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Biomethane from Organic Wastes Could Quadruple by 2021

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Biomethane Availability and Usability

Utilization of green energy has progressed tremendously over the last few decades. However, many renewable and environmentally friendly sources of energy pose a challenge when it comes to availability or usability, or both. Solar energy for instance can be successfully harnessed only in regions which have a high amount of sunshine, wind turbines can be used to generate electricity only in areas with sufficient amount and power of the wind, etc. which makes their usability largely limited to regions which have ideal geographical or/and weather conditions. Biomethane production, on the other hand, has no such limits. On the contrary, methane which is derived from organic matter and is equivalent to fossil fuel derived methane when it comes to both chemical structure and usability can be produced just about everywhere.

Biomethane is produced by anaerobic digestion (bacterial breakdown in absence of oxygen) of organic matter such as organic household waste, dead animal and plant material, manure, slurry, sewage and other organic materials which are found in large quantities on literally every step all over the world. The usability of anaerobic digestion of organic matter for power generation was discovered many years ago, however, biogas plants were not economically feasible due to relatively low cost of natural gas and other fossil fuels just a few years ago. But due to highly unstable fossil fuel prices, fears that peak oil has already been reached and the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming, the interest in sustainable and environmentally friendly sources of energy has increased dramatically in the recent years. Renewable energy, however, accounts for a small part of the total global energy output.

This is partly related to the fact that efficient technology for power generation from alternative sources of energy has been developed only recently but it is partly also related to limited availability/accessibility to green sources of energy. But the percentage of global energy that is generated from renewable and environmentally friendly sources of energy is steadily rising also thanks to biomethane. It provides a stable and efficient source of energy to regions which do not have the ability to generate power from solar energy, wind power, etc. Biomethane production requires only collection of organic waste material and construction of biogas plants which are very simple in technological terms and relatively inexpensive in comparison to other green power generation facilities of comparable power output.

Usability is another great advantage of biomethane besides availability. Since it is identical to fossil fuel derived methane, it can be used for space heating, water heating, cooking, etc. but it can also be used for electricity generation and if compressed, as fuel for vehicles. Burning biomethane produces the same amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as burning the conventional natural gas. But in contrary to the latter, biomethane does not increase the greenhouse effect and global warming because its utilization produces the same quantity of greenhouse gases as if organic matter would be left to decompose in nature.

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Charge-as-You-Drive Could Ease Electric Vehicle Range Anxiety

Efforts to curb carbon emissions via government automobile regulation means that ultra-low emission vehicles, including pure electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids, will play an increasing role in the way we travel.

In California, for instance, by the 2025 model year, 15.4% of projected statewide sales of 1.75 million cars and light trucks sold by automakers will have to be zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). California will not be alone. Federal law permits other states to adopt California’s automotive emissions rules if they are stricter than federal regulations (and they are, since there is at present no federal ZEV mandate). As a result, nine other states and the District of Columbia say they will follow California and institute their own ZEV requirements.

However, among the current obstacles to widespread adoption of EVs are their long charging times and lack of available charging stations. Currently, the most common EV or hybrid EV power transfer system is the plug-in electric charger. These usually charge at between 3 kilowatts (kW) and 50kW (some, like the Tesla supercharger, can go up to 120kW) while the vehicle is stationary and switched off. This solution is adequate for charging at home or in parking garages since the vehicle must spend considerable time standing still.

However, what if the EV charging infrastructure could be extended via the application of inductive power transfer to the vehicle during driving? The concept is called Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer (DWPT) and studies have shown that introducing DWPT on roadways would increase the likelihood of consumers using an EV as their main car. The technology would address driver concerns about restricted driving range and the possibility of running out of power between charging stations.

Overview of the wireless inductive power transfer pads embedded underneath the roadway at Utah State University’s test track. Image source: Utah State University.

Overview of the wireless inductive power transfer pads embedded underneath the roadway at Utah State University’s test track. Image source: Utah State University.

From Tesla to Test Track

The principle of wireless power transfer is simple: it is an open-core transformer consisting of primary transmitter and secondary receiver coils and associated electronics. Magnetic induction (MI) schemes use an electromagnetic field of a given frequency generated by alternating current in the transmitter to induce a voltage in the receiver coil. (In a wireless inductive charging system, the primary coil resides in the charging device and the secondary coil is located in the device being charged.)

