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Army To Test Clean Fuels

May 18, 2000

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) _ The Army will be ``cleaner and greener″ when it begins testing cleaner-burning alternative fuels for the National Energy Technology Laboratory this fall, a scientist says.

Under a formal agreement the two agencies were expected to sign today, the Army will equip its fleet of Humvees, tanks and Jeeps with special instruments to monitor how the fuels burn, then send that data back to the lab.

The Army was targeted in part because of its impact on air pollution: It has some 250,000 vehicles worldwide, said Diane Hooie, senior adviser in the lab’s Strategic Center for Natural Gas.

The agreement gives the lab a testing ground and, eventually, a buyer for both battery-like fuel cells and liquid fuels made from coal, oil, natural gas and waste products from landfills and sewage-treatment plants.

The Department of Energy has four research programs with multiple projects under way at the lab to develop fuels that burn with little or no emissions.

The alternative fuels are safe and stable, Hooie said, but significantly more expensive than gasoline and diesel because they are not yet mass-produced.

The Army will try various fuels on 100 vehicles at a time for several years. If the fuels are compatible with existing pumps and engines, their use would be expanded.

The lab has about 1,200 employees in Morgantown and Pittsburgh, and nearly $70 million of its annual $482.5 million budget goes toward research on alternative fuels and fuel cells.

Fuel cells operate like batteries, generating electrochemical power from a hydrogen-rich source like natural gas, methanol or sewage waste, Hooie said. The anodes and cathodes that in a normal battery actually supply the power in a fuel cell simply facilitate it.

``It’s quiet, there’s no waste and there are no moving parts,″ Hooie said.

Some fuel cells are already commercially available but not yet widely used. They have potential applications in luxury vehicles and for long-haul truckers, who could use them for auxiliary power as they rest.

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