This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.


IBM Shops for Dutch Water-Tech R&D

(Thanks Norbert!)

IBM Shops for Dutch Water-Tech R&D by David Talbot
Where better than the Netherlands to go shopping for the latest in water-management technology?
Tuesday, May 08, 2007

IBM Shops for Dutch Water-Tech R&D

Where better than the Netherlands to go shopping for the latest in water-management technology?

By David Talbot

Yesterday IBM, which is trying to get more deeply involved in the high-tech management of commercial water systems, went shopping for Dutch research and commercial partners, offering a reported $10 million to codevelop technologies. On IBM's shopping list: intelligent irrigation, peak water-demand management tools, and smart sensor networks that improve water quality. Ultimately, IBM hopes to forge what it calls a "collaborative information framework" for water management. IBM aired the offer at a meeting in Delft that was organized by the Netherlands Water Partnership.

More than half of the Netherlands lies below sea level, and the Dutch have an 800-year history of keeping the water back while also keeping the drinking water clean. "The interesting thing is that since Katrina, there have been a lot of exchanges of knowledge between U.S. and Dutch government organizations," says Piet Dircke, director of water programs at Arcadis, an environmental-engineering firm based in Arnhem, Netherlands. "IBM [is] the first U.S. firm that seems to be interested in the Dutch technological capabilities from the commercial point of view." Arcadis has a $150 million contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide engineering services for design and construction management for hurricane protection in New Orleans.

Tags: IBM, water systems


The Incredible Shrinking Engine: A new engine design could significantly improve fuel efficiency for cars and SUVs, at a fraction of the cost of today's hybrid technology.

Thanks (again!!!) Norbert


The Incredible Shrinking Engine by Kevin Bullis
A new engine design could significantly improve fuel efficiency for cars and SUVs, at a fraction of the cost of today's hybrid technology.

At MIT's Sloan Automotive Laboratory, Daniel Cohn (pictured above) stands behind an engine equipped with test instruments (in yellow) and an injection system that sprays fuel directly into the engine's combustion chambers.
Credit: Porter Gifford
•   View a demo of the new engine deisgn built by Daniel Cohn.

Technology Review - Published by MIT
March/April 2007
The Incredible Shrinking Engine
A new engine design could significantly improve fuel efficiency for cars and SUVs, at a fraction of the cost of today's hybrid technology.
By Kevin Bullis

The following article appears in the March/April 2007 issue of Technology Review.

For Daniel Cohn, a senior research scientist at MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center, the ­century-­old internal-combustion engine is still a source of inspiration. As he strides past the machinery and test equipment in the MIT Sloan Automotive Laboratory, his usually reserved demeanor drops away. "An engine this size," he says, pointing out an ordinary-looking 2.4-liter midsize gasoline engine, "would be a rocket with our technology."

By way of explaining that technology, he shows off a turbocharger that could be bolted to the 2.4-liter engine; the engine, he adds, uses direct fuel injection rather than the port injection currently found in most cars. Both turbocharging and direct injection are preëxisting technologies, and neither looks particularly impressive. Indeed, used separately, they would lead to only marginal improvements in the performance of an internal-­combustion engine. But by combining them, and augmenting them with a novel way to use a small amount of ethanol, Cohn and his colleagues have created a design that they believe could triple the power of a test engine, an advance that could allow automakers to convert small engines designed for economy cars into muscular engines with more than enough power for SUVs or sports cars. By extracting better performance from smaller, more efficient engines, the technology could lead to vehicles whose fuel economy rivals that of hybrids, which use both an electric motor and a gasoline engine. And that fuel efficiency could come at a fraction of the cost.

Cohn says that his colleagues--­Leslie Bromberg, a principal research scientist at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, and John Heywood, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Sloan Auto Lab--­considered many ways to make ­internal-­combustion engines more efficient. "And then, after a lot of discussion, it just sort of hit us one day," Cohn recalls. The key to the MIT researchers' system, he explains, was overcoming a problem called "knock," which has severely limited efforts to increase engine torque and power.

In gas engines, a piston moves into a cylinder, compressing a mixture of air and fuel that is then ignited by a spark. The explosion forces the piston out again. One way to get more power out of an engine is to design the piston to travel farther with each stroke. The farther it travels, the more it compresses the air-fuel mixture, and the more mechanical energy it harvests from the explosion as it retreats. Overall, higher compression will lead to a more efficient engine and more power per stroke. But increasing the pressure too much causes the fuel to heat up and explode independently of the spark, leading to poorly timed ignition. That's knock, and it can damage the engine.