The notion that resonance could be used to improve wireless power transmission is well known. In 1894, Nikola Tesla was granted a patent for a resonant inductive coupling to supply electric current to the motors of streetcars from a stationary source. He proposed doing so without the use of contacts between the line conductor and the car motor.

The principle of wireless power transfer is simple; it is an open-core transformer consisting of primary transmitter and secondary receiver coils and associated electronics.

The principle of wireless power transfer is simple; it is an open-core transformer consisting of primary transmitter and secondary receiver coils and associated electronics.

Charge-as-you-drive technologies have already been pioneered in several places. In South Korea, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a wireless power transfer technology called OLEV, short for On-Line Electric Vehicles. It works using technology embedded beneath the road.

In the town of Gumi, a route has been built that allows buses to recharge while in motion. The technology supplies 60 kHz and 180 kW of power wirelessly to the transport vehicles. The route length is 35km, and the length of the DWPT section is 144m, comprised of four DWPT sections. Two buses are equipped to recharge while driving over this roadway; the OLEV buses have coils on their underside to pick up power through the electromagnetic field on the road. The DWPT system enables the buses to reduce the size of the reserve battery used to one-fifth that of the battery on board a typical electric car.

Bombardier, a leading manufacturer of planes and trains, has developed a charging system for trams called PRIMOVE. The technology allows vehicles to run continuously without overhead lines. A research project undertaken by Flanders DRIVE, a research organization supported by the Flemish government, allowed Bombardier to test its inductive charging technology on road-based vehicles using a test track built on a public road. During a feasibility study in Lomel, Belgium, between 2011 and 2013, a bus was retrofitted with the first-generation PRIMOVE system.

Two buses are equipped to recharge while driving over this roadway; the OLEV buses have coils on their underside to pick up power through the electromagnetic field on the road.

Two buses are equipped to recharge while driving over this roadway; the OLEV buses have coils on their underside to pick up power through the electromagnetic field on the road.

Fitting the bus with PRIMOVE charging equipment designed for a maximum energy transfer of 160kW proved the technical feasibility of high-power Two buses are equipped to recharge while driving over this roadway; the OLEV buses have coils on their underside to pick up power through the electromagnetic field on the road.

inductive energy transfer for electric buses both while parked (static charging) and while moving (dynamic charging). Bombardier is currently implementing a 200kW system for electric buses in Bruges, Belgium as well as in Braunschweig, Mannheim and Berlin in Germany. On the automotive side, the PRIMOVE team reports that it can offer its technology at three levels of charging power: 3.6kW, 7.2kW and 22kW.

Meanwhile in the United States, Utah State University has built an EV, roadway research facility and test track that uses wireless inductive power transfer pads embedded underneath the roadway. The installation allows EVs to charge while they are in motion. The facility, called EVR (for electric vehicle and roadway) has capacity for 750 kW of power with AC-to-track and DC-to-track provisions. Construction of the test track and lab building is complete with equipment, including a dynamometer for testing vehicle capabilities in place. Utah State’s EVR should be fully operational in the fall of 2015.

Ambitious UK Trials

One of the most ambitious trials may be in the UK where the government agency Highways England has announced plans to carry out test track trials of a wireless road-embedded EV charging technology. The trials will involve fitting vehicles with wireless technology and testing the equipment installed underneath the road. The trials are expected to last for approximately 18 months and, subject to the results, could be followed by tests on existing motorways. Additional details of the trials will be made available when a successful contractor has been appointed.

The upcoming trial follows a feasibility study conducted by Highways England that examined how wireless charging infrastructure might be installed in the country’s major roads. Two different example layouts for DWPT systems were investigated in the study:

Individual power transfer segments up to 8m in length would be combined into power transfer sections of up to 50m long (consisting of four segments with gaps between each segment). Up to two segments can be energized in any given 50m section. Power transfer was set up to 40kW for light vehicles and up to 100kW for buses, trucks or other heavy-duty vehicles. Each 50m segment could supply two vehicles with power.
Individual power transfer segments would be created up to 40m long. A gap of around 5m would be placed between adjacent segments. Each 40m segment could supply power to one vehicle. Power transfer was limited to 40kW for light vehicles and to 140kW for buses or trucks.

