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Periodic Report Summary 1 - GENFUEL (Addressing Fundamental Challenges in the Design of new generation fuels.)

There is a need at the European and global levels to address challenges in the design of a new generation of fuels in order to achieve significant efficiency and emissions benefits in modern downsized boosted engines employing gasoline and ethanol blends. Abnormal combustion phenomena are a severe constraint to the use of much higher boosting pressures which are needed for significant gains in efficiency and reduction in emissions. These phenomena have to be better understood within the context of the different thermodynamic regimes that exist in these engines and addressed to enable the full benefit of modern downsized boosted engines to be realised. The area is vitally important for the reduction of GHG emissions and the resulting climate change impact of transportation. GENFUEL is an intersectoral collaboration that tackles fundamental challenges in understanding combustion mechanisms under highly boosted conditions that will be key to unlocking improvements in the design of a new generation of fuels. The project adopts a holistic approach with project components which study fuel engine behaviour along with safe handling technologies and life cycle analysis accounting for water use in fuel pathways. Long-term collaborative relationships will be established between SHELL, the coordinator, and six partner universities. This will link their collective combustion, lifecycle and fuel handling expertise directly with SHELL’s longstanding R&D fuel design capability. In the first two years, university researchers will participate via secondments to interdisciplinary R&D projects. To demonstrate commitment to a durable collaboration, SHELL will pay for the cost of the researchers' reintegration year and the universities and SHELL will jointly initiate follow-on or new projects.
Objectives of the research programme
In order to make a significant impact to the complex and interdisciplinary aspects in the characterisation and development of new transportation fuels, strong intersectoral collaborations are needed in order to strategically pool academia’s fundamental research capabilities with industry’s applied industrial research environment. GENFUEL’s two-way secondment of researchers between industry and academia will enable the project consortium to benefit from leading knowledge in academia combined with industry’s extensive expertise in developing new fuel designs in order to realise significant future benefits through higher boosting of downsized engines for both gasoline and mid ethanol blends.
GENFUEL’s objectives of addressing fundamental challenges in the characterisation and design of a new generation of fuels would be incomplete without taking into account the wider but critical issues of life cycle analysis (LCA) and the safe handling of sustainable fuels, both of which have a significant influence in the design of new fuels. Hence GENFUEL incorporates intersectoral research components approaches in life cycle analysis, which considers new methods for accounting for water use in fuel pathways, and the safe handling of sustainable fuels, which will develop tools for the simulation of large-scale deflagrations and the deflagration to detonation (DDT) transition.
The advantages in adopting this holistic approach to the project are 2 fold: the project outputs on parameters crucial to the design of new fuels will have taken critical LCA and safe handing parameters into account. ;integrating LCA and major hazards research groups with fuel technology research groups, into the project work plan of interdependent work packages, provides a project team who will have an interdisciplinary approach to address GENFUEL’s objectives.
GENFUEL’s programme of research will be implemented through 7 closely interlinked work packages.

WP 2 builds on the synergies of chemical kinetic projects at (SHELL UK) and research groups at the Combustion Chemistry Centre at Galway University. The key objectives are to: develop chemical kinetic models for surrogate fuels which can describe combustion in regimes appropriate to modern downsized boosted engines ; extend these models for the evaluation of hazard scenarios. Kinetic models are an important tool for understanding and improving the performance of combustion systems. Most of the kinetic schemes developed to date are for single component fuels such methane or heptane. Practical market fuels are complex including a mixture of aromatics, alkanes and oxygenates whose behaviour is not modelled accurately by kinetic schemes optimised for a single component. The choice of chemistry to include in a reaction scheme is determined by both the fuel composition being modelled and the reaction conditions. Modern engines and hazard scenarios require current kinetic schemes to be extended to ensure that the new conditions of interest are modelled correctly.

WP3 will improve understanding of pre-ignition and identify both physical and chemical characteristics of fuels and lubricants that impact pre-ignition tendency. It also seeks to understand how best to specify fuel ignition quality to prevent both pre-ignition and knock. The topic is intrinsically interdisciplinary as it brings together combustion science, lubrication science and engine design. It is also intersectoral in enabling expertise from academia in combustion and automotive fluid dynamics to be combined with industrial knowledge and capability to test and reformulate products.
Pre-ignition is important since it limits the efficiency of modern spark ignition engines. In order to improve engine efficiency manufactures are making greater use of direct injection and engine downsizing combined with turbo-charging. The increased pressures before spark combined with fuel lubricant interactions, resulting from direct injection, generate conditions which favour pre-ignition. Currently pre-ignition is not very well understood resulting in engine design having to forego potential efficiency benefits in order to avoid condition where pre-ignition might occur since it can result in structural damage to the engine.

Ethanol has very specific combustion properties including a high knock resistance, a high laminar burning velocity, and a high heat of vaporisation which can help to improve vehicle efficiency in downsized boosted engines. The objective of this work package is to define a middle level of EtOH (in between the 5-10% typically blended into gasoline and E85) which is able to increase engine efficiency, thereby providing a technology roadmap for higher biofuel use. The objectives of this work package are to: Determine how the antiknock performance of modern downsized boosted engines is impacted by engine design criteria ; Establish the efficiency improvements possible through optimising antiknock and other properties of a mid ethanol grade fuel and define an optimized level of ethanol in the fuel. Current engines are not design to take full advantage of the beneficial properties of fuels containing greater than 10% ethanol. Future fuels may need to contain greater than 10% ethanol in order to reduce their carbon intensities in line with European Union targets. This work package seeks to quantify the efficiency benefits possible from optimizing ethanol content, wider fuel formulation and engine operating conditions.

WP 5 is undertaken by the Utrecht University and SHELL(UK) seeks to develop further a practical method for accounting for water use in specific product pathways, focusing on alternative transport fuels, e.g. natural gas from unconventional technologies (such as shale gas and coal bed methane), gas-to-liquids and biofuels. Understanding water use is an important aspect of assessing the sustainability of fuel pathways. Better methods are needed before water use can be incorporated as part of a standard life cycle analysis.

WP 6 aim is to gain a better insight into the complex phenomena of deflagration to detonation transition (DDT) for sustainable fuels by studying the mixtures of hydrocarbon air in a realistic large scale situation. The transition towards greater use of sustainable fuels has the potential for introducing new explosion hazards that need to be mitigated. This package seeks to better understand these risk, develop tools for modeling then and hence enable mitigation strategies to be put in place.

GENFUEL participants are committed to networking activities and dissemination of the new knowledge produced in the project, to facilitate the sharing of knowledge targeted at 4 levels: within the GENFUEL project community of research fellows, and supervisors at the sending and host organisations, within a wider setting involving the participants’ own research staff active networking with other EU funded projects to take advantage of complementarities and to hold joint events; Presenting papers at conferences across the wider research community in Europe in order to optimise the impact of the project, also via website:

Reported by

United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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