To avoid knock, engine designers must limit the extent to which the piston compresses the fuel and air in the cylinder. They also have to limit the use of turbo­charging, in which an exhaust-driven turbine compresses the air before it enters the combustion chamber, increasing the amount of oxygen in the chamber so that more fuel can be burned per stroke. Turning on a car's turbocharger will provide an added boost when the car is accelerating or climbing hills. But too much turbocharging, like too much compression, leads to knock.

An alternative way to prevent knock is to use a fuel other than gasoline; although gasoline packs a large amount of energy into a small volume, other fuels, such as ethanol, resist knock far better. But a vehicle using ethanol gets fewer miles per gallon than one using gasoline, because its fuel has a lower energy density. Cohn and his colleagues say they've found a way to use both fuels that takes advantage of each one's strengths while avoiding its weaknesses.

The MIT researchers focused on a key property of ethanol: when it vaporizes, it has a pronounced cooling effect, much like rubbing alcohol evaporating from skin. Increased turbo­charging and cylinder compression raise the temperature in the cylinder, which is why they lead to knock. But Cohn and his colleagues found that if ethanol is introduced into the combustion chamber at just the right moment through the relatively new technology of direct injection, it keeps the temperature down, preventing spontaneous combustion. Similar approaches, some of which used water to cool the cylinder, had been tried before. But the combination of direct injection and ethanol, Cohn says, had much more dramatic results.

The researchers devised a system in which gasoline would be injected into the combustion chamber by conventional means. Ethanol would be stored in its own tank or compartment and would be introduced by a separate direct-injection system. The ethanol would have to be replenished only once every few months, roughly as often as the oil is changed. A vehicle that used this approach would operate around 25 percent more efficiently than a vehicle with a conventional engine.

A turbocharger and a direct-­injection system would add to the cost of an engine, as would strengthening its walls to allow for a higher level of turbocharging. The added equipment costs, however, would be partially offset by the reduced expense of manufacturing a smaller engine. In total, an engine equipped with the new technology would cost about $1,000 to $1,500 more than a conventional engine. Hybrid systems, which are expensive because they require both an internal-combustion engine and an electric motor powered by batteries, add $3,000 to $5,000 to the cost of a small to midsize vehicle--and even more to the cost of a larger vehicle.

When the MIT group first hatched its idea, Bromberg created a detailed computer model to estimate the effect of using ethanol to enable more turbo­charging and cylinder compression. The model showed that the technique could greatly increase the knock-free engine's torque and horsepower. Subsequent tests by Ford have shown results consistent with the MIT computer model's predictions. And since the new system would require relatively minor modifications to existing technologies, it could be ready soon. Ethanol Boosting Systems, a company the researchers have started in Cambridge, MA, is working to commercialize the technology. Cohn says that with an aggressive development program, the design could be in production vehicles as early as 2011.

While Cohn applauds the benefits of hybrids and says his technology could be used to improve them, too, he notes that the popularity of hybrid technology is still limited by its cost. Cheaper technology will be adopted faster, he suggests, and will thus reduce gasoline consumption more rapidly. "It's a lot more useful," he says, "to have an engine that a lot of people will buy."

Copyright Technology Review 2007.

BP's Bet on Butanol: Forget ethanol: it's hard to transport and gives bad mileage per gallon. Another alcohol, butanol, is a much better renewable fuel, says the president of BP Biofuels

From Norbert!

BP's Bet on Butanol by Kevin Bullis
Forget ethanol: it's hard to transport and gives bad mileage per gallon. Another alcohol, butanol, is a much better renewable fuel, says the president of BP Biofuels.

Beet fuel: BP Biofuels is developing a process for converting some crops into butanol, an alcohol fuel that's superior to ethanol in several ways. The first batch will likely come from a crop of sugar beets like the one featured here.

Technology Review - Published by MIT
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
BP's Bet on Butanol
Forget ethanol: it's hard to transport and gives bad mileage per gallon. Another alcohol, butanol, is a much better renewable fuel, says the president of BP Biofuels.
By Kevin Bullis

Alternative fuels such as ethanol could help reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and decrease oil imports, but so far these biofuels only make up a small fraction of fuel use. One of the biggest challenges to ramping up ethanol use is distributing it. That's because ethanol can't be transported in the same pipelines used to distribute gasoline. What's more, ethanol delivers far less energy than gasoline does on a gallon-for-gallon basis.

Philip New, president of BP Biofuels, a recently created company within the giant British oil producer, thinks it has a solution: butanol. While butanol, like ethanol, can be made from corn starch or sugar beets, its properties are a lot more like gasoline than like ethanol. That means it can be shipped in existing gasoline pipelines. And it contains more energy than ethanol does, which will improve mileage per gallon.

