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Fuel Tanks Made of Corncob Waste

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the corncob-pipes dept.

Power 176

Roland Piquepaille writes "The National Science Foundation is running a story on how corncob waste can be used to created carbon briquettes with complex nanopores capable of storing natural gas. These methane storage systems may encourage mass-market natural gas cars. In fact, these 'briquettes are the first technology to meet the 180 to 1 storage to volume target set by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2000.' They can lead to flat and compact tanks and have already been installed in a pickup truck used regularly by the Kansas City Office of Environmental Quality. And as the whole natural gas infrastructure exists already, this new technology could be soon adopted by car manufacturers."

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176 comments

Further adaptions (3, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099530)

Perhaps they could use this technology for the tailpipe, too...

CORNCOB IN THE CORNHOLE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099676)

It's the Macworld Conference & Expo all over again.

-ipoop

Re:Further adaptions (2, Informative)

AP2k (991160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099744)

Because engines have to vent exhaust gases through a pipe with very little backpressure, that makes little sense. Can you breate through a brick of charcoal running a marathon, let alone sitting in your chair?

Didnt think so. Thats why engines stall when you plug their exhaust pipes.

As for the topic at hand, I am pretty excited about it. The volume of the average gas tank is 15 gallons, so that makes a 2700 gallon tank for methane thats the same size as a gasoline tank. 2700 gallons of methane makes approxiamately 360,000 BTUs. Unfortunately thats roughly equivalent to only 3 gallons of gasoline. But hey, you can make methane from biomass alot easier than gasoline and propane will yeild higher energy densities, assuming this breakthrough can be adapted to store propane with adequate storage compression.

Re:Further adaptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099836)

Quick, I think your sense of humor needs an emergency bypass. . .

The GP was jokingly talking about a corn cob pipe (you know, and a button nose, and two eyes made out of coal). The tail pipe could be a corn cob pipe.

Seriously, I think you need to go take a nap or drink a cup of coffee.

Re:Further adaptions (2, Informative)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099848)

A better way to recover the internal combustion dissipated energy is probably through some small steam engine. Didn't BMW try that? http://www.gizmag.com/go/4936/ [gizmag.com]

Old technology, in fact (1)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100650)

The Still marine engine had Diesel cycle on the top of the piston and steam cycle under the piston (in a marine engine the wrist pin is not inside the piston but attached to a crosshead, with a rod attached to the piston, so this does not mean water in the crankcase.)

Like every other single attempt to add complexity for a marginal gain in efficiency, it was not a success. All engineering involves tradeoffs: combining technologies with different metallurgical, thermal, gasflow etc. requirements means that none of the combined technologies ever function with peak efficiency. (The hybrid is a rare exception because the characteristics of internal combustion engines and electric motors are complementary, but even there it has taken something like 140 years of development of IC engine powered generator technology to make it work.)

Re:Further adaptions (1)

zakezuke (229119) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101210)

A better way to recover the internal combustion dissipated energy is probably through some small steam engine. Didn't BMW try that? http://www.gizmag.com/go/4936/ [gizmag.com]

I did think about doing something similar to power an air conditioner. There is alot of wasted heat which can be used to generate engery.

Re:Further adaptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100134)

AP2K, you're an idiot. You completely missed the joke and made yourself look like a total dork.

Re:Further adaptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100910)

Speaking of tailpipes, I can imagine an innovative use for corncobs and Roland P.

Re:Further adaptions (1)

tobiasly (524456) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101488)

Perhaps they could use this technology for the tailpipe, too...

Let's not be too hasty here... we all remember that tragic day over a decade ago when NASA's Straw Shuttle [theonion.com] project ended in catastrophe. We must introduce these organic technologies very carefully when dealing with such explosive substances.

Infrastrucutre in place? (1, Informative)

Lockejaw (955650) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099540)

There may be a production/distribution infrastructure already active, but we still have to wait for gas stations to actually carry this stuff. If nobody sells it, nobody can buy and use it.
Speaking of which, how many have actually seen a gas station that sells E85?

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (1, Offtopic)

AP2k (991160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099706)

There is a site online that has a database telling the location of E85 or straight ethanol distributors. For my state, the only one is a space center. So much for corn ethanol. Ive been saying it for quite some time that corn ethanol is a pipe dream and will always be that, but thats for another topic. http://www.e85refueling.com/ [e85refueling.com]

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (1)

josquint (193951) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099716)

Speaking of which, how many have actually seen a gas station that sells E85?

