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Low Pressure CNG Tanks Coming?

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  • Low Pressure CNG Tanks Coming?

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    Home / News Releases / 2009
    Corncobs Key to Licensing Agreement for Natural Gas Storage Tanks
    MU Researchers collaborate with company to take green technology on the road

    May 13, 2009

    Story Contact: Christian Basi, (573) 882-4430, [email protected]

    COLUMBIA, Mo. - Ground corncobs, a plentiful agricultural by-product in Missouri and surrounding Corn Belt states, are the main ingredient in a new technology that may soon power natural-gas-powered vehicles on the country's highways. The technology vital to making this a reality was developed by Peter Pfeifer, professor and chair of the MU Department of Physics, and Galen Suppes, professor of chemical engineering. Pfeiffer and Suppes led a team of researchers, including Carlos Wexler, associate professor of physics at MU, who have been involved with ongoing research associated with this project.

    MU recently licensed the technology to ANG Containment and Delivery Systems, a Wyoming firm, which is required by the license, to build its first production plant in Missouri. The agreement gives ANG a worldwide exclusive license to produce high-surface-area carbon from the corncobs for ground transportation vehicles. The initial goal of ANG is to utilize the high-surface-area carbon in natural gas tanks for ground transportation vehicles within the next year. The company will employ as many as 50 people and use the technology to replace the gasoline fuel tanks in food and beverage delivery vehicles, garbage trucks, box trucks and short-haul semis with natural gas tanks. Currently, these vehicles are some of the highest emitters of greenhouse gases.

    "There are many advantages to using natural gas as an alternative fuel," said David Pape, ANG's executive officer. "First, natural gas is abundant and relatively inexpensive in the United States. There also are much lower operating costs, and natural-gas-powered vehicles emit far fewer greenhouse gasses than those burning diesel. This technology also addresses many of the disadvantages of using higher pressure compressed natural gas, such as the expensive infrastructure required for filling stations, safety in collisions, and integration into existing vehicle designs."

    Through their research, the MU team found that corncob carbon briquettes had a very large amount of surface area, capable of storing natural gas at much lower pressures and in greater quantity than current technologies allow. The surface area inside a carbon briquette, which is approximately 3.5 inches in diameter and 1.5 inches tall, is equal to about 60 football fields. In addition, by storing the natural gas at lower pressures, the storage tanks can be virtually any shape, rather than having to be cylindrical when using compressed natural gas.

    "An agreement was signed March 17," said Wayne McDaniel, a senior licensing associate in MU's Office of Technology Management and Industry Relations (TMIR) who negotiated the agreement. McDaniel, who operates from TMIR's first satellite office - located in the College Engineering - said ANG's commitment represents the first plant to make this specialized carbon in Missouri and that the project is expected to yield both construction and long-term operation jobs.

    "We are very excited to see the adsorbed natural gas technology, which the Alliance for Collaborative Research in Alternative Fuel Technology (ALL-CRAFT, a partnership between MU and the Midwest Research Institute, Kansas City) showcased on a test vehicle in Kansas City in 2007, move to a stage that will make natural gas vehicles a widely attractive alternative to gasoline and diesel vehicles," Pfeifer said.

    "Our plans are to develop a scalable production facility to produce high-surface-area carbon and the tanks to hold it, in a cost-effective and reliable manner," Pape said. "Site selection and facility construction planning is an ongoing process."

    "Because this is a new and better material, there is an opportunity to build a world-recognized research program that can lead to many breakthroughs," Suppes said. "There is a need for natural gas and hydrogen storage. This same technology also can result in better batteries and super capacitors."

  • #2
    Re: Low Pressure CNG Tanks Coming?

    Nice article.
    I'm missing the specs, so hard to judge whether this is a major step forward. Not sure what their lower pressure means, but I'm guessing somewhere in the order of 100-1000 psi. I can think of a lot of (potential) problems still:

    - safety: current refueling infrastructure uses higher pressures, so they are not compatible. Solutions can be developed, but not without creating safety issues.
    - weight: I'm not sure what the weight of the stuff is, but NG+carbon weighs more than NG alone - not sure lighter tanks can solve that.
    - cost: similar technology is already available, but the cost are too high, this seems cheaper, but not sure if it is competitive
    - refueling: is fast refueling possible, or does it take time for the NG to be absorbed by the carbon?
    - I wonder if NG is released just as well at low and high temperatures
    - Carbon might absorb some NG components better than others: it might clog up
    - probably more

    Interesting, but I want to see it work before getting really enthousiastic.


    • #3
      Re: Low Pressure CNG Tanks Coming?

      My understanding of ANG is that it really only increases density by a small fraction, maybe 20%. Certainly not enough to go down to 1000psi and have the range of a 3600psi tank.


      • #4
        Re: Low Pressure CNG Tanks Coming?

        Originally posted by CanAm View Post
        My understanding of ANG is that it really only increases density by a small fraction, maybe 20%. Certainly not enough to go down to 1000psi and have the range of a 3600psi tank.
        if it lowered the pressure to where you could shape the tank say like a back seat than cover it it could be a lot bigger so we might get some of the loss from lower pressure back with the bigger tank


        • #5
          Re: Low Pressure CNG Tanks Coming?

          I read through several areas of information related to this last year and somewhere they talked about a goal or possibility of getting PSI down to around 500. The bed of carbon is used so that the NG can merge with the molecules and reduce required pressures quite a bit. At 500 PSI the nature of the storage vessel could be quite different obviously but as to whether they will get PSI that low I have no idea.

          It is anyone's guess on when this tech might be fully viable but it sounds like they definitely intend it for fleet use (big surprise). That normally means it could be years for trickle-down to the average private user unless a miracle happens and I do beleive in miracles. It would be a small miracle to get the tech available especially for retrofit and a huge miracle to get the whole fueling infrastructure, etc. anytime in the near future.


          • #6
            Re: Low Pressure CNG Tanks Coming?

            no need to change the pressure we fuel at just put a high pressure regulator on the car before the tank and than the new low pressure tanks could be filled at a 3000 or 3600 pump and than the old high pressure cars would still be able to fuel and due to the expanding gas this would give a good fill as to the cooling effect