A large number of emission sources contribute to the remaining air quality problems in Southern California.  Given the diversity of these sources, it is unlikely that a single technology will solve these problems.  As a result, the SCAQMD continues to support a wide range of advanced technologies to address this diversity.  The Clean Fuels Program plays a major role in the advancement of those technologies through research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D).  Projects co-funded by the SCAQMD’s Clean Fuels Program have included emission reduction demonstrations for both mobile and stationary sources of air pollution.

Historically, mobile source projects have targeted low-emission technology developments in automobiles, transit buses, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and off-road applications.  These vehicle-related efforts have focused on advancements in engine design, electric power trains, and energy storage/conversion devices (e.g., fuel cells and batteries); and implementation of clean fuels (e.g. natural gas, propane, and hydrogen), including their infrastructures.  Stationary source projects have included a wide array of advanced low NOx technologies, low VOC coatings and processes, and clean energy alternatives, such as fuel cells, solar power, and other renewable energy systems.

The SCAQMD continually seeks to support the deployment of lower emitting technologies.  The design and implementation of the Clean Fuels Program Plan must balance the needs in the various technology sectors with technology readiness, emissions reduction potential and co-funding opportunity.  SCAQMD strives to maintain a flexible program to address dynamically evolving technologies and the latest progress in the state-of-the-technology.  SCAQMD’s effort in this area is shaped by two basic factors:

  1. Low- and zero-emission technologies needed to achieve clean air standards in the Basin.
  2. Available funding to support technology development within the constraints imposed by that funding.

This effort is significant, especially during these economically tough times when both public and private funding available for technology research and development are limited. However, since national and international activities affect the direction of technology trends, our real challenge is to identify project or technology opportunities in which available funding can make a significant difference in deploying progressively cleaner technologies in the South Coast Air Basin.  As a result, the SCAQMD program must be flexible to accommodate these changes in direction. 

The overall strategy is based in large part on technology needs identified in the Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) and the SCAQMD Governing Board’s directives to protect the health of residents in the Basin. The AQMP is the long-term “blueprint” that defines:

  • the basin-wide emission reductions needed to achieve federal ambient air quality standards;
  • the regulatory measures to achieve those reductions;
  • the timeframes to implement these proposed measures; and
  • the technologies required to meet these future proposed regulations. 

Specific projects are selected for co-funding from competitive solicitations, cooperative agency agreements, and unsolicited proposals.  Criteria considered in project selection include emissions reduction potential, technological innovation, potential to reduce costs and improve cost effectiveness, contractor experience and capabilities, overall environmental impact or benefit, commercialization and business development potential, cost sharing, and consistency with program goals and funding constraints.

During calendar year 2012, the Governing Board approved 69 new projects or studies and modified 10 continuing projects adding additional dollars toward RDD&D of alternative fuel and clean fuel technologies in Southern California.  During 2012, the SCAQMD supported a variety of projects and technologies, ranging from near-term to longer-term research, development, demonstration and deployment activities. This “technology portfolio” strategy provides the SCAQMD the ability and flexibility to leverage state and federal funding while also addressing the specific needs of the South Coast Air Basin.

Projects in 2012 included continued expansion of natural gas alternative refueling infrastructure and vehicle deployment; development and demonstration of hydrogen technologies and infrastructure; further development and  demonstration of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicle technologies and infrastructure with an emphasis on zero-emission goods movement technologies; continued demonstration of emission control technologies on heavy-duty trucks to reduce NOx and PM; health impact studies ranging from effects of PM particles from heavy-duty biodiesel-fueled vehicles to physical and chemical composition of and health effects from tailpipe PM emissions; and finally two stationary clean fuels projects including one to develop and demonstrate a 300 kW molten fuel cell that works in conjunction with an exhaust-fired absorption chiller. 

SCAQMD contributed approximately $6.1 million in partnership with other governmental organizations, private industry, academia and research institutes, and interested parties, with total project costs of nearly $26.1 million.  These projects or studies addressed a wide range of air quality issues with a diverse mix of advanced technologies.  The pie chart below shows the distribution of the Clean Fuels Program funds approved by the Governing Board in 2012.

pie chart
Distribution of Funds for Executed Clean Fuels Projects CY 2012 ($6.1 million)

In addition to the new projects, 20 research, development, and demonstration projects or studies and  20 technology assessment and transfer contracts were completed in CY 2012.  The project summaries are provided to the Governing Board Technology Committee during the year as the projects are completed.  Summaries for each of these projects are provided in Appendix C of the Annual Report.

The figure below shows the potential 2013 distribution of SCAQMD Clean Fuels funds, based on projected program costs of $16.2 million for the nine primary project areas.  The expected actual project expenditures for 2013 will be much less than the total projected program cost since not all projects will materialize.  The target allocations are based on balancing technology priorities, technical challenges and opportunities discussed previously, and near-term versus long-term benefits with the constraints based on available SCAQMD funding.  Specific contract awards throughout 2013 will be based on this proposed allocation, the quality of proposals received and evaluation of projects against standardized criteria, and, ultimately, the Governing Board’s approval.  Upon presentation to the Governing Board for project approval, additional details will be provided about the technology, its application, the specific scope of work, the project team capabilities, and the project cost-sharing.

pie chart
Projected Cost Distribution for Potential Projects in 2013 ($16.2 Million)

Hydrogen Technology and Infrastructure

The AQMD initiated the groundwork for a distributed hydrogen refueling network that will allow the fuel cell vehicles unhindered access throughout the Basin and help promote the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles.  Despite the selection of hydrogen as the current fuel of choice for the demonstration vehicles, there are various production, storage, and dispensing strategies still under consideration for the long-term infrastructure solution.  As a result, further development of these refueling technologies is planned.