I live in a town of about 15,000 and we have 5 stations with e-85. Out of about 12-15 total This is minnesota though, and its pushed like crazy by the polititians.

I've tried the stuff, and I broke even between the price/mileage drop. Its definitly less per gallon, but at only 2/3 the MPG and 2/3 the acceleration power, I'll take gasoline. Gas costs within $.015/mile of e-85 here, and the performance drop makes my car a sloth in commute traffic... Nice idea though...

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (4, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099956)

While I am not a big fan of ethanol I have to say the problems you are having are because E85 cars are flex fuel cars.
If you knew that you where only going to run ethanol you could run a much higher compression ratio in the engine and or much more spark advance. That would give you mileage and performance much closer to gasoline.
You can actually make more power running alcohol than gasoline that is why they use in at Indy and for dragsters. Top alcohol dragsters are faster than gas powered cars. Now Top fuel uses alcohol because it mixes better with nitro.

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (2, Interesting)

general scruff (938598) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100284)

Different engines react differently to E85. Saab has a 9-5 series car with a turbo that runs differently depending on what fuel is used. With regular Gas, it runs the turbo at around 9 Pounds (if memory serves), but with E85, which has a 105 octane rating, it bumps the PSI to 17-18. The performance numbers are not too shabby. The problem happens when you have these "Flex Fuel" cars that will run both, without changing any parameters. Right now, they are probably statically tuned to get more out of Gas, and not so much E85 (I can't back that statement up). But consider that the octane rating of regular unleaded is around 89. Timing becomes critical depending on the octane rating (the more octane, the more aggressively you can set your timing) and you are bound to have the type of performance degradation you were talking about.

Feel free to rip this unsubstantiated post apart! =)

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100420)

and the performance drop makes my car a sloth in commute traffic... Nice idea though...

which is why i think that current flex-fuel vehicles are not a particularly optimal idea.

ethanol has quite different characteristics to normal gas, the main thing being it has a much higher octane. getting the most out of this would require higher compression, forced induction, etc., but since these cars also need to be able to run on straight gas, you can't do that and thus performance goes in the crapper.

ideally, some kind of sensor in the tank would be able to detect the octane of the fuel in the tank (straight gas (cheap, mid, premium?), straight ethanol, or something in between) and adjust such things accordingly, though I'm not a chemist or a mechanic, so i have no idea is this is at all possible and/or feasible to build.

though i have heard of a dual-fuel engine (the Saab Biopower engine) that adjusts the turbocharger in such a manner and it gets a performance boost (about 36 more hp) when running on ethanol and also has the same mileage as it would running on straight gas.

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (1)

Ericular (876826) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100704)

I have also broken even with mileage/cost ratio vs. gasoline... but I have seen no drop in performance (a slight gain, if anything). I assume this means that the engine (2001 Ford Taurus) is sensing the change and adjusting accordingly for optimum performance (as much as is possible in a flex-fuel engine). Can anyone confirm this?

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099726)

There are several in my area...but I live in a Midwest state that produces corn.

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (1)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099900)

The carcoal stuff just stores the gas right? Don't need much in the way of infrastructure...just hook up a hose to your gas meter. (yes, I know the connectors and safety considerations are a bit bigger then that, but the general concept is there.

And to answer the E-85 question, the fueling stations are still pretty sparse, but there are two regular gas stations in the Portland, OR area that carry it now. One of them is on my way home...if I had a compatable vehicle I would be fueling up there sometimes. For fueling stations in your area, look here: http://www.e85refueling.com/ [e85refueling.com]

Also note that there is a difference between an E-85 compatable vehicle (FFV), and a vehicle specifically designed for E-85. Flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) actually get 5-20% less MPG vs. regular gasoline as the compression ratio isn't high enough in them to operate efficiently on E-85. Boosting the compression ratio to near 15:1 would allow them to get better MPG numbers then regular gasoline but then they would no longer be compatable with regular gas. Currently there are no vehicles sold in the USA designed specifically for running Ethanol (even though they are sold in other countries). It's a catch-22: carmakers dont want to sell the cars till there are sufficient pumps to support them and the pumps aren't popping up very fast because the flex[transition] vehicles are not very efficient so demand is small. With OPEC suddenly managing oil prices very tightly to make sure gasoline undercuts ethanol in the US and some other places, don't expect this situation to change very quickly.

