August 14, 2015
Capitol Update

In this issue:


ENERGY DEPARTMENT REPORTS HIGHLIGHT TRENDS OF GROWING U.S. WIND ENERGY INDUSTRY

According to two recent reports, the U.S. wind energy industry continued growing at an impressive rate in 2014.

The 2014 Wind Technologies Market Report released by the Energy Department and its Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that wind power capacity in the United States grew at a rate of eight percent in 2014 and now stands at nearly 66 gigawatts (GW), which ranks second in the world and meets 4.9 percent of end-use electricity demand in an average year. The United States was the global leader in total wind energy production in 2014.  The report also finds that wind energy prices are at an all-time low and are competitive with wholesale power prices and traditional power sources across many areas of the United States.

The report may be reviewed at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/ under “Issue Reports”.

In total, U.S. turbines in distributed applications reached a cumulative installed capacity of more than 906 megawatts (MW)–enough to power more than 168,000 average American homes–according to the 2014 Distributed Wind Market Report, also released recently by the Energy Department and its Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This capacity comes from roughly 74,000 turbines installed across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Compared with traditional, centralized power plants, distributed wind energy installations supply power directly to the local grid near homes, farms, businesses, and communities. Turbines used in these applications can range in size from a few hundred watts to multi-megawatts, and can help power remote, off-grid homes and farms, as well as local schools and manufacturing facilities.

The 2014 Distributed Wind Market Report is available at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/ under “Issue Reports”.


NIST STUDY CONSIDERING HIGH COST OF HYDROGEN PIPELINES AND POTENTIAL COST REDUCTION METHODS

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is conducting a new study on the costs of installing pipelines to transport hydrogen fuel and examining ways to reduce costs.

Hydrogen pipelines cost more than other gas pipelines because of the measures required to combat the damage hydrogen does to steel’s properties over time. NIST researchers have calculated that hydrogen-specific steel pipelines can cost as much as 68 percent more than natural gas pipelines, depending on pipe diameter and operating pressure.

According to new NIST findings, hydrogen transport costs could be reduced for most pipeline sizes and pressures by modifying industry codes (such as ASME B31.12 Hydrogen Piping and Pipeline Code) to allow the use of a higher-strength grade of steel alloy without requiring thicker pipe walls. The stronger steel is more expensive, but dropping the requirement for thicker walls would reduce materials use and related welding and labor costs, resulting in a net cost reduction. Code modifications, which NIST plans to propose to ASME once the full study is completed in about a year, would not lower pipeline performance or safety, the NIST authors say. Any changes to ASME codes as a result of the study will be determined once ASME’s B31.12 Committee completes its own evaluation of NIST’s findings.

The NIST study is part of a federal effort to reduce the overall costs of hydrogen fuel, which is renewable, nontoxic and produces no harmful emissions. Much of the cost is for distribution, which likely would be most economical by pipeline. The U.S. contains more than 300,000 miles of pipelines for natural gas but very little customized for hydrogen. Existing codes for hydrogen pipelines are based on decades-old data. NIST researchers are studying hydrogen’s effects on steel to find ways to reduce pipeline costs without compromising safety or performance.

As an example, the new NIST proposal would allow a 24-inch pipe made of high-strength X70 steel to be manufactured with a thickness of 0.375 inches for transporting hydrogen gas at 1500 pounds per square inch (psi). NIST estimates that this would reduce costs by 31 percent compared to the baseline X52 steel with a thickness of 0.562 inches, as required by the current code. In addition, thanks to its higher strength, X70 would make it possible to safely transport hydrogen through bigger pipelines at higher pressure (36-inch diameter pipe to transport hydrogen at 1500 psi) than is allowed with X52, enabling transport and storage of greater fuel volumes. This diameter-pressure combination is not possible under the current code.

Additional information on NIST’s study is available at: http://nist.gov/mml/acmd/201507_h2_pipeline.cfm

ASME has a history of developing a technical basis to support hydrogen-related infrastructure and technologies; other ASME hydrogen-related technical products include:

  • Evaluation of Fracture Properties Test Methods for Hydrogen Service (STP-PT-064 - 2013)
  • Nondestructive Testing and Evaluation Methods for Composite Hydrogen Tanks (STP-PT-021 - 2008)
  • Properties for Composite Materials in Hydrogen Service (STP-PT-017 - 2008)
  • Data Supporting Composite Tank Standards Development for Hydrogen Infrastructure Applications (STP-PT-014 - 2008)
  • Design Guidelines for Hydrogen Piping and Pipelines (STP-PT-006 - 2007)
  • Design Factor Guidelines for High-Pressure Composite Hydrogen Tanks (STP-PT-005 - 2006)

More information can be found at: https://www.asme.org/shop/standards#des=STP.


