ACEC Weekly Newsbriefs
December 5, 2018
"Deep Green: Using Underwater Kites to Generate Clean Electricity"
"Energy Department Investing in Research to Develop Natural Gas-Based Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid"
"Renewable Quotas Don’t Cut CO2 Emissions on Their Own"
"U.S. Clean Coal Program Fails to Deliver on Promised Smog Cuts"
"Strict Building Codes Helped Anchorage Withstand Quake"
"Stronger Buildings Could Delay but Not Stop, Wildfire Destruction Alone"
"Survey Finds Continuing Investment in Energy Efficiency"
"AI System May Help Cities Detect Small Water Leaks"
Legislation & Regulation
"Trump Administration to Try Again to Fulfill Infrastructure Pledge"
"Betting on a New Way to Make Concrete That Doesn’t Pollute"
"Flexible 3-D-Printed Cement Stretches the Possibilities of Construction"
Deep Green: Using Underwater Kites to Generate Clean Electricity
Power-Technology (11/28/18) Millar, Abi
Minesto, a marine energy developer based in Sweden, is a step closer to making its underwater energy generation technology a reality. The company's Deep Green technology resembles an underwater kite. The company says the technology can generate energy underwater with velocities between 1.2 meters per second and 2.4 meters per second, and depths between 60 meters and 120 meters. Traditional underwater energy generation technology requires currents of 2.5 meters per second or faster to produce energy. Minesto says the technology has been proven at a utility and commercial scale. Now, the company is now in a testing phase to show the technology is functioning as advertised. Minesto has commercialization plans that target the U.S., South East Asia, and the European Atlantic coast.
Energy Department Investing in Research to Develop Natural Gas-Based Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid
Daily Energy Insider (11/28/18) Randolph, Kevin
The Department of Energy (DOE) plans to invest $1.36 million to extend research that seeks to develop a foam that will serve as a base hydraulic fracturing fluid. The research is being conducted by Southwest Research Institute and Schlumberger. The work will focus on creating a natural gas foam by pressuring the gas and combining it with a reduced amount of water. The DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory says natural gas-based foams have been proven to be an effective alternative to hydraulic fracturing liquids. The project could lead to reduced water usage at unconventional wells and less severe environmental impacts. About 11 million gallons of water is used on hydraulic fracturing wells. Some of that liquid is lost underground, but the remained must be treated or disposed of.
Renewable Quotas Don’t Cut CO2 Emissions on Their Own
Scientific American (11/29/18) Storrow, Benjamin
A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says renewable energy portfolio standards are good ways to include more wind and solar power to energy grids. However, the standards are not effective at lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The OECD says the reason for this conclusion is that renewable energy policies often don't include plans that would lower greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, renewable energy portfolio standards are often offset by subsidies and policies for fossil fuels. Brilé Anderson, co-author of the report, explains that unless the use of fossil fuels is limited or carbon capture options are explored, the impact of renewable energy quotas will have limited effects.
U.S. Clean Coal Program Fails to Deliver on Promised Smog Cuts
Reuters (12/03/18) McLaughlin, Tim
According to analysis of data from the Environmental Protection Agency, power plants that burn chemically treated refined coal or "clean coal" create more smog and not less. Supporters say clean coal is more environmentally friendly, and it is subsidized by the federal government. Duke Energy discovered the coal failed to deliver on promises of cleaner air after burning it at two power plants in North Carolina. At one facility, when clean coal was used, nitrogen oxide emissions were 33 percent to 76 percent higher compared to when clean coal wasn't used. The utility also discovered a chemical used to treat the coal had polluted local waterways. Duke has since stopped burning clean coal at the plants. Experts point out that Duke's problem reveals the problem of clean coal and subsidies attached to its use. American power plants are set to burn 160 million tons of clean coal, which could generate billions in incentives. Meanwhile, many of these plants have not reduced nitrogen oxide emissions.
Strict Building Codes Helped Anchorage Withstand Quake
Associated Press (12/01/18) D'Oro, Rachel; Thiessen, Mark
The magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck southern Alaska on Friday cracked roads and collapsed highway ramps, but experts say strict construction standards prevented widespread catastrophic damage and collapsed buildings. Sterling Strait with the Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety Commission notes that the state uses the International Building Code, considered the best available standard for seismic safety. The code requires buildings to be designed to resist possible ground motion determined by location and earthquake histories, and mandates that structural connections be reinforced to withstand damage from shaking.