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (1)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100006)

I'm not sure about E85 in my area (Eastern Ontario, Canada), but a lot of houses have natural gas run to them. It has to be possible to use that already available natural gas to fill cars that use it.

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (1)

iogan (943605) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100044)

Speaking of which, how many have actually seen a gas station that sells E85?
I've seen loads of them, in fact I would venture a guess that about half of them here do. Here being Sweden, by the way.

Re:Infrastrucutre in place? (1)

Your Pal Dave (33229) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100368)

CNG [slashdot.org] has been in fairly wide use for decades, mostly for fleets in areas with Air Pollution issues. Here's a site [energy.gov] with locations for CNG, E85, Hydrogen, biodiesel, etc, etc...

Fine, until... (2, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099544)

That's all great, until I go out in the morning and find that the damned raccoons have eaten through my gas tank and drunk all my biofuel. Varmints!

Re:Fine, until... (1)

angst_ridden_hipster (23104) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100386)

Having had rats eat the insulation off my spark cables, I can see this as a problem.

My only regret is that I wasn't able to crank the engine over why they were still gnawin'... ain't nothing like the smell of flash-fried rat.

Wait until they fart! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100730)

With a 180 to 1 storage volume of methane, you're going to have a very big mess to clean up.

That'll serve those little buggers right though!

Between this and corn-derived ethanol... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099554)

soon the whole vehicle will be made of corn! Finally science has found a way to let me eat my car.

Re:Between this and corn-derived ethanol... (4, Funny)

Perseid (660451) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099588)

"Hooey, it's hot in here. Hey, bob, what's that popping sound outside?"

"Oh, my God! My car!"

Re:Between this and corn-derived ethanol... (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099698)

a car completely made of plant matter?

Someone's been watching too much Cheech and Chong.

Supply? (4, Interesting)

rsmith-mac (639075) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099562)

These methane storage systems may encourage mass-market natural gas cars.

Do we even have enough natural gas for this to work? I thought it was expected to run low about the time petroleum was.

Re:Supply? (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099720)

Fossil fuel natural gas is also a finite source. But dont forget America alone has 100 million cows and about 120 million pigs. Cant guess how many million chicken. All their waste produced methane. Currently their wastes are a mixture of methane, nutrient rich fertilizer and small amounts of extremely stinky gases mainly H2S.

If these can be seperated you get so many benefits. Pollution/odour abatement, organic fertilizer, auto fuel, green house gas emission reduction, etc etc. Last time I actually did the calculation I came up with six cows can keep one car running. With a million cow, we are talking about 15% reduction in oil consumption. Since we import 50% of the oil, this would represent 30% reduction in oil imports. Add the pigs and chicken, we can run our cars on their shit instead of importing oil from the middle east. On national security standpoint alone, we should be investing very heavily on recovering fuel from farm waste.

Re:Supply? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099784)

That would be awesome. If I was getting low on fuel, I could just pull over, pinch out a deuce, and I'd be set until I got to the next gas station.

Re:Supply? (4, Interesting)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099846)

Biomass would be a good way to make methane renewable. However, the trick is removing all the impurities, such as carbon dioxide from the raw gas. Right now, that isn't very cost-effective, compared to some natural gas wells. Heck, the United States would have quite a bit more petroleum-derived natural gas for its use if an inexpensive way to remove carbon dioxide were developed (many sources of natural gas are contaminated with varing levels of carbon dioxide, some to the point that they are unusable).

Re:Supply? (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100456)

Another good thing if you use biomass such as manure etc to make biogas in an anaerobic digester is that you actually cut back on methane (which is a greenhouse gas, 20 times more so than CO2 according to wikipedia) emissions into the atmosphere. If the used biomass would be left to decompose by itself it would emit the methane anyway. And it's not like you are wasting the fertilizing properties of the manure since one of the byproducts is methanogenic digestate which is an excellent fertilizer.

More about anaerobic digestion at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaerobic_digestion [wikipedia.org]

P.S I live in a municipality (about 150 000 ppl) where buses, taxis and municipality vehicles are mostly biogas vehicles. So it scales reasonably and works well as far as I can tell.

