Increasing the ways that people can use propane is the key to increasing the sales of propane. That's why PERC's initiatives and funding for research, development, and commercialization of new propane products and technologies are vital to the future of our industry — and why in 2010 PERC devoted more time, energy, and resources to new product development than
With PERC's customized Stage-Gate technology development process, Propane Equipment Launch, or Propel, bringing greater discipline to all aspects of
project selection, management, evaluation, and financial oversight, PERC sharpened its research and commercialization focus on projects most likely in the near term to deliver important new products in the commercial, agricultural, propane autogas, and
PERC's priority commercial application is combined heat and power (CHP), which, according to a new study conducted by Resource Dynamics, could generate more than 430 million gallons of propane sales per year. In an 18-month demonstration project at the Kaua'i Marriott Resort & Beach Club, two propane-fueled Caterpillar generators saved $1.7 million in annual operating costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions by a combined 9,900 tons, and helped earn the hotel a spot on greentraveler.com's list of the island's top five eco-friendly resorts. The generators continue to produce about half of the resort's electric power, while the waste heat meets three-quarters of its domestic
hot water heating load and all of the heat for the
Other PERC-supported CHP demonstration projects under way in 2010 included three installations of the
1.2-kilowatt Freewatt Plus system in the Northeast, a small-commercial demonstration of the 10-kilowatt Yanmar micro-CHP system, and a field-test of the 4.7-kilowatt Ecopower micro-CHP system at a greenhouse in Pennsylvania.
To advance the safe use of propane on the farm, a development project initiated in summer 2010 with the Mathews Co., an agricultural equipment manufacturer in Crystal Lake, Ill., had by the fall already produced a working prototype of an innovative new multimode propane-fueled grain dryer.
"Your traditional tower dryer, primarily (has) one means of operation: vacuum cool/pressure heat," explains Mathews Co. Director of Engineering and Support Services Joseph Shulfer, P.E. "Our dryer that we've developed with PERC support is going to allow us to operate in vacuum cool/pressure heat, pressure cool/pressure heat, and all-heat environments. It's something that is not in the marketplace now. We're excited to get it out there because it has the versatility to operate for true through-put capacity … in multiple different scenarios."
"Propane can be an excellent investment for today's farmer," sums up Robert Jacobs of Delta Liquid Energy in Paso Robles, Calif. "Propane is environmentally friendly, domestically produced, and readily available. There is a wide a variety of equipment that can be used on the farm that works on propane and will accomplish many of your tasks in a reliable, efficient and cost-
PERC continues to place great importance on the development and commercialization of technologies and products that use propane as an engine fuel — both in on-road vehicles that run on propane autogas and in off-road applications that run on propane. Propane autogas is in fact already the most widely used alternative fuel on the road, powering some 270,000 vehicles in the United States and more than 15 million worldwide. But this is no time to put on the brakes.
In an engine fuel project that spans both the propane autogas and off-road markets, PERC is working with Freightliner Custom Chassis, Powertrain Integration, Capacity of Texas, Thomas Built, and CleanFuel USA to develop a variety of applications for the newest GM 8-liter propane-fueled engine. Clean, efficient school buses, off-road terminal trucks, and propane bobtails resulting from this effort could be in service by 2013.
Meanwhile, ongoing PERC support helped market leader Blue Bird pass the in-service milestone of 1,500 Vision school buses running on propane autogas. The Council in 2010 approved a new grant for Blue Bird to combine a Ford engine and Roush CleanTech's conversion technology in its second-generation Vision propane autogas school bus.
Leander Independent School District in Texas is just
one of many customers that have helped drive the
rapid acceptance of school buses that run on
"Leander decided to go with autogas buses for many reasons," said the district's director of transportation, Kirby Campbell, in 2010. "It's quieter, cleaner burning, and the long-term maintenance cost is lower compared to the diesel. [As to] the safety of the fuel tanks, they are almost 20 times as strong as a diesel tank and fueling is just as easy as a diesel if not easier."
PERC worked with industry partners, other associations, and government to increase awareness of alternative fuel vehicles among potential fleet owners. For example, PERC helped Roush Performance showcase a 2010 Ford E-350 van on propane autogas at the American Public Transportation Association's 2010 Bus & Paratransit Conference. The 15-passenger van qualifies as a super-ultra-low-emission vehicle (SULEV II), which means it runs, on average, 90 percent cleaner than the average new model-year vehicle. While reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent and carbon monoxide by 60 percent, it delivers the horsepower, torque, and towing capacity of the gasoline E-350.
With the help of an Energy Department, PERC and the other members of the Alternative Fuel Trade Alliance launched a two-year, 14-city series of workshops to educate fleet managers on the fuel quality, supporting infrastructure, available vehicles, environmental impact, and safety of propane autogas, ethanol, biodiesel, and compressed natural gas. Workshop-ending ride-and-drive events gave fleet managers a chance to test-drive the latest alternative-fuel vehicles.