Stronger Buildings Could Delay but Not Stop, Wildfire Destruction Alone
Civil & Structural Engineer (11/28/18)
Julio Ramirez, Purdue University's Karl H. Kettelhut Professor of Civil Engineering, says creating defensible spaces around a building where a fire can be stopped and better materials cannot make buildings completely safe from wildfires. His comments come after fire fighters announced that the Camp Fire in California has been completely contained. Many of the buildings damaged in the wildfire were made of wood and flammable roof materials. Ramirez says to delay damage from future fires buildings should be made of steel reinforced concrete and clay tile roofs. A defensible space surrounding a building can add another layer of protection. This would place buildings farther apart and away from wooded areas. These two strategies could give more time for people to evacuate and potentially slow the spread of a fire.
Survey Finds Continuing Investment in Energy Efficiency
A study by Johnson Controls reveals that U.S. organizations are planning to expand their investments in smart building controls and systems integration, going beyond such basic improvements as HVAC equipment and lighting upgrades. The 2018 Energy Efficiency Indicator polled nearly 2,000 facility and energy management executives from 20 countries, finding that 57 percent of U.S. organizations and 59 percent of global organizations intend to increase investment in energy efficiency in the next year. Today's organizations identify greenhouse gas footprint reduction, energy cost savings, energy security, and enhanced reputation as key drivers of investment fueling growth in green, net zero energy, and resilient buildings. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. respondents want to implement building controls improvements over the next 12 months, while building system integration saw a 23 percent increase in respondents planning to invest in 2019 compared to 2018, the largest increase of any measure in the survey. One third of U.S. and global organizations mentioned the importance of being able to maintain critical operations during severe weather events or extended power outages. Roughly half of U.S. and global organizations said they are extremely or very likely to have one or more facilities able to operate off the grid in the next 10 years, a 10 percent increase in the United States from a year ago. Worldwide plans to invest in distributed energy generation, electric energy storage, and on-site renewables also increased year-over-year.
AI System May Help Cities Detect Small Water Leaks
Gadgets Now (11/29/18)
Scientists from the University of Waterloo in Canada have created artificial intelligence technology that can detect small leaks in pipes. The technology uses a combination of signal processing techniques, sensors, and AI software to identify leaks. The sensors pre-process acoustic data using signal processing techniques to highlight signs commonly associated with leaks. As a result, machine learning algorithms can identify leaks by distinguishing their signs from other sources of noise in water infrastructure. The technology was shown capable of detect leaks as small as 17 liters a minute in lab tests. To field test the technology researchers placed hydrophone sensors on fire hydrants. The research say the technology could help utilities and cities save money and repair small leak problems before they get worse.
Legislation & Regulation
Trump Administration to Try Again to Fulfill Infrastructure Pledge
Wall Street Journal (12/02/18) Mann, Ted
The Trump administration wants to try to craft another trillion dollar infrastructure plan for the country. Previous efforts all failed, but this time officials say President Trump's plan will include more federal investment. That could make the plan more attractive to the Democratic majority in the House. There is also the possibility that a new plan could include funding at the local level and a higher gas tax. Republicans and Democrats have expressed a willingness to reach an agreement on a deal. However, a deal could be in jeopardy if the administration and Democrats continue to clash on other issues.
Betting on a New Way to Make Concrete That Doesn’t Pollute
New York Times (12/02/18) Reed, Stanley
Solidia Technologies recently tested new technology in England that could change how concrete is made. Solidia says it can make concrete that results in less carbon dioxide emissions and is cheaper. The company worked with LafargeHolcim to prove the technology works, and the latter is intrigued by the results. Traditional concrete manufacturing sees it cured in a reaction that uses water and steam. However, Solidia's method uses carbon dioxide instead. The company says this method results in a 70 percent reduction in pollution during the manufacturing process because carbon dioxide is pumped into the mixture instead of being released into the air. Solidia adds that its concrete blocks are also ready for use in 24 hours. The company has had trouble convincing the industry that it has a better form of concrete. But it does have the attention of oil companies that are desperate to cut their emissions.
Flexible 3-D-Printed Cement Stretches the Possibilities of Construction
Architects Newspaper (12/03/18) Marani, Matthew
Researchers from the Purdue University’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering have created a 3D-printed cement paste that gets stronger when placed under pressure. The cement paste is inspired by the durability and strength of anthropod shells. The researchers studied cement prototypes that used compliant, honeycomb, auxetic, and Bouligand designs. The discovered that each design responds to external pressure differently. For example, a compliant design acts like a spring when placed under stress. The Bouligand design, however, has increased crack resistance. Using micro-CT scanners the researchers were able to identify weaknesses in each design and improve on them with subsequent prototypes. The researchers say the cement paste could provide an added layer of protection for cement exposed to harsh environmental conditions. The researchers add that it should not be difficult to scale up the cement paste for use in full size designs.
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