Re:Supply? (1)

LunaticTippy (872397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100906)

There are cheap(ish) ways to remove carbon dioxide. Membranes have been around since the 80s that allow co2 through and keep methane behind. Maybe that's vice-versa. You just run pre-treated gas through the membrane under pressure and get purified gas.

Re:Supply? (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101182)

Perhaps you were thinking of this [nist.gov].

One-third of the natural gas reserves in the United States cannot be used because of excessive contamination with nitrogen and/or carbon dioxide. Engelhard Corporation had developed some adsorption system technology to address this. However, at the time the project was conceived in 1999, it was considered too preliminary and too high risk despite its potential benefits to the natural gas market. ATP support enabled the development of this promising technology, and provided the means for Engelhard Corporation to partner with universities possessing the special scientific and engineering expertise needed to bring the adsorption system technology to commercial fruition.

Re:Supply? (1)

pkulak (815640) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101444)

If someone can figure out how to take the impurities out of the air in my living room after I've come home from El Torito's, I'd call that a pretty good, renewable source of methane.

Re:Supply? (1)

quincunx55555 (969721) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099772)

Actually, from the data that I've seen, the natural gas supplies are far worse than our petroleum supply. If there's a new resource we should turn to, it should at least be more abundant than what we currently have. That is, unless we're able to use it so efficiently that we don't need as much.

In most alternative-fuel cases the same engine we use today is still used, the same amount of explosion is required, so the efficiency hasn't changed (or is usually less than what gasoline can do).

Why are these people bothering with fossil fuels anyway? Seems like a big waste of time considering how many alternatives are out there that will either work in a limited capacity initially, or are very close to becoming a reality.

Re:Supply? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099916)

The are bothering with portable fuel storage.

Re:Supply? (1)

quincunx55555 (969721) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100032)

I understand that, but doing so with a fuel source that is already more scarce than what we are currently using. If I can power a vehicle with Dodo birds great, but if there aren't any, then my work would be mostly a waste of time.

Re:Supply? (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100168)

Two reasons:

1. Natural gas is something that the US has a fair bit of. If we swap our natural gas for Middle East oil, it shifts the balances of power in a way that's very positive for the US, even if it does nothing for greenhouse gas emissions or long-term energy stability.

2. Natural gas may be renewable. It's easier to produce biologically than gasoline is, and perhaps easier than ethanol. There's research to be done there, as well as on other natural sources like methane hydrates.

So it may or may not be a long-term solution, but managing a national economy involves short-term as well as long-term solutions.

Re:Supply? (1)

quincunx55555 (969721) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100250)

Ok, so what if our short-term solution depletes our natural gas supply entirely in 3-5 years (very possible, depending on scale of adoption). Then we crawl back to the Mid-East and have no way of heating many US homes? How is natural gas renewable, btw? That's new to me.

Re:Supply? (1)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100546)

Natural Gas, being the generally used name for naturally occuring methane trapped in rock strata, is not particularly renewable (and is usually mixed up with smaller amounts of other gaseous alkanes). However, there are many processes, both biological and otherwise, that produce methane in decent quantities. So, yeah, methane is renewable. We're just stuck with partial homonymic terminology that confuses us.

Re:Supply? (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101154)

If the term is three years, yeah, it's not a good plan. But if it buys us, say, two decades, that would be plenty of time to put the OPEC nations out of business.

In fact, even partial adoption over a mere five years would be enough to sink the price of oil dramatically and reduce the free income of the OPEC nations. That would give the US considerably more breathing room in its foreign policy with those nations. It's all about margins: right now the margins are massive and they take in oodles of cash. Drop the price of a barrel of oil by half and you're reducing their profit by more like 90%.

(I'm not trying to turn this political, at least not US political. I don't know if the President, either the current one or a future one, will be able to use that breathing room wisely or not.)

I will admit to a bias that I don't like the way many oil producing countries (both Middle Eastern and Venezuela) have tremendous antipathy towards the US, and that the profits from oil help turn that antipathy into action. So for me, at least in the term of a decade or so, I care a lot about replacing oil with anything that is a net energy win.

That certainly puts us at risk of other issues: another huge natural gas producer is Russia, and they're famous for not being real friendly with us, either. I'd pray that the US would be wise enough to use its time to develop even more technologies to free us from that, too, though I'm afraid that we've a history of being short-sighted.

Re:Supply? (1)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099938)

What's a better alternative? I see storage as a potential problem as well with anything else. Liquids gas is just too convinient...