Last month BP announced that it will be working with the University of California, Berkeley, on a $500 million, 10-year program, part of which will be devoted to research on improving biofuels such as butanol. And last year BP announced a partnership with DuPont to develop new technology for making butanol. DuPont will provide expertise in biotechnology. Technology Review spoke with New about the company's plans at a recent energy conference at MIT.

Technology Review: Why is BP interested in biofuels, which would seemingly be a direct competitor to your main business?

Philip New: It is possible--if the world now is really serious about climate change, and if people continue to be concerned about energy security--that given the breakthroughs in technology that now seem plausible, biofuels could represent a significant amount of the transport fuel mix in the future.

I think you have a choice. Either you can try to deny it and resist it and hold it back, or you can embrace it and welcome it and make it a part of your business. And clearly BP has chosen to do the latter.

TR: BP is focusing on a relatively obscure fuel: butanol. Why focus on butanol rather than on ethanol?

PN: Ethanol is a good start. But ethanol was not designed to be a fuel. No one sat down and said, "Let's create a biomolecule that will operate in engines." What happened was, people said ethanol can work in engines. As a lot of people are becoming aware, it's good, but it has some drawbacks. Butanol is, we think, an innovation that overcomes many of the drawbacks.

You shouldn't view butanol as being a competitor to ethanol. An ethanol plant can evolve into a butanol plant. And you can mix ethanol and butanol together, and it can actually help you use more ethanol.

TR: So how is butanol better?

PN: The key way is higher energy density. Whereas ethanol is around about two-thirds the energy density [of gasoline], with butanol we're in the high eighties [in terms of percent].

It's less volatile [than ethanol]. It isn't as corrosive, so we don't have issues with it at higher concentrations beginning to eat at aluminum or polymer components in fuel systems and dispensing systems. And it's not as hydroscopic--it doesn't pick up water, which is what ethanol can do if you put it in relatively low concentrations. So we can put it through pipelines.

TR: Why is water a concern with pipelines?

PN: In any fuel system, water gets in pipes. With gasoline, it just settles out of the bottom. Ethanol mixes with water. So you basically introduce water into the fuel mix. If you put aviation fuel down a pipe that starts to have some ethanol in it, then you have the potential of water contamination of the aviation fuel, which could be very bad news.

TR: How is butanol made now, and how do you propose to make it?

PN: The conventional way of making biobutanol is a fermentation process. There is a lot of work going on in various places to improve the efficiency of the process. And our target is to find a way of making butanol at a price that can compete with gasoline. More than that we cannot say.

TR: What feedstocks can you use?

PN: You can make butanol with exactly the same stuff you use to make ethanol. We can make it from sugar, we can make it from corn, we can make it from sugar beets. Any sugar-starch that's going into the fermentation of ethanol you can [use to] make butanol.

TR: Ethanol today depends heavily on government subsidies. How economical is butanol?

PN: I'm not sure that it needs too much specific help. What I'd ask for more is a level playing field. For example, a transition away from subsidizing biofuels on the basis of volume towards subsidizing on the basis of energy content would represent a level playing field. By subsidizing volume, you're effectively supporting less-energy-efficient alternatives.

TR: When can we expect to go to a BP station and fill up with some butanol?

PN: This is absolutely in a testing phase, and we're looking to how we can move it into a pilot [plant] phase. We'll be dealing with some trial quantities soon.

Before we get to a mass-market environment, to be honest, you have to give it a little bit of time. I would like to think that butanol could be broadly available before ligno-cellulosic ethanol [such as from wood chips and corn stover] is widely available. It's almost just a function of the pace of engineering and permitting. To open a new ethanol plant today, it's not going to be open until 2009, 2010. So that should help you range your expectations about the introduction of new technology.

TR: To be clear: are you waiting on biological advances before you can move forward, or are you already at a point where you can go ahead and build plants and start small-scale production?

PN: I think we're in the world of optimizing biological processes. You don't want to build a plant if you're working with a suboptimal process.

TR: So there are no major breakthroughs needed?

PN: Both BP and DuPont are very positive, committed, and optimistic about the prospects of delivering butanol.

Copyright Technology Review 2007.

[Energy newsclip] Wal - Mart Starts Solar Power Test Program

Wal - Mart Starts Solar Power Test Program
Published: May 7, 2007

Filed at 6:19 p.m. ET

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Monday that it has launched a program to test the use of solar power at some of its operations in Hawaii and California.

Wal-Mart is purchasing solar power equipment from BP Solar, SunEdison LLC, and PowerLight, a subsidiary of SunPower Corp. The equipment will be installed in California and Hawaii in 22 locations, including Wal-Mart stores, Sam's Club warehouse stores and a distribution center.

