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    Waste to Fuel: On the Making of Renewable Natural Gas

    Natural gas remains one of the most-used alternative fuels in Louisiana. According to Louisiana Clean Fuels’ (LCF) 2018 Annual Report, in 2018 alone, natural gas (CNG) was responsible for offsetting over 5 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs) in the state [1].

    Though the majority of natural gas used in Louisiana comes from fossil-sources, a small percentage is renewable natural gas (RNG), which is chemically identical to natural gas from fossil-sources but comes instead from renewable sources such as food waste, manure, and other decomposing organic materials.

    DID YOU KNOW?
    Methane is 20-30x worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Burning methane turns it into carbon dioxide, reducing its global warming potential. Landfills are the third-largest anthropogenic (human-caused) methane source in the U.S. Manure management is the fourth largest anthropogenic methane source. Much of the methane produced by these sources (wastewater treatment plants, landfills, and farms) is normally released into the atmosphere, but RNG projects instead collect and use this methane as natural gas, lowering the overall emissions of these industries. [2]


    St. Landry Parish Solid Waste creates and uses RNG in central Louisiana; they collect methane (CH4) from their landfill which is then cleaned and used as RNG to fuel their trash trucks. St. Landry’s RNG project, which began operation in 2012, was the first of its kind in the United States. Over the last two years, LCF has worked closely with St. Landry to create an operations manual for their RNG project. Once the manual is complete, we will begin work on an RNG curriculum to teach the process to other landfills and increase the amount of RNG used in Louisiana.

    RNG has grown in popularity across the United States in recent years, with the number of operational projects increasing from 60 projects at the end of 2017 to 89 projects at the end of March 2019 and the total production capacity of these projects increasing by approximately 25% over that same 15 month period. Additionally, a recent study by the Colorado Energy Office found that by utilizing RNG, Colorado can replace 24% of its annual diesel usage, eliminating 1.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year [3]. Interest in RNG has also dramatically increased, and there have been numerous articles written in the last year to explain the generalities of RNG production. Considering our working relationship with the St. Landry Parish project, LCF is uniquely situated to shed light on some of the deeper complexities of the subject, and our hope is to provide insight into how these types of projects actually operate. This article will hopefully serve as a midpoint between a 30,000 ft view and a deep technical dive.

    The Process

    RNG can be created from several different sources or feedstocks, but three of the most common are landfills, farms, and wastewater treatment plants. There are three basic steps to producing usable RNG: raw gas collection, conditioning/cleaning, and distribution. These steps are the same regardless of feedstock; in this article, we’ll be focusing on how this process works for landfills.

    Collection

    In a landfill, trash, which includes organic matter (food waste, paper waste, farming waste, etc.), is placed in a pit, called a cell, which is specially prepared to receive and contain trash with as little environmental impact as possible. The trash is dumped into the cell and covered with dirt, clay, and eventually an impermeable liner to prevent odors, liquids, and landfill gas (LFG) from escaping. This produces an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment within the landfill. Most modern landfills are classified as Sanitary Landfills, which are designed to reduce their environmental impact as much as possible. This includes trapping the LFG and burning it.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Anytime organic matter is present in an anaerobic environment, a huge host of microbes will eventually break the organics down into carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in a process called anaerobic digestion. This is true of landfills, but this same process happens with other feedstocks as well, such as wastewater treatment plants and farms. The decomposing organic matter within the landfill produces a mixture of gases known as landfill gas or LFG; gas collected from other sources is referred to as “biogas”.

    Each landfill cell will hold a certain amount of trash before it’s completed and covered with an impermeable liner (basically a gigantic plastic sheet) that traps all the LFG. Wells are then drilled into the cell to collect that gas. These wells are large pipes with holes in them, allowing the LFG to pass through but not the solid trash. The pipes are all connected to each other in a huge network called a well-field and then connected to a vacuum pump that literally sucks the gas out of the landfill. Each well has its own wellhead, which is a valve that can control the amount of suction at that well without needing an individual vacuum pump for each well.


    If the LFG isn’t removed from the landfill, pressure will build, eventually releasing methane and other harmful gases into the atmosphere. If the pump pulls too hard on the wells, air can get into the landfill, introducing nitrogen and oxygen to the landfill. The presence of oxygen inhibits anaerobic digestion and can contribute to the formation of landfill fires. Landfill fires release harmful emissions and are very difficult to extinguish, sometimes burning for weeks or even years. Nitrogen intrusion can also be very problematic due to the difficulty of separating nitrogen from the LFG during the conditioning process. Pulling too hard on the wells introduces nitrogen and oxygen, and not pulling hard enough releases raw LFG into the atmosphere. This balancing act is one of the most important pieces of any landfill RNG project.


    LCF Co-Coordinator Tyler Herrmann (right) showing LCF's interns a well-head at the St. Landry Parish Solid Waste landfill.

    Traditionally, the LFG is simply dried and then sent to a flare to burn all the methane and other unwanted compounds, reducing their environmental impact. Burning methane converts it to carbon dioxide, which is less harmful as a greenhouse gas, and also helps to remove harmful gases such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), a class of chemicals which includes carcinogens such as benzene. In a landfill RNG project, the LFG is diverted from the flare and sent to a separate conditioning/cleaning facility to be made into usable natural gas. Under EPA regulations, landfills above a certain size are required to collect and flare the LFG they produce [4]. This is one of the big benefits of a landfill RNG project: the first step in the RNG process - collecting the gas - is something the landfills are already required to do.

    Conditioning/Cleaning

    The level to which the gas must be cleaned is heavily dependent on its end-use. If the gas will be put into a pipeline, it must be cleaned according to the specifications of that pipeline. If the intention is to use it for electricity production, there are separate requirements for that as well. To use RNG as a vehicle fuel in natural gas vehicles, the gas needs to meet Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standards.

