composites using the RTM and the SMC process. The press can also be utilized for deep-drawing and hot forming of various materials. By means of a special extruder the hybrid components can also be back-molded for the manufacture of large high-strength components.
Four cylinders with a pressing capacity of 625 t each allow press speeds of up to 800 mm/second. Accuracies in the +/- 0.05 mm range are achieved. The die cushion applies a force of 1,000 t. Another feature: The moving beam with a dimension of 2,000 x 2,500 mm2 can be tilted by 5°. Thus, the material can be optimally distributed in the press area.
Aventine Renewable Energy Inc., a leading producer, marketer and supplier of ethanol, announced its first BNSF unit-train shipment of ethanol produced at its two ethanol facilities in Aurora, Nebraska. A BNSF ethanol unit train may consist of 96 ethanol tank cars, 2 buffer cars (62' in length) and 4 BNSF locomotives (75' in length). The unit train pulled out of Aurora heading to Birmingham, Alabama where the ethanol will be blended in gasoline to enhance octane.
It’s a major milestone in executing unit trains out of Aurora, eliminating obsolete single-car switching and moving Aventine assets into the highly efficient unit-train supply chain mode.
Through a solid partnership with the BNSF, Aventine now has direct access from the BNSF mainline to our inner-loop unit-train track, using a newly installed mainline switch, track and a rail crossover built on Aventine’s land. With our ability to produce 155-million gallons of ethanol, additional economics will be driven by quicker and more efficient moves of ethanol trains into large unit-train consumptive end markets.—Mark Beemer, Aventine’s president and CEO
Two years ago Beemer and the Aventine management team devised a strategic plan to logistically derisk the facility from adverse local conditions. Tactics deployed beyond the rail upgrades include installing four new truck scales, two new grain-grading labs and additional corn storage.
With unit-train capacity, Beemer noted, Aventine is looking to open other new 100-car unit train markets, including Watson, California; Chicago and East St. Louis, Illinois; and Dallas, Houston, Deer Park, Fort Worth, Beaumont and Texas City, Texas.
In Aurora, Aventine operates the Aurora West 110-million-gallon Delta T facility and the Nebraska Energy LLC Vogelbusch 45-million-gallon dry mill plant. In Pekin, Illinois, the company’s headquarters, Aventine operates two plants: a 60-million-gallon dry mill and a 100-million-gallon wet mill.
by Michael McDonald on Oilprice.com
Even as financial commentators on CNBC are starting to come around to the idea of a bottom in oil prices, the key question for US oil producers remains one of timing. How long will the oil price slump last? Is this a relatively short term event like 2008, or a longer term slump like the one in the mid 1980’s?
After the oil price crash in 1985, it took almost twenty years for prices to revert to previous levels. If oil does not return to $100 a barrel until 2035, there will be a lot less shale companies around. Some market commentators have cited hedging as a potential source of safety for oil producers, but the truth is that given most firms’ individual levels of hedging and the price of oil today, the hedges are more of a Band-Aid over a gunshot wound than anything else.
The US shale oil industry faces an implacable foe in the current crisis: Saudi Arabia. The long-time king of the oil markets is probably the party most responsible for the current price decline, and probably the party that is happiest about it. Saudi Arabia is uniquely positioned to withstand low oil prices given that inside sources say the country has nearly $800 billion in reserves to weather the storm.
Early on in the fight, shale oil companies were loudly proclaiming their ability to withstand low prices, but those statements have dimmed in intensity and frequency in recent months. At this point, Saudi Arabia’s currency reserves are roughly equal to the combined market capitalization of the entire US shale oil industry.
The fundamental equation that drives any country or company’s ability to survive in the oil industry is: (Oil Price per Barrel − Cost Per Barrel) × Barrels Produced + Cash Reserves > 0.
Essentially if a firm or country has a cost of extraction that is greater than the price per barrel they receive, then they can only produce until their cash reserves run out. Most analysts estimate that cost per barrel for US shale companies ranges from the mid-fifties to the low nineties. That means, at this stage, almost none of the US shale oil producers are going to be making money producing. These costs have obviously fallen in the last six months as producers look to modify contracts with suppliers and subcontractors and generally push down costs anywhere they can.
Analysts have varying views on the cost of production for Saudi Arabia with some citing total costs above $80 and others suggesting costs as little as $5 per barrel. Regardless, it is likely that Saudi Arabia’s costs are lower than that of the US oil producers and their cash resources are certainly greater.
The life raft for US oil producers so far has been its hedging at higher prices. Bloomberg recently cited $26B in oil price hedges, which certainly helps to buy US oil producers time. Ultimately though, oil is not profitable at today’s levels for US oil producers and this is what has driven the falling rig count in recent weeks.
In the end, who will win the oil price battle, Saudi Arabia or US capitalism and shale producers? Probably both; US oil producers are taking unparalleled steps to lower their costs which will result in much more efficient operations in the end, similar to how US manufacturing came out of the Great Recession at high levels of productivity and ultimately profitability. By the same token, Saudi Arabia is the king of the oil markets for a reason—geologically it is essentially the perfect oil producer.
The real losers in this fight are likely to be the other participants who have been trying to stay out of the conflict as much as possible. Other OPEC producing nations and even Russia are not as efficient as Saudi Arabia, nor as dynamic as US shale producers. And ultimately, they are likely to be the ones forced to give ground and cut production.
Dr. Michael McDonald is an assistant professor of finance at Fairfield University and a frequent consultant to companies regarding capital structure decisions and investments.