''We are taking aggressive steps toward our goal of being supplied by 100 percent renewable energy,'' Wal-Mart's vice president for energy, Kim Saylors-Laster, said. ''The pilot project is yet another example of Wal-Mart's commitment to making decisions that are good for business and the environment.''

The world's largest retailer, headquartered in Bentonville, has been working in different ways to generate less waste and use less energy. The company has opened two Supercenters designed to use 20 percent less energy than other Supercenters. The stores use natural light whenever possible and employ energy-saving heating and cooling systems and construction materials.

The company also is putting environmentally friendly items on its shelves, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs.

In the latest push, SunEdison will provide the four solar power systems in Hawaii and four in California, while PowerLight and BP Solar will each supply seven systems in California.

Wal-Mart didn't announce how much it will spend on the venture.

The company said it is trying to determine whether it can harness the sun to provide electricity to all its stores. Once all the equipment for the test is up and running, Wal-Mart estimates, the system will generate up to 20 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The company said the initiative was among the largest of its kind.

The power generated by the solar panels will generate renewable energy credits, which Wal-Mart said it will keep.

The solar systems are designed to supply up to 30 percent of power for each store where the panels are located. The company said the systems will reduce greenhouse gas production by up to 11,000 tons per year.

''Pilot project stores are expected to achieve savings over their current utility rates immediately -- as soon as the first day of operation,'' Wal-Mart energy director David Ozment said.

World Without Oil: World Without Oil is an online alternate reality game funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and ITVS. Its premise is that we have reached peak-oil

A nice little game... Thanks Norbert

World Without Oil is an online alternate reality game funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and ITVS. Its premise is that we have reached peak-oil. The idea is half-fiction, half investigative process - the game's motto is, 'Play it, before you live it'. It launched on Monday, and people have already started to document what life is like in this fictional post-oil world. ::more

World Without Oil
Matthew Sparkes, London, UK on 05. 6.07
Design & Architecture

World Without Oil is an alternate reality game funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and ITVS. It's an online game, with the premise that we have reached
peak-oil. The site features a 'reality dashboard', which shows fictional gas prices, fuel shortages, and other metrics for chaos, suffering and economic impact for different parts of the country, updated every day. The aim is to investigate the many possible socio-economic outcomes of running out of oil, and to entertain at the same time.
If you want to get involved, then you are invited to write blog posts, create videos, take photos and use any other means necessary to document what life is like in this fictional post-oil world.
The idea is half-fiction, half investigative process - the game's motto is, 'Play it, before you live it'. It launched on Monday, and people have already submitted hundreds of documents, which you can freely browse. There is also an official 'back-story', written by the game's organisers which will be used to introduce new events and circumstances. For instance, the latest game updates include instructions on how to throw fuel-free
parties. If all this sounds interesting, but slightly confusing, then don't worry - that's the idea. A post-oil world will be confusing. Sign up and get involved. :: World Without Oil

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Comments (2)

I don't think a post oil world would sound "confusing" if we prepare for it now. We may not live to see this environment but there is not doubt in my mind that it is inevitable within a century or two. Our job is to wean ourselves away from oil dependency and that weaning process should begin with the admission that sources of oil will decline.

Preparation for a world without oil means the development of alternate forms of energy as well as energy systems. Our rail system, for example, should become electric based. Our vehicle technology should also transition over to an electric based system.

We can continue to burn fuels in ICE's (Internal Combustion Engines) but as can be plainly seen with the rise of the Chinese vehicular industry, an increased strain is placed upon world oil reserves. About 25% of all world oil reserves are needed to keep the US going and we comprise but 4% of the world population. If only 16% of the people used oil as we do, there would be no oil left for the rest of the world.

The solution is to transition while we can to vehicular electrical systems because the biofuels are not going to be enough. In fact, we already have seen increases in corn prices as a secondary reaction to the competition for corn between food and biofuel and can soon expect the same to occur with the cost of all meats and poultry products dependent upon corn feedstocks as a tertiary outcome.

The transition to electrical systems has two parts, production and use. The production side means electrical generation from sustainable God given sources such as wind, solar, wave, free hydro and Geothermal. The use side means that power systems for vehicles of all types must be based upon the storage and use of electricity. EV's (electric vehicles) must eventually replace ICE's (Internal Combustion Engines).

Yes. Someday we will live in a world without oil. There is no need to play games and cry "wolf" because we are already beginning to feel its hot breath on the backs of our necks.

May 6, 2007 5:28 PM | click here to report abuseflag a problem
jump to topAdrian Akau says:

Is there not enough room on the bookshelf for both the Bible and An Inconvenient Truth? What is the reasoning behind the replacement?

May 6, 2007 5:28 PM | click here to report abuseflag a problem
jump to topCarolyn says: