Tired of sitting in long lines at the pump? Imagine being able to fuel your car from home for half the price. The research being conducted in Central Oregon Community College’s Automotive Technician Laboratory could someday make that dream a reality.
The United States Department of Energy awarded $700,000 to Christ Hagen to fund the natural gas research project. The project’s goal is to tap into natural gas as a resource for transportation. It’s being led by Hagen who is an assistant professor of Energy Systems Engineering at Oregon State University-Cascades’.
“We have a lot of natural gas in this country,” Hagen said. “By some estimates, 100 years of natural gas at our current consumption rates.”
However the natural gas must be compressed, explained Hagen, by way of a 125 horsepower electric motor, coupled with an internal combustion engine. The engine will act as a compressor, condensing the gas to fuel the automobile.
If implemented, the research will allow residents the option to hook a vehicle up to the same natural gas line they run in their homes, for cheaper than going to the pump.
“It’s $1.50-$2.00 a gallon of gasoline equivalent,” Hagen said. “So basically for the same amount of energy, it’s going to cost half as much.”
Hagen and his team are in the process of narrowing in on a final design before beginning testing.
The project will be managed by Dusty Stewart, OSU-Cascades’ first Energy Systems Engineering graduate, who considers himself fortunate to have started working on the project as an undergraduate.
“You wouldn’t get an opportunity like this if you were at a larger school,” Stewart said, “because the jobs would go to graduate students.”
There are challenges and benefits that come with doing the research at OSU-Cascades campus, according to Hagen. Since it is such a new campus, there are currently no graduate students and no facilities.
“It’s the only research going on here in Bend,” Hagen said. “It’s a pretty exciting project.”