    The makeup of raw LFG is generally about half methane and half carbon dioxide. The gas can also contain unwanted by-products that must be removed, including hydrogen sulfide, siloxanes, carbon monoxide, VOCs (which can include benzene, butane, ethane, or a massive variety of carbon-based compounds), along with many other unwanted chemicals. The specific mix of these chemicals is heavily dependent on the feedstock. For example, if someone throws old air-conditioning equipment into a landfill, the LFG may temporarily include freon (a type of VOC), which will also need to be removed. Weather also affects raw gas quality; both of these factors require the conditioning process to be robust enough to maintain the product gas specs year-round.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Pipeline quality natural gas is usually around 94% methane and 6% balance gas, a term used to refer to inert gases that are harmless to the system, namely nitrogen and carbon dioxide. If the gas being injected into the pipeline does not meet the required BTU (British Thermal Units) specs, gases such as propane, butane, and hydrogen may be added.

    Since raw gas is around 50% methane and pipelines require around 94% methane, the carbon dioxide and other impurities need to be removed. There are many terms used to describe or name this cleaning process, including upgrading, cleaning, or conditioning. [5]


    The first step in conditioning is to remove hydrogen sulfide (H2S). This is usually done by chemically filtering the gas through a special type of activated carbon or other filtration media that strips out the hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide needs to be filtered out for two major reasons:

    • Hydrogen sulfide can form sulfur oxides (SOx) when burned. SOx is a criteria pollutant under National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) [6]. SOx emissions have effects on lung health and can contribute to the formation of both harmful particulate matter in the atmosphere and acid rain.
    • To protect the CO2 membranes later in the process (explained below).

    The second step in conditioning is to remove Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). This is also often done through chemical filtration with a different type of activated carbon. VOCs are filtered out for two major reasons:

    • Many VOCs have negative health effects, and some are carcinogenic.
    • To protect the CO2 membranes and siloxane filters later in the process.

    VOCs can include butane, ethane, and propane, all of which are allowable and often desirable in pipeline natural gas, but they are removed along with other VOCs during conditioning to protect the siloxane media and carbon dioxide membranes.

    Often, the third step in RNG conditioning is to remove siloxanes. These are silicon compounds that generally come from cosmetics, which means they're present in landfills and wastewater treatment facilities, but not in farms Siloxanes can be filtered out by passing the LFG through a special type of silica pellet, by condensation, or by water/solvent absorption. In the case of silica pellets, the pellets will also absorb VOCs and hydrogen sulfide, so they can become saturated and lose effectiveness if these are not effectively filtered out first.

    Siloxanes are not toxic; they’re removed to protect other equipment down the line. When siloxanes are burned, they produce non-toxic silicon powder which can clog sensors in a natural gas engine and act as an abrasive. This is so dangerous that a single tank of bad natural gas in a CNG vehicle can cause catastrophic engine failure. Siloxanes can also damage electricity generators if they use microturbines or post-combustion catalysts. Since siloxanes don't damage other filtration and don't harm all use-cases, this step is sometimes skipped depending on the intended end-use of the gas [7].

    The fourth step is to remove carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide makes up between 40-60% of the raw gas, so it may need to be removed to raise the BTU content to meet the specific needs of the use-case. Some use-cases can handle 50% methane, and carbon dioxide filtration is skipped, but this isn't common. Carbon dioxide can be filtered out in two main ways:

    CO2 Filtration Membranes

    These membranes are essentially tiny plastic tubes with holes approximately the size of carbon dioxide molecules that act as a physical filter, separating methane from carbon dioxide. As the raw gas is pumped through the tubes at a fairly high pressure (>100 PSI), the carbon dioxide escapes through the holes in the tubes, and what’s left is a gas with a higher concentration of methane.

    One of the benefits of using a membrane is that it's a purely physical filtration method; a CO2 membrane will effectively last forever. A drawback is that the membranes are really sensitive to VOCs and hydrogen sulfide. Any breakthrough of VOCs or hydrogen sulfide will poison the CO2 membranes, rendering them useless. CO2 membranes are also very expensive, potentially costing tens of thousands of dollars, even for a small project. This is why so much care is given to separating VOCs earlier in the process.

    There are many types of CO2 membranes, some of which can be used to filter hydrogen sulfide as well as carbon dioxide. St. Landry Parish Solid Waste uses the type described above.

    Pressure-Swing Adsorption (PSA)

    For this method, there is a surface that selectively adsorbs carbon dioxide, but only at certain pressures. The gas is brought to that pressure, the carbon dioxide molecules attach to the surface, the remaining gas (which is higher purity than the raw gas) is stripped away, and then the pressure is changed so that the filtered carbon dioxide releases from the surface. PSA filtration is an active filtration process, requiring a more complex system than passive filtration by a membrane. Both systems have various advantages and disadvantages that may make one more attractive than another for a specific project.

    While it isn’t common, nitrogen may also need to be removed from the gas. Nitrogen is mostly inert, so it only needs to be removed in order to increase the product gas BTU content. Given that nitrogen is inert, it is fairly difficult to remove through chemical filtration, though it is possible. It is also difficult to remove nitrogen through physical filtration as is done for carbon dioxide because nitrogen molecules are close to the same physical size as methane molecules. An expensive, but effective filtration method is to liquefy the natural gas; since nitrogen’s boiling point is much lower than that of methane, nitrogen will remain as a gas that can be separated from the liquefied methane. This is more common in very high-volume projects, whereas smaller projects are more likely to use PSA filtration systems [8].

    Additionally, it is worth noting that a conditioning facility will have various heat exchangers, compressors, and gas dryers throughout these steps to prepare the gas for the next step of the process. Depending on the use-case, the conditioner may also add an odorant, ethyl mercaptan, to the product gas.

    Distribution

    Since the RNG is now chemically identical to fossil natural gas, this section will be brief. Here are the three main use-cases:

    For onsite vehicle-fueling, there will be a large, low-pressure (50-150 PSI, in the case of St. Landry’s RNG project) gas storage tank that the conditioners will fill as they clean the gas. This low-pressure storage will feed a series of high-pressure tanks (around 4500 PSI) that are compressed by dedicated, high-pressure compressors as-needed. These high-pressure tanks fuel the vehicles directly and are filled by the compressors as-needed.