UPTON RELEASES NEW REPORT HIGHLIGHTING ENERGY AND COMMERCE ACCOMPLISHMENTS FOR 2015

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) released a report on the committee’s accomplishments in the first seven months of 2015. The mid-session report highlights nearly 40 bills that the Energy and Commerce Committee has worked to advance this year as well as areas where the committee’s oversight team is actively engaged. This update, as with prior reports, serves as part of the committee’s efforts to increase transparency and accountability in its work.

While most of the legislation considered by the committee has not been passed into law, a number of items remain on the legislative agenda as part of a broad energy package that will be taken up again when Members return from the August recess. The report includes summaries of this legislation and ‘latest action’ updates for key items that remain on the committee’s agenda for the remainder of the session.

To read the Energy and Commerce Committee’s 18-page 2015 mid-session report, please visit: http://energycommerce.house.gov/sites/republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/files/114/Analysis/20150805MidSessionReport.pdf


FUELING HIGH-TECH GROWTH THROUGH MINORITY BUSINESSES

The U.S. Department of Commerce has established a new partnership between the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) to support minority business development through our nation’s investment in research and development at more than 300 federal laboratories. 

The Minority Business Enterprise Technology Transfer Innovation Consortium will support American innovation and global competitiveness by promoting high-technology opportunities to groups that have had historically low participation in this process. By fostering “lab-to-market” initiatives, the partnership aims to increase the number of minority businesses that engage in advanced technology transfer by creating strategic regional ecosystems that link the national science and technology enterprise with the MBDA centers that support minority businesses.

The initiative includes the following goals:

  • Including minority businesses and Minority Serving Institutions in existing Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs and related services through education, outreach and partnership;
  • Piloting the development of a framework for technology transfer regional ecosystems with various domestic trade missions throughout the country, in partnership with the FLC; and,
  • Implementing the framework and subsequent program scale up to create regional ecosystems.

Many examples of federal research, including GPS, turbine engines, radial tires and the Internet, have led to important commercial products and markets. Federal laboratories also offer expertise that can help determine the feasibility of new ideas and test new prototypes, making it easier for the nation’s innovators to get their products off the ground.

As one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. business community with a growing influence on the future of the nation’s economy, minority business enterprises represent 5.8 million firms and generate more than $1 trillion in economic output while employing nearly 5 million people. There are more than 65,000 minority employers already in technology industries. Leveraging this diversity is key to the future of the U.S. economy.

Businesses (and universities involved in research) are invited to visit the MBDA website (http://www.mbda.gov) to learn more about how to get started. Participants will have access to scientists and researchers at more than 300 laboratories representing 11 federal agencies, SBIR/STTR training, business consulting and more. 


GAO REPORT: MODERNIZING THE NUCLEAR SECURITY ENTERPRISE

Nuclear weapons continue to be an essential part of the nation's defense strategy. The end of the cold war resulted in a shift from producing new nuclear weapons to maintaining the stockpile through refurbishment. Also, billions of dollars in scheduled maintenance for nuclear weapons infrastructure has been deferred. The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review identified long-term stockpile modernization goals for the National Nuclear Security Administration(NNSA) that include sustaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal and investing in a modern infrastructure.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 included a provision for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report annually on NNSA's nuclear security budget materials. This recent report:

  • Identifies changes in estimates to the 2015 budget materials from the prior year's materials;
  • Assesses the extent to which NNSA's 2015 budget estimates align with plans for major modernization efforts; and,
  • Addresses the agency's stated goal of stopping the growth of its deferred maintenance backlog.

The report found that:

  • NNSA’s 25-year budget estimates for modernizing the nuclear security enterprise in its fiscal year 2015 budget materials total $293.4 billion, which is an increase of $17.6 billion (6.4 percent) compared with the prior year's materials.
  • For NNSA's major modernization efforts—which include life extension programs (LEPs) that are not in full scale production and major construction projects—near-term budget estimates for two of three LEPs align with plans, but estimates for construction projects are too preliminary to assess alignment.
  • NNSA's infrastructure budget estimates are not adequate to address its reported $3.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog, and the backlog will continue to grow.

The 69-page report may be viewed at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/ under “Issue Reports”.

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

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