The Highways England analysis showed that under different traffic conditions—and using an assumed scenario for vehicle and technology penetration—average demand could be as high as 500kVA (0.5MVA) per mile. When use of the system fell short of the maximum value, the expected demand was found to be similar across both layouts. The number and length of segments under these conditions would not have an impact on total power demand, the study showed, as the number of power transfer segments that can be occupied is limited by the number of vehicles on the road. Power demand from the second layout example was found to be slightly higher than from the first example due to the higher power transfer capability for heavy-duty vehicles.

While the study concluded that systems with shorter coil lengths (up to 10m) are likely to be safer and better able to cope with higher utilization, different coil lengths will be investigated during the trials to understand the variability and implications on safety.

Highway England also considered three types of road construction for DWPT, including trench-based constructions (where a trench is excavated in the roadway for installation of the DWPT primary coils), full-lane reconstruction (where the full depth of roadway is removed, the primary coils installed and the lane is resurfaced), and full-lane pre-fabricated construction (where the full roadway is removed and replaced by pre-fabricated full-lane width sections containing the complete in-road system).

Both of the first two methods were found to be viable. The study concluded that the full lane pre-fabricated method is likely to be prohibitively expensive, although further investigation is required as this is a relatively new construction technique. The upcoming trials are expected to offer more data for all three proposed construction methods.

UK guarantees £2bn nuclear plant deal as China investment announced

Chancellor George Osborne has announced that the UK will guarantee a £2bn deal under which China will invest in the Hinkley Point nuclear power station.

Mr Osborne, who is in China, said the deal would pave the way for a final investment decision on the delayed project by French energy company EDF.

He said it would also enable greater collaboration between Britain and China on the construction of nuclear plants.

Reports suggest one such reactor could be built at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd told the Financial Times she wanted Beijing to take the lead in developing new nuclear plants in Britain.

She said China was expected to lead the construction of a Beijing-designed nuclear station at the Essex site.

Hinkley in numbers

£25bn Cost of new Hinkley plant
£5.2bn Cost overrun of EDF’s Flamenville plant in France
£89.5 Price per MW/hr guaranteed to EDF by government
£44 Current price per MW/hr of wholesale electricity in UK

World Nuclear News, Ofgem

EDF welcomed news of the government guarantee, but did not say if it put the project back on track.

Earlier this month, EDF admitted the Hinkley project in Somerset, which was intended to allow the plant to generate power by 2023, would be delayed.

In February, the firm announced that it had pushed back its decision on whether to invest in the plant.

It cannot afford the estimated £24.5bn cost of the plant on its own, so has been looking for financial partners to invest, particularly in China. This has proved difficult, which is why the government has had to step in to guarantee part of the cost.

The new power station would be Britain’s first new nuclear plant for 20 years and is expected to provide power for about 60 years.

Speaking in Beijing at a joint news conference with China’s Vice-Premier Ma Kai, Mr Osborne said: “We want the UK to be China’s best partner in the West. [This guarantee] paves the way for Chinese investment in UK nuclear [to help provide] secure, reliable, low carbon electricity for decades to come.”

He also announced a new £50m joint research centre for nuclear energy.

The difficult economics of nuclear power

By Richard Anderson, BBC business reporter

Nuclear power plants are mind-bogglingly expensive to build.

In China, relatively cheap labour means they typically cost between £6bn-£10bn, with the state-controlled economy providing the necessary regulatory and financial support.

But in the free markets of the West, they cost many times more. No private company can afford this amount of money, particularly given it will be almost 10 years before the plant is operational and can begin generating a cash return.

This is why governments have to get involved, providing subsidies of one sort or another.

Hence George Osborne’s announcement. The government has already guaranteed EDF a price – many would argue a very high price – for the electricity it generates at Hinkley, and now it is enticing the Chinese with investment guarantees.

Nuclear power: Energy for the future or relic of the past?

Q&A: Nuclear strike price

Mr Osborne said Chinese companies would receive a substantial stake in the project, with the UK government acting as guarantor for the investment.

The guarantee will be provided by the government’s Infrastructure UK Scheme, which provides finance for projects that have had difficulties raising money from private investors.

Ms Rudd told the BBC that nuclear power played an important part in Britain’s energy security.

“We want low-carbon electricity and if we’re going to hit our ambitious [emissions reduction] targets then we have to have nuclear,” she added.


