Where are we going from here? Many industry groups have their own ideas or desires, but no one can say for sure. New associations, such as the Fuels Institute, have formed to explore that subject. With the advent of electric cars, hydrogen fuel, fuel cells, isobutane fuels, propane, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG), the future is wide open.
One significant effort is worthy of mention. The Department of Energy works with over a dozen different laboratories across the United States. The DOE is researching development and use of an “ultimate fuel”, to be fully in place by 2035 so that all vehicles on the road would be fueling with it by 2050. The ultimate fuel would have high mileage per gallon, low harmful emissions from nitrous oxides and carbon dioxide, and power more efficient engines.
DOE’s project will develop a liquid fuel, using existing or slightly modified infrastructure and technology that will maximize engine efficiency. Today’s engines waste about 50% of the available energy in fuels when the fuel is ignited to drive the engine. By maximizing engine efficiency, preventing engine knock, vehicles’ mileage per gallon will increase. The US government has set a goal of over 50 mpg as the total vehicular average in the not so distant future.
To increase engine efficiency while preventing engine knock, the amount of octane of the fuel must increase. One fuel being closely looked at is a gasoline blend with approximately 30% ethanol. (Oh, and by the way, the US government also has a goal to use 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022.)
As if these changes are not enough, there is another mandate to reduce the sulfur in gasoline in 2017. Many old timers may remember when lead had to be removed from gasoline, and dispensers were labeled as having “unleaded fuel.” Will the removal of additional sulfur from gasoline create the same challenges occurring with ultra low sulfur diesel? Let’s hope not.
Stay tuned folks. I think this is just the beginning of a sea change in the fueling industry.
Read more from the August Issue of our Fuel for Thought newsletter.