The following was written by Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman. During a visit to Houston last week, Poneman announced the winners of federal grants to develop technology for using natural gas to fuel vehicles.
As a result of the shale gas revolution under way in the United States, more natural gas is being produced in America than at any time in the past. Domestic gas production grew by 7.9 percent last year -– the largest volume increase ever. Indeed, the United States has become the world’s leading natural gas producer.
The natural gas boom in the United States offers a tremendous opportunity to strengthen American energy security by drastically reducing our dependence on imported oil, while at the same time creating new U.S. jobs and industries. This is precisely why President Barack Obama is committed to safely and responsibly harnessing American oil and gas resources, and to developing the technologies that will unlock new domestic energy sources.
For example, we’re looking to find ways to expand the use of natural gas for vehicles.
Last week while I was in Houston attending clean energy events across the city, I announced 13 new cutting-edge research projects — for a total of $30 million — that will pursue innovations in natural gas storage tanks and fueling stations, helping to harness our abundant supplies of domestic natural gas for use in cars and trucks.
The projects were selected by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, which was launched in 2009 to seek out high-risk, breakthrough technologies that have the potential to fundamentally transform how we use and produce energy in America.
Under this new program, the Energy Department will research ways to engineer light-weight, affordable natural gas tanks for vehicles and to develop natural gas compressors that can efficiently fuel a natural gas vehicle at home. These innovations will help put more natural gas vehicles on the road, so that families and businesses nationwide can benefit.
Two of these cutting-edge projects will be taking place in Texas.
Texas A&M University, in College Station, will receive $3 million to develop new, highly adsorbent materials that will enable natural gas to be stored at low pressures but high densities, while the Center for Electromechanics at the University of Texas at Austin will receive $4.3 million to develop an at-home natural gas refueling system that compresses gas with a single piston. Unlike current four-piston compressors, the Center for Electromechanics’ integrated single-piston system will use fewer moving parts, leading to a more reliable, lighter, and cost-effective compressor.
These innovations build on efforts already underway through the Energy Department’s Clean Cities program and the National Clean Fleets Partnership to help large fleet operators in the public and private sector transition to compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas for long-haul trucks or commercial vehicles. We know that in many of these cases, using natural gas as a transportation fuel already makes economic sense.
The awards we announced in Houston take an important step forward in making natural gas vehicles accessible and affordable for Americans nationwide, so that we can tap into the promise of our domestic energy supply and pave the way for a more secure energy future in the United States.