    Ribbon-cutting for the opening of St. Landry Parish Solid Waste's BioCNG Fueling Station in 2012

    For pipeline injection, the gas is compressed to match the pressure of the pipeline, which usually ranges between 400-1200 PSIG (gauge-pressure). In this case, there may be a low-pressure storage tank to act as a buffer, and the compressors will connect directly to the pipeline [9].

    For on-site electricity generation, there is generally a storage tank to act as a buffer, a compressor to fill this storage tank, and a pipe connecting to the gas generators.

    The Future of RNG

    The use of RNG is increasing across the United States as more and more projects are developed. As of the writing of this article, there are 38 RNG projects currently under construction [10], with that number likely to grow. LCF looks forward to working with partners like St. Landry Parish Solid Waste and other Clean Cities coalitions as RNG use continues to grow across the country.

    More Information

    For more information and resources on RNG please visit:

    For a thorough technical description of Landfill Gas RNG Project Development, check out the EPA Landfill Gas Energy Project Development Handbook at https://www.epa.gov/lmop/landfill-gas-energy-project-development-handbook-files. For more information on St. Landry Parish Solid Waste's RNG project, check out the 2018 MotorWeek episode on the project at www.fuelsfix.com/2018/03/st-landry-parish-turns-garbage-into-renewable-natural-gas.

    Sources

    [1] LCF Publishes 2018 Annual Report Data: https://louisianacleanfuels.org/blog/id/381

    [2] EPA Overview of Greenhouse Gases: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases#methane

    [3] Colorado Energy Office Study Finds State Could Eliminate 1.4M Metric Tons of Emissions Annually by Utilizing Renewable Natural Gas: https://energyoffice.colorado.gov/press-release/colorado-energy-office-study-finds-state-could-eliminate-14m-metric-tons-emissions

    [4] EPA Basic Information About Landfill Gas: https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas

    [5], [9] Pipeline Gas Specifications: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/pipeline-gas-specifications

    [6] NAAQS Table: https://www.epa.gov/criteria-air-pollutants/naaqs-table

    [7] Performance and Economics of Currently Available Technologies for Removal of Siloxane from Biogas: https://www.scsengineers.com/scs-articles/performance-economics-currently-available-technologies-removal-siloxane-biogas/

    [8] Pros and cons of different Nitrogen Removal Unit (NRU) technology: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1875510012000170

    [10] Argonne National Laboratory's Renewable Natural Gas Database: https://www.anl.gov/es/reference/renewable-natural-gas-database

    About St. Landry Parish Solid Waste

    St. Landry Parish Solid Waste Disposal District provides residential and commercial solid waste collection and disposal, as well as operation of the St. Landry Parish Landfill and Recycling Centers. For more information, please visit slpsolidwaste.org.

    About Louisiana Clean Fuels

    Louisiana Clean Fuels is a US Department of Energy Clean Cities Coalition, supported by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and member organizations. We are a non-profit organization serving fleets for 20 years.

    The mission of Louisiana Clean Fuels, Inc. is to advance the nation’s environmental, economic, and energy security by supporting local actions to diversify transportation fuel options. Our goal is to show how advanced technologies and alternative fuels can help meet business and environmental goals. By providing objective data, technical resources, and the right connections, we help fleets find reliable alternative fuel vehicles that will stabilize or lower fuel costs.


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    Transportation Energy Data Book 38 Now Available

    Originally posted by the US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

    The Transportation Energy Data Book (TEDB): Edition 38 is now available. The TEDB is a statistical compendium of data on the transportation sector with an emphasis on energy use. The TEDB, which has been active since 1975, provides policymakers and transportation analysts quality historical data and information on the transportation sector. TEDB 38 is available here

    The TEDB is prepared and published by Oak Ridge National Laboratory with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office. Older editions of the TEDB can be found at https://tedb.ornl.gov.

    view THE TEDB 38


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    Thank You to Our New & Renewing Members

    LCF would like to extend thanks and a special welcome to our new and renewing members for 2020!


    Thank you to these members for their continued support of Louisiana Clean Fuels. We are a member-supported Clean Cities Coalition that values the contributions of our stakeholders and partners!

    It's membership renewal time! To renew your membership with Louisiana Clean Fuels, please see our Join Page,  log in to your account, or email Stephanie at [email protected]. Your membership dues go to support our 2020 programs and initiatives, including:

    • Encouraging investment in renewables through education with ongoing projects like our “Waste to Fuel” Curriculum initiative
    • Increasing the efficiency of public and private fleets through programs such as LCF’s Green Fleets Certification program and Light Duty EV Readiness Fleet Analysis
    • Supporting legacy alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) fleets by conducting Listening Sessions, hosting technical trainings, and collaborating with members on funding proposals
    • Improving fueling infrastructure by hosting regional AFV infrastructure meetings in addition to utilizing LCF’s EV Charging Corridor Master Plan
    • Supporting and empowering our first responders by continuing to offer safety training to Louisiana first responders

    Become a Louisiana Clean Fuels Member


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    Life After Usefulness

    When a lithium-ion battery has exceeded its usefulness to power your EV, what happens next?

    Source: Argonne National Laboratory 

    The question of what to do with lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) once they have exceeded their usefulness within an electric vehicle (EV) is an important consideration currently facing proponents of EVs. In an FAQ document recently published by Argonne National Laboratory, this issue is addressed in detail. In this article, we will highlight some of the main points from the Argonne publication in addition to offering further resources on the matter.

    The question of EV sustainability when battery manufacturing comes into play is vital to a sustainable electric future, and determining the fate of used LIBs is an important part of the answer. Recycling is a popular option as it allows manufacturers to recover some of the metals used in the manufacture of LIBs, and many companies are working on LIB recycling programs. The Department of Energy's Vehicle Technology Office (VTO) released a research plan to Reduce, Recycle, and Recover Critical Materials in Lithium-Ion Batteries in June 2019. But recycling is not the only answer.

    Generally, an LIB is considered to have exceeded its useful life and is removed from an EV once the storage capacity has depleted enough that the battery is no longer viable for powering the vehicle. However, many of these used LIBs still have “significant storage capacity remaining when they no longer meet the power and energy demands of a typical vehicle application” (Argonne). These second-life battery applications allow used LIBs to provide stationary storage or power for other types of equipment that don’t require the same level of power or storage as an EV.

    Recycled? Refurbished? Second-Life?

    There is potential for confusion surrounding the various post-vehicle fates of a used LIB. Used LIBs can be recycled, meaning the battery is broken down and stripped of its remaining useful resources - generally metals such as cobalt and nickel. These resources are then used in the manufacture of new LIBs. Used LIBs can also be refurbished, which means the battery is evaluated and fixed and deemed eligible to be used for the original purpose, namely, powering an EV. Second-life, however, refers to “a new, nonautomotive use of an automotive LIB after its initial use in a vehicle” (Argonne). According to Argonne National Laboratory’s Battery Second Life FAQ, “While the LIB may no longer meet the power and energy demands of a vehicle, it may still be capable of significant energy storage and have up to 10 years of life remaining in different applications.”

    Applications

    There are various types of second-life applications for LIBs depending on the type of LIB and the requirements of the application.

    Behind-the-Meter (BTM) Storage

    When LIBs are used for behind-the-meter (BTM) storage, they are being used in residential, commercial, or industrial applications, where the electricity goes through the meter before being used or stored.

    BTM storage is beneficial because it can allow consumers to store electricity purchased during low-cost periods for use during peak demand periods, helping to lower overall electricity costs. BTM storage is also commonly used in conjunction with solar power, as the battery-stored electricity helps to even out the variable output from the solar setup.

    Learn more about BTM storage services from this Solar Power World article.

    Front-of-the-Meter (FTM) Storage

    Front-of-the-meter (FTM) storage services are large-scale applications used most often by utilities for purposes such as load relief, “frequency regulation, voltage support, and excess renewable energy storage” (Argonne). It is so-called because the LIBs are situated before the electricity runs through a meter to a user. According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, LIBs “accounted for nearly 90% of large-scale battery storage additions” in 2017.

    FTM storage is an important second-life application for LIBs as it can help improve the efficiency of utilities. LIBs can potentially be used to store excess energy produced during times of low demand to be discharged during times of high demand. Additionally, FTM storage systems can store energy generated from variable renewable energy sources - energy sources that fluctuate in output and cannot be controlled (such as wind or solar energy) - to smooth the output of those sources and better meet demand.

    Learn more about grid-scale battery storage from NREL and USAID’s Grid Integration Toolkit or from IRENA’s Utility-Scale Batteries Innovation Landscape Brief.

    Telecommunications and Data Center Backup

    LIBs can also be used to provide backup power for telecommunications and data centers. “Power for telecommunications towers is currently the largest second-life application in the world. Data centers, which need stable power, represent a potential market” (Argonne).

    Electric Vehicle Charging

    Used LIBs can also help power electric vehicle charging at charging stations. Much like BTM storage, LIBs can be used to help charging stations store energy for use during peak demand to lower overall electricity costs and reduce strain on the grid from fast-charging stations. According to Argonne,  “50–300-kWh battery systems that facilitate direct current (DC) fast charging to decrease peak demands from the grid can result in lower charging costs for the charging station operator and the vehicle user. Demand charges, which are related to the rate of electricity delivery (kW), as opposed to the total amount delivered (kWh), are a driver of electricity cost for DC fast-charger applications” (Argonne).

    Learn how EVgo is using second-life EV batteries to power fast-charging stations in California.

    Low-Power Electric Vehicles

    LIBs that are unable to meet the demands of an electric passenger vehicle can still find use powering other electric vehicle options such as golf carts, forklifts, and other industrial and commercial vehicles. These vehicles have lower power and distance requirements than passenger electric vehicles, so they are a potentially good second-life fit for LIBs with reduced storage capacity.

    Learn how Audi is using second-life LIBs from its electric vehicles to power forklifts in its factories.

    Challenges

    There are many challenges to overcome in considering second-life applications of LIBs. LIBs are considered hazardous and as such have challenging rules and regulations surrounding their shipment and handling. “Because LIBs are classified as a Class 9 hazardous material, transportation of LIBs can be challenging. These batteries must be handled in a specific way by individuals with the proper certifications, increasing the cost of shipping” (Argonne). LIBs are also complex and require various parts and pieces - “cells, modules, battery management systems (BMS), thermal management systems, packaging” (Argonne) - outside of the battery itself to keep things running smoothly. These parts are not always compatible with intended second-life applications, meaning the battery may need new parts, such as a new battery management system, to fit it for its new second-life usage. Additionally, not all vehicle LIBs are exactly the same, and mixing battery modules from various sources can add variability to battery performance.

    Creating a market for used LIBs can also cause issues if the supply of batteries available for second-life applications does not meet the demand. Vehicle LIBs are generally already designed to last a decade, and the technology continues to progress. If continued research leads to extended battery life, better and more efficient recycling practices, or more easily refurbished and reused battery modules for further vehicle applications, “this would reduce the flow of LIB modules for second-life applications. So, while beneficial to extending LIB life, it would represent a challenge to the second-life market” (Argonne).

    Despite these challenges, many second-life LIBs are already in use and development around the world, including Nissan's plan to install streetlights powered by used Nissan LEAF LIBs in Namie, Japan (see right photo). The number of projects is expected to grow as more and more purchased EVs eventually hit the decade mark and beyond.