In the future, I would probably opt for large nuclear power stations that regenerate their fuel (currently not allowed in US) with everyone driving small electrical vehicles. The vehicles could either be rechargable or standard batteries would be created so they could be swapped (equal for equals). They could either be recharged at home/at work, or have stations along the highways that would to that. If in the future we manage to harness nuclear fusion and have even more efficient power generation without much waste, the infrastructure will already be in place, ready to be used -- just replace the power stations.

Re:Supply? (1)

fastcoke11 (805687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100110)

That shouldn't be too far off. I don't have a link to it, but I do remember hearing from a researcher in the field that they were working on getting a reactor together that works off Boron fusion. Not the same type of radioactivity as fission creates, so the danger is much much less - that is, the shielding isn't needed. He was giving an example of how they could create a reactor the size of a standard refrigerator. Also, with the world's supply of Boron, we could run ten times the world's energy consumption for 1 billion years through this process. Now THAT'S something we should be investing in.

Re:Supply? (1)

quincunx55555 (969721) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100190)

A better alternative to natural gas?

Electricity, as you mentioned. Which can be generated via wind, solar, geothermal, or all of the above. Hydrogen, obtained through electricity (generated by the previously mentioned methods). Pressurized air, biodiesel, grease/veg oil (already being used). Hemp hurds, processed into solid/liquid/gas fuels through pyrolysis. Alcohol (methanol, not ethanol).

With some of these methods the only argument I've heard is, "You couldn't possibly exchange all of our current petroleum consumption with X". Which is true in almost every case. I think the solution is to start adopting as many clean (and sensible) methods as possible to diminish our current "dirty" paradigm, and to become more self-reliant on our energy needs.

If using hydrogen can only handle 10% of the population, great, that's 10% less. What if alcohol can take care of 5% more? Biodiesel 30% more? Right there we're at 45% reduction in petroleum dependency, even if they could only handle 5% each it would still help.

Beyond Thunderdome (1)

jhines (82154) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099816)

Is a movie example of how it can be solved. Corn in, methane out, more or less.

it's in the ocean (1)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101312)



Methane is a gas created by animals and insects (termites). Currently it mostly escapes into the atmosphere where it damages the ozone layer. As other posters have responded, it can be harvested from pig farms or garbage dumps. Methane and other natural gas hydrates are also found frozen at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in massive quantities [sciencenews.org].

Unlike traditional fossil fuels like petroleum, methane can be generated in very short time spans and as a byproduct to other production activities (bacon). The problem remains that burning anything is not a clean energy source. Natural gas cars will still emit carbon dioxide, which is one of the main problems we're grappling with in terms of global warming. The plus side is that this fuel source might help Americans put fewer of their dollars in Middle Eastern pockets.

Seth

Scary (1)

Perseid (660451) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099566)

I don't have any scientific reason for saying this, but that sounds...dangerous to me. A gaseous car fuel seems like asking for trouble.

Re:Scary (1)

CommunistHamster (949406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099608)

How more so than a liquid one? Both will burn very well. In fact, a gas fueled car may be slightly safer in accidents. When the tank is punctured in an accident (and if the fuel doesn't explode), then it dissipates into the air, rather than pooling around the car to watch fire later.

Re:Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099622)

As opposed to carrying around 20 gallons of highly flammable gasoline in one of the most accident prone areas of your vehicle?

Re:Scary (2, Insightful)

Aqua_boy17 (962670) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099734)

It's already being done. Been to Disney lately? Their trams and many other vehicles arlready run on natural gas. Same with the National Park Service in some areas. You probably have an LP tank sitting there under your back yard BBQ grill. When was the last time you heard of one of these blowing up? The problem with this is not the nature of the fuel, but in how you store it. Pretty strict regulations are in place in the US that regulate the manufacutre and limit the life of LP tanks (I think it's 12 years). I can't recall ever hearing of one of these accidentally exploding. Granted, adding it to a fast moving (highway speed) vehicle increases the danger but it's already in use in a lot of slower moving vehicles.

Re:Scary (1)

Undertaker43017 (586306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100080)

"You probably have an LP tank sitting there under your back yard BBQ grill. When was the last time you heard of one of these blowing up?"

Last 4th of July, but that did involve alcohol (consumption) and a rifle...

