OSU-Cascades receives $700,000 DOE award for harnessing natural gas for vehicle fuel

A researcher at Oregon State University - Cascades will lead a major new research initiative on a vehicle-based natural gas refueling system, a $700,000 project to create technology that would use the vehicle engine itself to compress natural gas.

The project will be led by energy systems engineering professor Chris Hagen, with support from Colorado State University, and is one of the largest research awards yet received by OSU’s branch campus in Bend.

The initiative is one of 13 projects in a $30 million program to develop new ways of harnessing U.S. natural gas supplies. The projects are part of a new program called Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy - or “MOVE”. The goal is lightweight, affordable natural gas tanks for vehicles and natural gas compressors that can efficiently fuel a natural gas vehicle at home.

“These innovative projects will leverage the ingenuity of U.S. scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to develop breakthrough technologies to fuel cars with natural gas,” said Daniel Poneman, U.S. deputy secretary of energy. “These projects could transform America’s energy infrastructure and economy by utilizing domestic energy sources to power our vehicles, reducing our reliance on imported oil, and increasing American energy security.”

Existing natural gas vehicle technologies require tanks that can withstand high pressures, are often cumbersome, and are either too large or too expensive to be suitable for smaller passenger vehicles. The new projects are trying to remove these barriers and encourage the widespread use of natural gas cars and trucks.

With the approach being studied at OSU–Cascades, the engine will have the ability to both power the vehicle as well as compress natural gas for storage. Drivers will be able to connect their vehicle to any natural gas line for fast, convenient refueling.  

“This award demonstrates the innovation of our faculty and lays the groundwork for OSU-Cascades to continue to attract top faculty and research funding,” said OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson.  

Hagen, an assistant professor in the energy systems engineering program at OSU–Cascades, does research on energy systems, advanced internal combustion engines, unconventional fuels, applied thermodynamics and fluid mechanics. OSU-Cascades will lease space in an auto bay in Central Oregon Community College’s Automotive Technology program  for Hagen’s research.