    For more information about second-life lithium-ion battery applications, see Argonne National Laboratory’s “Battery Second Life Frequently Asked Questions” or reach out to Jarod C. Kelly, Vehicle Systems Analyst Engineer | Phone: 630-252-6579 | www.anl.gov/es/systems- assessments

     
    About Argonne National Laboratory

    The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

    About Clean Cities

    As part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO), Clean Cities coalitions foster the nation's economic, environmental, and energy security by working locally to advance affordable, domestic transportation fuels, energy efficient mobility systems, and other fuel-saving technologies and practices. Since beginning in 1993, Clean Cities coalitions have achieved a cumulative impact in energy use equal to nearly 8 billion gasoline gallon equivalents through the implementation of diverse transportation projects. More information is available at www.cleancities.energy.gov.

    About Louisiana Clean Fuels

    Louisiana Clean Fuels (LCF) was established in 1997 as an affiliate of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Clean Cities program and received designation on April 11, 2000. Currently celebrating its 20th Anniversary as a Clean Cities coalition, LCF operates as an independent, non-profit association supported through its partnerships with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and its stakeholders. The mission of LCF is to advance the nation’s environmental, economic, and energy security by supporting local actions to diversify transportation fuel options. In 2018, Executive Director Ann Vail was inducted into the Clean Cities Coordinator Hall of Fame. Learn more at www.louisianacleanfuels.org.


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    Clean fuels experts gather for Clean Cities event in Baton Rouge

    Advanced Transportation Technologies, Funding Opportunities and US Department of Energy’s VTO Research Discussed at Local Clean Cities Meeting

    Louisiana Clean Fuels hosted its Annual Stakeholder Meeting on January 31st at the acclaimed BRCC Automotive Technology Center in Baton Rouge.

    February 10, 2020 - by LCF staff writers: Ann Vail & Victoria Herrmann

    Over 50 clean fuels experts from industry, state and federal government, metro planning commissions and utilities gathered together on Friday, January 31, 2020, for updates from their Clean Cities coalition, Louisiana Clean Fuels, on new mobility challenges, heavy duty electric vehicles, air quality issues, and technological advances that are changing the way we think about how we move people and products across our roadways and through our towns.

    The meeting kicked off with LCF Executive Director and Coordinator Ann Vail giving an overview of LCF’s 2019 accomplishments along with a look ahead at LCF’s 2020 Strategic Plan, including DOE initiatives, projects and programs for the year. Over the past year, the coalition was involved in advancing the adoption of alternative fuels across the state and the installation of critical fueling infrastructure. LCF worked with various organizations across the state to help them apply for the final two rounds of Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Funding this past year. Additionally, the coalition published its DC Fast Charging Master Plan with the goal of establishing a DC Fast Charging network that meets the Federal Highway Administration’s guidelines for alternative fuel corridors. LCF worked throughout 2019 with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and electric utilities across the state to utilize this Master Plan to help inform decisions on the optimal placement of DC Fast Chargers along our interstate corridors. The coalition was also instrumental in assisting the LDEQ to purchase an EV for their fleet and install chargers in two state garages, and they are the first state agency to do so.

    LCF’s accomplishments over the past year are also impressive by the numbers. In 2019,

    • LCF’s stakeholders reported a record  9.6 million gallons of gasoline equivalent (GGEs) reduced by their 2018 activities, the largest GGE reduction LCF stakeholders have ever reported.
    • LCF conducted 23 hours of free alternative fuel safety 101 classes for first responders.
    • The coalition certified three new fleets into their Green Fleets Certification Program, designed to help fleets improve the economic and environmental performance of their vehicle operations.
    • LCF hosted 4 EV showcase events to more than 300 attendees across the state as part of the Louisiana Electric Vehicle Roadshow.

    Looking forward to 2020, the coalition outlined its top programming priorities. “Through our visits with our legacy natural gas fleets in our territory, we have learned that some of these early adopters are in need of training for their technicians and updates to their equipment,” says Vail when discussing tasks assigned to them in their 2019 and 2020 cooperative agreement with the Department of Energy. The LCF Executive Director explained to the audience how workforce development and improving access to alternative fuel technician training were at the top of their to-do list for 2020. Vail explained how the shortage of trained heavy-duty technicians is an issue across the country and is felt especially hard by fleets with advanced technologies and alternative fuels.

    In 2020, the coalition has plans to continue to work with VW Settlement funding awardees for EVSE to help them implement the installation of their EV charging equipment and to continue to work to improve charging and fueling infrastructure for all alternative fuels. As a part of this initiative, LCF plans to host several training sessions related to alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies covering topics such as EV charging infrastructure for medium- and heavy-duty EVs, developments in gaseous and liquid alternative fuels, and an EV 101 workshop for local leaders to prepare for an electrified future. The coalition will also continue organizing and facilitating multiple-fuel and/or technology-specific listening sessions with fleets and other stakeholders to identify technology gaps and critical research needs to improve vehicle/infrastructure performance and usability.

    Ann Vail presenting LCF's 2020 Initiatives

    LCF’s 2020 programmatic priorities include:

    • Encourage investment in renewables through education with ongoing projects like our “Waste to Fuel” Curriculum initiative
    • Increase the efficiency of public and private fleets through programs such as LCF’s Green Fleets Certification program and Light Duty EV Readiness Fleet Analysis
    • Support legacy alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) fleets by conducting “Listening Sessions,” hosting technical trainings, and collaborating with members on funding proposals
    • Improve fueling infrastructure by hosting regional AFV infrastructure meetings in addition to utilizing LCF’s EV Charging Corridor Master Plan
    • Support and empower our first responders by continuing to offer safety training to Louisiana first responders

    Joe Annotti, Vice President of Programs at Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), was up next and gave an enlightening presentation on “The Status of Our Zero Emission Transportation Future.” Annotti presented an overview of various zero-emission transportation technologies, including electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, in addition to discussing the progression of Volkswagen Mitigation Trust funding across the country. 