Re:Scary (1)

fastcoke11 (805687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100162)

Further evidence to support Darwin's theory of Natural Selection.

Re:Scary (1)

Undertaker43017 (586306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100444)

Sorry can't help you out there, no one has ever died (or even been seriously hurt) at our 4th parties, we can try harder this year though, if it's really important to you.

Re:Scary (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100188)

Here in Linköping, Sweden the overhelming majority of buses, municipality vehicles and taxis all run on biogas (i.e. methane made with anaerobic digestion) and safety has never been an issue. Translated from the FAQ:

Question: Is it dangeour to fill the tank and drive with biogas?

Answer: No. The cars are tested in the same way as petrol cars. The system is close with means that leaks are avoided while filling up the tank. The gas is lighter than air and non-poisonous and has a higher ignition temperature than petrol or diesel. The risk for fires or explosion in case of a traffic accident is because of that lower than if you compare with gasoline or diesel vehicle.

It is Now all about COST (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099594)

Lots of talk in the article, but no hard dollar facts.

Cost of methane.
Cost of storage.
Cost of transportation.
Cost of local distribution & storage.
Cost of the delivery pump & tankage system in the vehicle.

Alt fuels (1)

lonechicken (1046406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099642)

I for one am still waiting for the day when cars can run on used cans and banana peels. Then I can cruise down the Main Street strip with my homey Doc Brown and impress the chicks.

Natural gas is great fuel (4, Informative)

asadodetira (664509) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099662)

Compressed natural gas (mostly methane and low C alkanes) has been in use in Argentina for years, it's cheaper and cleaner than gasoline, the autonomy of compressed gas is lower but for city driving it doesn't matter, and cars can still use gasoline because the engine has only minor modifications. This method seems to admit lower pressure in the tank, and might enable to store more gas without need of thick heavy steel was for containing it. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Re:Natural gas is great fuel (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099914)

This method seems to admit lower pressure in the tank, and might enable to store more gas without need of thick heavy steel was for containing it. Sounds like a good idea to me.
500 PSI vs 3,600 PSI (steel tanks)
It's still quite a bit of pressure.

P.S. the captcha was "bicycles"

Re:Natural gas is great fuel (3, Interesting)

virtual_mps (62997) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099972)

Sounds like a good idea to me.
Sounds like an idiotic idea to me. Natural gas was billed as a cheap, clean fuel years ago. So people started using it, for houses, electricity generation, industry, etc. Now natural gas is an overused resource, with oversubscribed pipelines, severe seasonal price shocks, etc. Why on earth would we start converting cars to use an energy source that's already overutilized? It's going to be a lot easier to deploy a more sensible alternative vehicle fuel (e.g., biodiesel) than to convert tens of millions of furnaces, power plants, and other durable consumers to use something else because the natural gas distribution network can't cope with the demand of a bunch of new cars trying to use it also.

Re:Natural gas is great fuel (4, Interesting)

juancn (596002) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100406)

You are forgetting that natural gas can be replaced by gas made from decomposing organic matter (i.e. trash), which is renewable (although the CO2 emmisions are still there, but it's the same with biodiesel).

Adapting a regular gasoline car to natural gas, costs around U$S 700 in Argentina. The equipment pays itself after a year or so.

The economics may be different in the US, though. For example, some year ago, before natural gas was widespread, we used a mixture of regular-gas and ethanol on some parts of the country (no modifications to the engine required, but as with natural gas, a thicker engine oil is needed). The biggest problem was that the fuel hoses and some plastics in the car worn out faster due to the ethanol.

Brazil still has widespread use of ethanol mixed with the gas.

Re:Natural gas is great fuel (1)

asadodetira (664509) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100678)

Well, I see what you mean with the problems with natural gas in the US. But sooner or later you have to expand the infrastructure, the same goes for the electrical grid. All these new energy ideas are good, but true energy savings in transportation would take a re-thinking of housing and commuting patterns, which might take decades to happen, or a sustained large increase in gasoline prices. If you lived really close to the stores, your friends and your workplace what do you need cars for?.

It will be interesting to see (1)

jdcool88 (954991) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099678)

how this all plays out. While the lower cost of natural gas sounds good, will it be offset by a lower efficiency? Are supplies of natural gas plentiful enough for a large-scale changeover? Will the oil tycoons simply create artificial scarcity to drive prices up, similarly to how they currently do with gasoline? How will the use of natural gas effect engines over extended use? As someone else said, there is a lot of talk in the article, but no hard facts. For now, I have a lot of questions as to the long-term viability of natural gas as a fuel for automobiles.