By Robert Peston, BBC economics editor

What is most striking about George Osborne’s Chinese tour is he is doubling his political and economic bet on the world’s number two economy at a time when that economy is looking its most fragile for 30 years.

Today’s manifestation of the China bet is confirmation of a long-trailed loan guarantee – initially worth £2bn but likely to rise substantially – to bind in Chinese and French nuclear giants to their promised massive £24.5bn investment in the Hinkley Point C new nuclear plant.

This is certainly long-term strategic planning for more power security by Osborne and the government (well they would say). With oil fluctuating at between $40 and $50 a barrel, Hinkley’s prospective electricity looks scarily expensive.

China’s huge economic changes

The government has said Hinkley will provide up to 7% of Britain’s electricity needs from 2023.

EDF, which will continue to control the venture, has agreed to provide electricity from Hinkley at a guaranteed minimum price of £89.50 per MW/hr for 35 years. Renewable energy technologies have been given a guaranteed price for 15 years._85687811_energy_strike_prices_v3

Ms Rudd rejected criticisms that this was too expensive, saying nuclear power was “reasonably priced” compared with other low carbon sources of power.Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy, said the chancellor’s announcement was “further progress towards a final investment decision” on the plant.

He said: “The chancellor’s approval of the infrastructure guarantee is a clear sign of the government’s commitment to Hinkley Point C. The government’s determination to bring about a renewal of infrastructure and to attract inward investment to the UK are demonstrated by this good news.


But Greenpeace’s chief scientist Dr Doug Parr described the £2bn guarantee from George Osborne as “signing up the country for the ultimate rip-off deal”.

He added: “Instead of locking two generations of UK consumers into paying billions to foreign state-owned firms, Osborne should invest in the flexible, smart, and truly clean energy system that can power a 21st Century Britain without leaving a pile of radioactive waste as legacy.”

Other critics have raised concerns about the design of the new reactor, which will use new so-called EPR technology. Similar reactors being built in France and Finland are both late and way over budget.

The union Unite welcomed the government’s commitment to non-carbon nuclear power, but it said it should not allow China to build a plant in the UK, describing its nuclear technology as “unproven”.

Government Grant Awarded to Fuel UK Towards Sustainable Future

A consortium of UK companies led by advanced waste to energy and fuels company, Advanced Plasma Power (APP), has today been awarded £11m in government funding to develop and build the first-ever plant of its kind which will turn waste from local homes and businesses into a sustainable fuel to power heavy goods vehicles.

The grant has been awarded to APP and its partners National Grid, clean energy firm Progressive Energy, and CNG Services, a company which provides gas for use in vehicles, as part of a Department for Transport (DfT) programme to develop and commercialise the technologies required to decarbonise the transport sector.

The new APP plant in Swindon will be the first of its kind in the world and take residual waste – the UK’s largest sustainable source of biomass – and convert it into compressed biomethane, using APP’s pioneering Gasplasma® technology and will produce enough fuel for 75 heavy goods vehicles, equivalent to all of the buses operating in Swindon.

Biomethane can be used interchangeably with natural gas in heavy goods vehicles and is significantly less carbon-intensive and less polluting than diesel. It has the potential to cut transport carbon emissions by up to 96 per cent.

Construction of the plant will begin in 2016 and the consortium has already found local customers for the product and suppliers for the feedstock. The post-recycling residual waste will be provided by a local source, and the gas produced will be used by local haulage company, Howard Tenens, and consortium partner CNG Services.

The use of gas as a transport fuel is growing. John Lewis already uses it for some heavy goods vehicles, whilst some bus services operated in Reading and Sunderland also run on the fuel.

The consortium has been working together over the last five years on a project to produce a renewable natural gas made from waste that can be pumped into the UK’s gas pipeline network which provides an excellent means of distributing the fuel to where it is needed.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones announced news of the grant as part of £25 million awarded to winners of the Government’s Advanced Biofuels Demonstration Competition.

Rolf Stein, CEO of Advanced Plasma Power, said:

“APP is delighted to have been selected in this competition by the DfT. It recognises our position at the very forefront of environmental and technical innovation in the UK. The grant also highlights the important role our technology can play in producing clean biofuels from waste on a local basis, so as to help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from both the waste management as well as transport sectors without the requirement to give over large swathes of land to growing energy crops. From an economic, environmental and social perspective it presents a real triple win.