    At one point, Annotti called out to the audience for guesses on which fuels have thus far received the most VW funding. “Diesel!” came a quick answer, quickly followed by a shouted, “Propane!” and a bit of uncertainty over how natural gas and electric would stack up. A ripple of surprise spread through the audience as Annotti revealed that the second-most-funded fuel type (including infrastructure) for the VW Settlement is actually electric. Annotti followed up this reveal by explaining how various states across the US are incentivizing or even requiring zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure. “The south will rise?” he questioned with a shrug as he gestured to the blank southern US on a “ZEV Winner’s Circle” map. One takeaway from Annotti’s presentation is just that: How can the southern US and Louisiana, in particular, catch up to other states in the zero-emission race? “Utilities are so important to the future of zero-emission vehicles,” he said, emphasizing the necessity of including utilities, whose role has evolved to include funding EV infrastructure, in the zero-emission conversation. Annotti also listed several zero-emission initiatives and key opportunities in other states as examples, illustrating the importance of all stakeholders - state agencies, municipalities, fleets, utilities, and consumers - working together to achieve an electrified future.

    Michael D. Laughlin, PMP, Technology Manager, Technology Integration Program of the U.S. Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) next gave “An Overview of DOE Vehicle Technologies Research for New Mobility Opportunities.” “Transportation is fundamental to our way of life,” one of Laughlin’s slides proclaimed, illustrating the VTO’s vision of finding sustainable, efficient, and affordable transportation solutions. Laughlin focused primarily on Energy Efficient Mobility Systems (EEMS) in his presentation. “It’s The Jetsons,” he said, prompting laughter in the audience, as he explained the variety of topics that fall under EEMS. Connective, automated vehicles; shared micro-mobility; e-commerce; shared ride services; infrastructure, SMART mobility...all of these various methods of connection and transportation fall under the EEMS umbrella. Laughlin also explained SMART - Systems and Modeling for Accelerated Research in Transportation - Mobility, offering insight into some of the methods through which the VTO studies new mobility technologies and projects along with various metrics through which the VTO attempts to measure the efficiency of these systems.

    The MEP - or Mobility Energy Protocol - System, for example, combines various modes of transport into a holistic metric for better comparison. The system seeks to make different modes of transport for various situations more comparable in terms of efficiency and energy use. “High MEP would be something like being able to walk to most places in a city,” Laughlin said, explaining the high efficiency of such a situation. Another slide demonstrated how increased vehicle efficiency would translate to overall increased MEP for a region. Laughlin’s presentation effectively demonstrated just how complex mobility and transportation research is. Considering the many ways to increase efficiency in current modes of transportation while also researching and developing new mobility technologies and ensuring that all of these various modes connect and work together as efficiently as possible is a daunting task, and the VTO has experts on the case. The VTO, he explained, wants to connect the community with information. There are many resources available on the VTO’s website, Laughlin noted, explaining the difficulty of navigating the ridiculous amounts of data and information surrounding mobility research. Laughlin pointed out tools, resources, and connections available for stakeholders to use “to help all of you with this new mobility world.”  One such resource? “Clean Cities is a connection to this community of experts - they (and we) are here to help!” 

    Following the first two presentations, attendees networked and chatted over a luncheon jointly sponsored by the Propane Education and Research Council and EMSI Air. After lunch, attendees were able to step outside to view a display of three Teslas in front of the BRCC facility. Attendees had the opportunity to look over the vehicles, sit in them, and also speak to the vehicle owners standing by to answer questions. Everyone then headed to the back of the Automotive Technology Center to step aboard one of the new Capital Area Transit System (CATS) electric BYD buses and learn about the technology behind these new clean, efficient vehicles.

    After admiring the BYD electric bus outside, attendees resumed their seats to hear Ralph Serrano, Senior Project Manager of BYD, present on BYD’s “Development of Commercial Electric Vehicles”. Serrano explained BYD’s focus on a zero-emission ecosystem, giving an overview of the various types of electric vehicles that BYD produces and their applications. One issue Serrano described for BYD is getting customers to be open to learning about electric vehicles in the first place. Despite this initial hesitancy, Serrano concluded by revealing that rates of electric vehicle adoption around the world are higher than previously forecast, which spells a bright future for EV development. In discussing BYD's work with CATS, Serrano noted that many customers are looking for "the whole package;" BYD is currently working with CATS not only to supply their new electric buses but also to plan out and install their charging infrastructure in a way that works best for CATS. This seems like an interesting progression of how vehicle suppliers can work with their fleet customers and perhaps open them up to the idea of electric vehicles; many buyers don't know much about EVs, so EVs and the infrastructure involved can seem overwhelming or like far too much work or research to understand. By incorporating "the whole package" from vehicles to planning to infrastructure into the deal, companies like BYD with experience and expertise on the issue can help ease fleets into an electrified future, one where fleets don't have to figure everything out themselves.  As for CATS, they're moving quickly toward that future with the help of BYD. If you look closely, you will notice the three green and yellow BYD electric buses servicing routes for CATS around East Baton Rouge. The transit system has ordered three more electric buses from BYD with a contract to purchase three more in the future.

    The final presentation of the day was a “UPS Sustainability Overview – How we help our Customers” from Stuart McAvoy, the Global Director of Supply Chain Optimization and Sustainability at UPS. McAvoy, also a recent addition to the LCF Board of Directors, offered an insightful look into UPS’s work to optimize its supply chain to limit carbon emissions and increase efficiency; strategies included shifting to more fuel-efficient modes of transport such as rail or leveraging technology such as telematics to decrease travel distance per route. McAvoy also reviewed UPS’s sustainability goals, including a recent exciting announcement that UPS will be purchasing 10,000 electric trucks from U.K. startup Arrival over the next five years, a plan which will double UPS’s alternative fuels vehicle fleet.


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    FTA: Low or No Emission Program (Low-No Program) - FY2020 Notice of $130 Million Funding

    Originally posted by the Federal Transit Administration | January 17, 2020 | Department of Transportation | Original Article 

    PROPOSALS DUE MARCH 17, 2020

    Informational Webinar

    A webinar for this opportunity will be held February 6, 2020 from 2-3:30 p.m. EST. Click here to Register for the webinar.