Pickup truck? (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099780)

So why does the Kansas City Office of Environmental Quality need a pickup truck? Or is this another technology that requires a larger vehicle to demonstrate any feasibility?

Re:Pickup truck? (1)

green453 (889049) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099850)

I saw this pickup just two days ago. It struck me as odd that it had a little "Powered by Natural Gas" sticker on it as I had never seen that on a passenger vehicle before.

I know that a lot of environmental agency vehicles have to carry around a fair bit of testing equipment, so this one may have been filled with it. It definitely didn't have any extra racks or hoses on it like you sometimes see on water quality testing vehicles, but the bed may have had some equipment in it. I couldn't really tell though as my car sits pretty close to the ground and I was looking up at the thing. It did have rather a nice, environmentally friendly looking (color-wise) paint job, however.

Re:Pickup truck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100826)

I saw this pickup just two days ago. It struck me as odd that it had a little "Powered by Natural Gas" sticker on it as I had never seen that on a passenger vehicle before.

Check the plates? Probably a city government car. Municipal fleets are easy targets for NG conversions, since they always refuel at the depot and never leave the city.

Re:Pickup truck? (2, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100280)

To demonstrate to the general public that it works with the vehicles they drive. Small pickup trucks are very popular and have lots of uses. It is a good way to show the public they don't need to drive some California-left-winger-little-wind-up-toy vehicle. Like it or not, that is the perception many people have hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles. It is a lot easier to simply say "no, it's a pickup truck" than try and educate everyone and change their tastes.

Who owns the IP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099970)

Cornholio already owns the patent on this.

He said he would share it if you give him TP for his bunghole.

One small change is needed (2, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100500)

I hope they also use mesquite in their charcoal. I like my car exhhaust to have that flavor that only mesquite can deliver.

Will the new engines come with a grill?

How it's made (3, Informative)

Mr.Sharpy (472377) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101020)

Here's a neat poster [missouri.edu] (pdf link) about how these briquettes are made.

It looks ultra simple to do. This poster references only 120:1 storage ratio, so maybe there have been process changes that have improved storage capacity. Maybe this will also help with fuel cells that run on methane to provide portable electrical power too. I think this could be an exciting development.

For those hand-wringing about eco issues (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101106)

...you're a bunch of alarmist buffoons.

Anything you can do with natural gas from a well can be done with methane. It's very easy to produce. Here's how it works. You've got a pond with a tent over it. The pond is full of beneficial bacteria. "Fresh" water (can be contaminated) and sewage are introduced into the bottom center of the pond. Over time the system is colonized with algae. The algae and other organisms digest the sewage, resulting in lots of algae (a resource itself), fairly clean water, and methane (mostly.) The methane can be captured and the algae can be harvested; the algae can be used to make either alcohol or biodiesel depending on what kind it is - some have more carbohydrates, some have more oil.

Right now, a lot of our sewage treatment systems, even the ones that look like oil refineries, are producing and flaring off methane. This is stupid. It should be captured and used. In fact a lot of agricultural producers of shit, like pig farms, are starting to use this technology to power their farms - and in many cases they actually produce enough power not only to run their operation, but to actually make a profit by selling excess to the grid. The resulting effluent has been "cooked" to the point where it can be applied directly to the crops as fertilizer. Normally this is achieved by storing it in an uncovered holding pond for months, where the methane simply escapes.

If we simply applied this technology to waste treatment plants and forced it on those who have a lot of animal shit currently posing a health hazard, we could get a lot of power and it would actually save money for everyone involved.

Re:For those hand-wringing about eco issues (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101392)

We could finally get the lights back on in Bartertown!

-Eric

Fuel Tank Made From Corncob?? (1)

mikefitz (954613) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101136)

Corncob waste does NOT seem like the appropriate engineering material for fuel tank construction.

Alternative Energy? (1)

Bo0bMeIsTeR (1066964) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101442)

What exactly does this do for alternative energy, i thought we were attempting to avoid oil gas, and coal? How small exactly? Are we talking laptops powered with natural gas small? Or just a minimal reduction in size, either way, i don't see much benefit, couldn't those corn cobs be better used to make biodiesel instead?
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