Our state-of-the-art process can unlock the enormous value of residual waste as a resource and provides a cost-effective means of converting such waste to fuels such as bio-methane. Our expectation is that this plant will lead the way to a new generation of ultimate recycling facilities both in the UK and around the world.”

Transport Minister, Andrew Jones said:
“This is a great example of our commitment to innovative transport technology and supporting jobs and growth.

Biofuels have an important role to play in keeping Britain moving forward in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way. This £25 million is not only a vital investment in technology that will help secure a greener future but will also support the creation of thousands of jobs.

Advanced biofuels have the potential to save at least 60% of the greenhouse gas emissions from the equivalent fossil fuel. Swindon’s successful bid shows how the government is investing in transport and making better, clean journeys.”

David Parkin, Director of Network Strategy at National Grid, said:
“National Grid provides a gas network across much of the country and is proud to be part of this pioneering Department for Transport (DfT) programme to decarbonise transport.

We believe that the use of renewable gas as a fuel in the transport sector will play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the future. The benefits of using household waste to create fuel for HGVs and busses is clear; lower emissions, quieter engine noise and favourable fuel prices.

“Green gas generation has been a technology that has seen particularly rapid growth in the last few years and this pioneering project is just one of the innovative renewable energy projects National Grid is involved with, working alongside a number of technical partners across the UK.”

Chris Manson-Whitton, Director of Progressive Energy, said:
“We are tremendously excited about this true waste-to-wheels project which exemplifies the circular economy. The award by the DfT is testament to the vision and dedication of the consortium. It is a springboard to exploiting our indigenous residual waste resource to provide a secure and low cost transport fuel for our truck and bus fleets.”

John Baldwin, Managing Director of CNG Services, said:
‘A high proportion of waste is not suitable for anaerobic digestion, the APP gasification pathway means that this waste will be able to be used as a vehicle fuel, with sufficient resource for all UK trucks to move from diesel to Bio-CNG. As such, this project is hugely significant in the journey to decarbonise transport by 2050.’

Wireless power transfer tech: Trials set for England’s offroads

Wireless charging technology that is built into the road, powering electric cars as they move, is to undergo trials on England’s offroads. Announced on Tuesday, the technology will address the need to power up electric and hybrid vehicles on England’s roads. The trials will get under way later this year.

Key questions that the trial will address: will the technology work safely and effectively? How will the tech allow drivers of ultra-low emission vehicles to travel longer distances without needing to stop and charge the car’s battery?

The announcement referred to “dynamic wireless power transfer” technologies where cars are recharged while on the move.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said that the government is already committing £500 million over the next five years to keep Britain at the forefront of this technology. The trials will involve fitting vehicles with wireless technology and testing the equipment, installed underneath the road, to replicate motorway conditions.

These are offroad trials and are expected to last for approximately 18 months. Subject to the results, they could be followed by on-road trials.

Highways England, the government-owned company in place for managing the core road network in England, had already commissioned a feasibility study for preparing a strategic road network for electric vehicles. TRL, a research, consultancy, testing and certification group for transport, was commissioned to look into Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) technology for use on motorways and roads to prepare for greater EV take-up.

TRL made the point at that time that “the purpose of the project is not to find an alternative to current plug-in charging infrastructure but rather to develop a comprehensive charging eco-system capable of delivering power to EVs via different methods.”

TRL added, “This is to facilitate greater and more flexible use of EVs in the UK, overcome range anxiety and allow switching to zero emission vehicles for vehicle types which have traditionally been accepted as not suitable for electrification, e.g. HGVs and coaches.”

To be sure, range anxiety has been one of the talked about factors challenging future uptake of EVs. Brian Milligan said in BBC News earlier this year, though, that figures from the UK car industry suggested “we might finally be waking up to the electric revolution.” He noted a jump in purchases of plug-in hybrids and that there were many more plug-in models to chose from; he also noted a network of charging points had expanded, in places in the UK where drivers can plug in.

Meanwhile, in the United States, “Some of the factors contributing to the relatively fast adoption of electric vehicles (EV) in some American metropolitan markets have been identified and characterized by a new study from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT),” reported Clean Technica. The dominant factors included, among others, a broader range of offerings, as well as a more developed charging infrastructure.


Anaerobic Digestion deployment in the United Kingdom

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Advanced Thermal Treatment of Municipal Solid Waste

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The Viability of Advanced Thermal Treatment of MSW in the UK

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