    The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced that it will make available more than $130 million in grants to help fund the purchase of low or no emission buses and chargers in communities nationwide. This funding level represents the most funding in the history of the program. Electric buses, chargers, and associated electric bus infrastructure are eligible under this program. The Low or No Emission Competitive program provides funding to state and local governmental authorities for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses as well as acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities. Under the FAST Act, $55 million per year is available until fiscal year 2020.

    • Date Posted: 1/17/2020
    • Date Closed: 3/17/2020
    • Opportunity ID: FTA-2020-005-LowNo

    LEARN MORE

    See more funding opportunities on our funding page


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    DOE Announces $133 Million to Accelerate Advanced Vehicle Technologies Research

    Originally posted by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy | January 23, 2020 | Department of Energy | Original Article

    DE-FOA-0002197: FY20 ADVANCED VEHICLE TECHNOLOGIES RESEARCH FUNDING OPPORTUNITY ANNOUNCEMENT

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $133 million in new and innovative advanced vehicle technologies research.  This funding supports research that will lead to more affordable, efficient, and secure transportation energy.

    Funded through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, this funding opportunity supports projects in advanced batteries and electrification in support of the recently announced DOE Energy Storage Grand Challenge. This FY 2020 funding opportunity also supports priorities in advanced engine and fuel technologies including technologies for off-road applications, lightweight materials, new mobility technologies (energy efficient mobility systems), and alternative fuels technology demonstrations.

    DOCUMENTS


    REQUIRED APPLICATION DOCUMENTS

    Pursuant to the FOA, Applicants are required to submit the "Required Application Documents" with their Application. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed or considered. View Required Application Documents

    CONTACT INFORMATION

    SUBMISSION DEADLINES

    • Concept Paper Submission Deadline: 2/21/2020 5:00 PM ET
    • Full Application Submission Deadline: 4/14/2020 5:00 PM ET

    Topic areas include:

    Batteries and Electrification (up to $40 million)

    • Lithium-ion batteries using silicon- based anodes
    • Low cost electric traction drive systems using no heavy rare earth materials utility managed smart charging supporting projects that will demonstrate managed and controlled charging loads for a large number of vehicles.


    Advanced Combustion Engines and Fuels (up to $27.5 million)

    • Platinum group metals content reduction to enable cost-effective after-treatment for gasoline and diesel engines
    • Improved efficiency of medium- and heavy-duty natural gas and propane (LPG) engines
    • Energy-efficient off-road technologies directly applicable to agriculture sector and/or other off-road vehicles
    • Two-stroke, opposed-piston engine research and development


    Materials Technology (up to $15 million)

    • Lightweight and high-performance fiber-reinforced polymer composites for vehicle applications


    Energy Efficient Mobility Systems (up to $13.5 million)

    • Improving transportation system efficiency through better utilization
    • Enabling vehicle and infrastructure connectivity
    • Improving mobility, affordability, and energy efficiency through transit

    Technology Integration (up to $36 million)

    • Gaseous fuels technology demonstration projects
    • Alternative fuel proof-of-concept in new communities and fleets
    • Electric vehicle and charging community partner projects
    • Technology integration open topic


    Transportation and Energy Analysis (up to $1.2 million)

    Concept papers for this funding opportunity are due February 21, 2020, and full applications will be due April 14, 2020.  For more information and application requirements, please visit the EERE Exchange website or Grants.gov.


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    Alternative Fuel Tax Incentives Update

    Key alternative fuel incentives retroactively extended in Final FY 2020 Spending Bill

    NOTE: This incentive originally expired on December 31, 2017, but was retroactively extended through December 31, 2020, by Public Law 116-94.

    Alternative fuel excise credits extended

    The excise tax credit covers fuels including compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas (both naturally occurring CNG and LNG, and that derived from biomass), propane autogas, and liquefied hydrogen when used as a motor fuel. A tax credit in the amount of $0.50 per gallon* is available for the following alternative fuels:

    • natural gas (CNG& LNG)
    • liquefied hydrogen,
    • propane,
    • and compressed or liquefied gas derived from biomass

    *For propane and natural gas sold after December 31, 2015, the tax credit is based on the gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) or diesel gallon equivalent (DGE). For taxation purposes, one GGE is equal to 5.75 pounds (lbs.) of propane and 5.66 lbs. of compressed natural gas. One DGE is equal to 6.06 lbs. of liquefied natural gas. Example: the propane tax credit ends up being about 37 cents a GGE.

    For an entity to be eligible to claim the credit they must be liable for reporting and paying the federal excise tax on the sale or use of the fuel in a motor vehicle. Tax exempt entities such as state and local governments that dispense qualified fuel from an on-site fueling station for use in vehicles qualify for the incentive. Eligible entities must be registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The incentive must first be taken as a credit against the entity's alternative fuel tax liability; any excess over this fuel tax liability may be claimed as a direct payment from the IRS. The tax credit is not allowed if an incentive for the same alternative fuel is also determined under the rules for the ethanol or biodiesel tax credits.

    For more information about claiming the credit, see IRS Form 4136, which is available on the IRS Forms and Publications website. (Reference Public Law 116-94, Public Law 115-123, Public Law 114-113, and 26 U.S. Code 6426)

    Point of Contact
    Excise Tax Branch
    U.S. Internal Revenue Service Office of Chief Counsel
    Phone: (202) 317-6855
    http://www.irs.gov/

    Sourcehttps://afdc.energy.gov/laws/319


    infrastructure tax credits also extended

    Fueling equipment for natural gas, propane, liquefied hydrogen, electricity, E85, or diesel fuel blends containing a minimum of 20% biodiesel installed through December 31, 2020, is eligible for a tax credit of 30% of the cost, not to exceed $30,000. Permitting and inspection fees are not included in covered expenses. Fueling station owners who install qualified equipment at multiple sites are allowed to use the credit towards each location. Consumers who purchased qualified residential fueling equipment (such as EV Charging equipement) prior to December 31, 2020, may receive a tax credit of up to $1,000. (Source: https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/10513 )

    IRS Forms and Links

    How do you file for credits? The Alternative Fuels Data Center says the Treasury Department will provide more details on the process on March 11. Claims may be submitted after Treasury issues guidance. Claims will be paid within 60 days after receipt.

