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California Awards $20M in NatGas, Alternative Fuel Transportation Grants

The California Energy Commission (CEC) on Tuesday awarded six grants totaling nearly $20 million for various stationary and transportation applications involving natural gas or its delivery systems. The funding covers leak detection, infrastructure, alternative fuel transportation and space heating/cooling innovations.

The bulk of the funds ($13.5 million) will go to a series of still unidentified projects to demonstrate low- and zero-emission vehicles at two of California's busiest seaports, identifying and installing electric vehicle (EV) charging sites at the state's national parks and completing hydrogen refueling station evaluations. The funds are to push the increased use of alternative and renewable transportation fuels, including renewable natural gas.

For natural gas infrastructure, the CEC awarded more than $5 million:

  • $3.7 million to the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), which maintains offices in Sacramento, to develop and demonstrate technologies that improve gas pipeline safety and integrity;
  • $1.5 million to the University of California, Irvine, campus and UC Santa Cruz campus to examine regional gas infrastructure to help mitigate the possible future effects of climate variability and extreme weather;
  • A third grant of an undisclosed amount went to the global energy safety/efficiency company Det Norske Veritas Inc. to demonstrate an advanced risk assessment methodology for managing the integrity of pipelines in California.

The latter work will address corrosion and mechanical damage threats to pipelines, while GTI's grant, along with two others, will look at the current status of pipelines, mapping and the notification system to reduce the risk of third-party damage to gas pipelines, and separately to find ways to increase energy efficiency in the industrial sector to reduce overall gas use.

In the UC work, academic researchers will look at what changes and improvements are needed to be made to the state's natural gas system to significantly reduce the system's vulnerability to climate change. UC Santa Cruz will concentrate on Northern California, and UC Irvine on Southern California, excluding San Diego.

In the area of methane leak detection, the CEC approved a $600,000 contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to respond to new legislation (SB 380) mandating the monitoring of high-emission methane hot spots in the wake of the four-month natural gas storage well leak at Aliso Canyon in Southern California.

NASA is charged with illustrating the impact of methane as a greenhouse gas and identifying large sources of it, using advanced imaging technologies to survey the gas infrastructure in the state, which total tens of thousands of miles.

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