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Researchers Work to Further Improve Natural Gas Vehicle Emissions


Researchers at the University of Alberta are working on improving catalytic converters that will further reduce the emissions of natural gas vehicles. Chemical engineering professor Robert Hayes is one of six University of Alberta recipients of a three-year Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Strategic Partnership Grant. Hayes’ mission is to partner with industry and research collaborators to develop a more efficient catalytic converter to oxidize the small amounts of methane left over from the incomplete combustion of natural gas engines. One of the major hurdles is the challenge of the wet, low-temperature environment, which is needed to control other emissions.

“Making automobiles run on natural gas is a fad that has come and gone, but there is a huge interest in it again because methane releases the fewest amounts of greenhouse gases and it’s also incredibly cheap at the moment,” says Hayes.

And while natural gas engines are nothing new, Hayes says government regulations are now in place outlining how much methane, which has a greenhouse gas effect 23 times that of CO2, comes out of a tailpipe. “This is an intensely challenging mission because none of the natural gas engine makers have a catalyst that is good enough to help,” said Hayes. “It is a huge prize if you can achieve it.”