     

    Other retroactively extended tax credis in HR 1865:

    • the $1.00-per-gallon tax credit for biodiesel and biodiesel mixtures, and the small agri-biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon, retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and prospectively through 2022 (for more information: https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/395 ) ;
    • the alternative fuel excise credit retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and through 2020;
    • the alternative fuel infrastructure credit retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and through 2020; and
    • the credit for qualified fuel cell vehicles retroactively for 2018 and 2019 and through 2020 (for more information: https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/350 ).

    The bill also:

    • includes $40 million for the DOE Clean Cities program – a nearly $3 million increase over last year;
    • includes $87 million for the EPA Diesel Emission Reduction grants; and
    • requires the Federal Highway Administration to approve all clean vehicle projects submitted prior to April 17, 2018, using the previous criteria (final assembly in the United States) and it directs the agency to review and respond to Buy America waiver requests within 60 days of submission.

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    Read more on this topic:


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    Notice of Intent to Issue a Vehicle Technologies Funding Opportunity

    Originally posted by the DOE EERE

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office has published a notice of intent to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) titled "Fiscal Year 2020 Advanced Vehicle Technologies Research FOA." The FOA will support a broad portfolio of advanced vehicle technologies that can strengthen national security, enable future economic growth, support American energy dominance, and increase transportation affordability for all Americans. This FOA may include the following topics:

    • Lithium-Ion Batteries using Silicon-Based Anode
    • Low Cost Electric Traction Drive Systems Using No Heavy Rare Earth Materials
    • Utility Managed Smart Charging
    • Platinum Group Metals Content Reduction to Enable Cost-Effective Aftertreatment for Gasoline and Diesel Engines
    • Improved Efficiency of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Natural Gas and Propane (LPG) Engines
    • Energy-Efficient Off-Road Technologies Directly Applicable to Agriculture Sector and/or Other Off-Road Vehicles
    • Lightweight and High-Performance Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Composites for Vehicle Applications
    • Energy Efficient Mobility Systems
    • Technology Integration
    • Transportation and Energy Analysis


    The Vehicle Technologies’ portfolio includes advanced batteries, electric drive systems; smart charging technologies; energy efficient mobility technologies and systems; advanced combustion engines and fuels; materials for vehicle light-weighting; technology integration, which includes work with the national network of Clean Cities coalitions; and transportation and energy analysis.

    View the Notice of Intent


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    Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) National Grants Now Open: 2020 Request for Applications

    Deadline to Apply - February 26, 2020 (11:59 p.m. ET)

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is excited to announce the availability of approximately $44 million in Diesel Emission Reduction Program (DERA) grant funds to support projects aimed at reducing emissions from the nation's existing fleet of older diesel engines. Under this competition, between 40 and 60 awards are anticipated to be made to eligible applicants.

    Application packages must be submitted electronically to EPA through Grants.gov (www.grants.gov) no later than Wednesday, February 26, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. (ET) to be considered for funding.

    Visit the DERA web page for more information

    Important Dates

    Activity Date
    Request for Applications (RFA) OPEN Monday, December 9, 2019
    Information Session Webinars
    Wednesday, December 11, 2019; 1:00 p.m. (ET)
     
    Wednesday, December 18, 2019; 3:00 p.m. (ET)
     
    Tuesday, January 14, 2020; 3:00 p.m. (ET)
     
    1+ (202) 991-0477, 4149804# (audio dial-in number)
    Questions and Answers Document
    Deadline for Submittal of Questions
    February 14, 2020 at 4 p.m. ET
    Deadline for Applications Wednesday, February 26, 2020, at 11:59  p.m. (ET)
    Notification of Selected Applicants May 2020
    Funding of Awards June-October, 2020


    Eligible Applicants

    The following U.S. entities are eligible to apply for DERA National Grants:

    • Regional, state, local or tribal agencies/consortia or port authorities with jurisdiction over transportation or air quality
    • Nonprofit organizations or institutions that represent or provide pollution reduction or educational services to persons or organizations that own or operate diesel fleets or have the promotion of transportation or air quality as their principal purpose.


    School districts, municipalities, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), cities and counties are all eligible entities to the extent that they fall within the definition above.


    Eligible Uses of Funding

    Eligible diesel vehicles, engines and equipment include:

    • School buses
    • Class 5 – Class 8 heavy-duty highway vehicles
    • Locomotive engines
    • Marine engines
    • Nonroad engines, equipment or vehicles used in construction, handling of cargo (including at ports or airports), agriculture, mining or energy production (including stationary generators and pumps).


    Grant funds may be used for diesel emission reduction projects including:


    Funds awarded under this program cannot be used to fund emission reductions mandated by federal law. Equipment for testing emissions or fueling infrastructure is not eligible for funding.

    Please refer to the full RFA for specific information about this competition.

    Informational Webinars

    2020 DERA National Grants

    Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at 12 to 1 p.m. CST
    Join at: https://meet.lync.com/usepa/swift.faye/TG550JGJ

    Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at 2 to 3 p.m. CST
    Join at: https://meet.lync.com/usepa/swift.faye/GKLCM5S6

    Wednesday, January 14, 2019 at 2 to 3 p.m. CST
    Join at: https://meet.lync.com/usepa/swift.faye/Q4CD0Z03

    Dial-In: (202) 991-0477
    Participant Code: 4149804#

    Webinar Highlights

    • Program Details
    • Changes This Year
    • Eligible Entities, Projects, Vehicles, Engines & Equipment
    • Funding: Availability, Project Funding Percentage, Restrictions
    • Proposal Submission
    • Evaluation Criteria
    • Potential Pitfalls
    • Tools, Resources and Support
    • Question & Answer Period


    If you have questions, please contact [email protected].

    Visit the DERA web page for more information


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