Umpqua Energy Raises the Bar on Emissions Reductions

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A new company has emerged in the race for an answer to clean energy. Umpqua Energy, a start up company based in Medford, Oregon may have figured out a solution to damaging emissions produced by vehicles, factories, trains, and even power plants.

The company has made claims that it can reduce emissions produced by all of the sources mentioned above by almost 90%. This statistic is certainly impressive enough to turn some heads. In a time when climate change and global warming has become an increasing concern, and when companies are being sued for their environmental impacts, automobile companies and other industrial companies have become very interested in this new technology.

Umpqua Energy’s new technology involves operating engines with a plasma reformer attached. This device works by extracting the hydrogen from the fuel, and then re-injecting that hydrogen back into the combustion process. The fuel is ultimately forced to burn more completely.

The effects of this are:

– An increase in engine power

– A significant improvement in gas mileage (potentially doubling MPG!)

– A large reduction in the amount of gas used thus decreasing emissions

At this point you’re probably saying, “Great, that reduces how much fuel I am using which will save me money, but it still feels like a band-aid…We are still pumping out harmful emissions.”

Very true. However, when coupled with a new catalyst that was developed by Argonne, the remaining emissions are almost completely eliminated in the combustion process. The catalyst cleans up a reported whopping 85% of the nitrous oxide as it leaves the engines tail pipe. With both the plasma reformer and the catalyst, approximately 90% of the emissions produced by gasoline are effectively controlled.

But, another question remains: How will this new technology affect the overall fight against green house gases?

In an interview with William Jaffray, Energy Engineer of Associated Renewable, Inc., Jaffray states, “While this is definitely a promising technology for the transportation sector, as far as I know, it is only an effective technique for liquid fuels. As coal is the most prevalent fuel for electricity production, plasma assisted combustion is not likely to affect the market for more familiar renewables such as solar and wind. Gasoline powered turbines for electricity production do exist, and this technology could theoretically be used in this application, however gasoline is not a cost-effective fuel for electricity production.”

While this is a seemingly amazing technology for citizens driving vehicles and for automotive companies, it would seem that it is far from the answer to all of our emission problems. As Jaffray stated, coal is the most widely used fuel to produce electricity and is also considered by The Union of Concerned Scientists to be “A leading cause of smog, acid rain, global warming, and air toxics. In an average year, a typical coal plant generates, 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human cause of global warming–as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million trees.”

We decided to ask eager consumer Jonathan Koenig, a CNA Training and marketing expert, what his thoughts were in regard to what we might expect in the next couple of years with this new company and it’s technology, he states “Of course it sounds amazing in every way shape and form. If this device can do what Umbqua says it can do, there won’t be a car without one in the next decade. Just hearing about it got my juices flowing, now maybe my Toyota 4runner could get 16 mpg…”

Well when it comes to the fight against global warming, pollution, and the destruction of our environment it is important that we appreciate the small victories and in this case the large victories. Getting gasoline emissions under control as well as increasing the efficiency of a very expensive resource is a move in the right direction. Thus, it would be a good idea to keep an eye on Umbqua and what it might add to the war against pollution in the next couple of years.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.