The economical production of hydrogen for these vehicles and, to the extent necessary, for stationary applications, is also a key area in need of development and demonstration. In particular, the production of hydrogen from renewable sources is of interest, either using photovoltaics and electrolyzer technologies or biomass feedstocks and reformation technologies due to the potential for higher lifecycle efficiencies and lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fuels.  Such renewable energy projects would provide data to help understand and benchmark critical parameters for enabling these technologies.

Furthermore, as an interim step toward full fuel cell vehicle deployment and as a means of testing and verifying the hydrogen infrastructure, hydrogen internal combustion engines (ICEs) and hydrogen-CNG (compressed natural gas) blended fuel (HCNG) vehicles will be developed and demonstrated. Hydrogen ICE and HCNG vehicles, which utilize conventional engine technologies, represent potentially cost-effective hydrogen vehicle options. The emissions, although higher than those of fuel cell vehicles, can be optimized for emissions lower than dedicated CNG vehicles.

Fuel Cell Technology

Fuel cells are emerging as a leading alternative technology to replace more polluting ICEs in vehicle, marine, and stationary distributed energy applications. There are a handful of different fuel cell technologies and fuels being considered for these applications. 

On the mobile side, the first demonstration vehicles are using proton exchange membrane (PEM ) fuel cells and compressed hydrogen as the fuel, but the long-term infrastructure requirements, stack durability, and any synergistic relationship to stationary applications remain uncertain. Considerable research, development, and demonstration efforts are already underway to address these issues by some of the largest automobile manufacturers and fuel suppliers. Yet much work is needed to improve the performance and range of these vehicles, reduce costs, develop a viable fueling infrastructure, and obtain public acceptance for a new technology in everyday applications.

On the stationary side, many of the same technology issues exist and can be potentially easier to address due to constant load applications and larger space availability for the stack and balance of plant/component integration. It is hoped that cross-cutting advances in the technology can then be transferred and applied to mobile applications. Examples are fuel cell vehicles which can put power back into the electrical grid or co-location of the fuel cell DG at fueling stations to provide power for compressors or pumping.

Engine Technology

The use of alternative fuels can provide significant reductions in NOx and PM emissions, especially in heavy-duty diesel engines for on-road, off-road, and marine applications. Natural gas engines have shown significant promise, with the greatest benefit coming from heavy-duty diesel truck and bus replacement with new natural gas vehicles in urban areas. Hybrid electric technologies and the use of microturbines instead of ICEs have also shown promise for replacing higher polluting diesel engines. All of these options are worth pursuing for cleaner engine technologies and immediate emission reductions.

In order for alternative fuel heavy-duty engines to achieve commercial acceptance and market penetration, their performance, durability, and cost-effectiveness, in addition to emissions reduction, must be demonstrated to the end user. Future projects will support the development, demonstration, and certification of alternative fuel engines to broaden their application and availability. 

Emission Control Technologies

Although engine technology research is required to reduce the emissions at the combustion source, post-combustion cleanup methods are also needed to address the current installed base of on-road and off-road technologies. Existing diesel emissions can be greatly reduced with after-treatment controls such as Particulate Matter Traps (P-Traps) and catalysts, as well as lowering the sulfur content or using additives with diesel fuel. Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) fuels, formed from natural gas or other gas rather than petroleum feedstock, and emulsified diesel provide low-emission fuels for use in diesel engines. And as emissions from engines become lower and lower, the lubricant contributions to VOC and PM emissions become increasingly important.

Infrastructure and Fuel Production

The District has a series of regulations (see fleet rules) and incentive programs (see implementation) intended to expedite the transition of gasoline-and-diesel-powered vehicles to those that operate on cleaner burning alternatives such as natural gas.

A key component to making this transition possible is the development of an infrastructure to produce and distribute clean fuels, including compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

To date, the SCAQMD has provided over $25 million in funding of cost-shared projects for installing CNG and LNG fueling stations and production facilities within the SCAQMD’s 4-county jurisdiction. The projects are funded primarily through the Clean Fuels Fund, or through funds distributed by the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Committee (MSRC). 

These funding programs are intended to “buy down” a portion of the initial capital cost of a new fueling station. Through these programs, commercial fuel vendors, as well as operators of public and private vehicle fleets, install natural gas fueling stations that are conveniently located throughout the region, and accessible to the general public.

The State continues to offer buy-down incentives for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) resulting in the SCAQMD’s program for the buy-down of zero-emission vehicles for fleets. Despite this effort and the greater environmental benefits offered by PEVs, widespread demand and deployment have been hampered by public concerns over cost, battery lifetime, vehicle range, and charging station infrastructure. The SCAQMD will continue to consider projects addressing these concerns as well as the use of PEVs in fleet or niche applications.

Most of the major automobile manufacturers are now directing their efforts toward hybrid electric technologies in both light-duty and heavy-duty applications as well as off-road equipment. In particular, diesel and gasoline fueled hybrid electric vehicles, and specialty light-duty pure electric vehicles, have entered the commercial market. Such vehicles offer the benefits of higher fuel economy and increased range, as well as lower emissions. Hybrid electric technology is not limited to gasoline and diesel engines, and can be coupled with natural gas engines, microturbines, and fuel cells for further emission benefits in the future. As mentioned for fuel cells, there is also the potential for cross-platform hybrid development for vehicle to grid power. 

SCAQMD is partnering with agencies across the state on PEV readiness and is the lead agency for the DOE PEV readiness grant and co-leads a PEV readiness grant with SCAG from the CEC. SCAQMD is also the lead agency for administering the SoCalEV Ready grant from the CEC, which will deploy approximately 300 publicly accessible chargers throughout Southern California. Click here for further information on the SoCalEV Ready Implementation Program.