Liquid-Piston Isothermal Home Natural Gas Compressor

Eaton Corporation
Highly Efficient, Near-Isothermal Liquid-Piston Compressor for Low Cost At-Home Natural Gas Refueling
Image of Eaton's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$3,400,000
Location: 
Cleveland , OH
Project Term: 
01/01/2013 to 12/31/2015
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Critical Need: 
There are fewer than 600 natural gas vehicle refueling stations in the U.S. today, which represents a significant obstacle to the widespread adoption of natural gas vehicles. Developing at-home refueling systems would improve the convenience of owning a natural gas vehicle, but these systems can cost up to $5,000 and take 5-8 hours per vehicle charge. Dramatic improvements must be made to the cost and convenience of at-home refueling systems to accelerate natural gas vehicle adoption.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Eaton is developing an at-home natural gas refueling system that relies on a liquid piston to compress natural gas. A traditional compressor uses an electric motor to rotate a crankshaft, which is tied to several metal pistons that pump to compress gas. Traditional compressor systems can be inefficient and their complex components make them expensive to manufacture, difficult to maintain, and short-lived. Eaton's system replaces traditional pistons with a liquid that comes into direct contact with the natural gas without the need for the costly high-pressure piston seals that are used in conventional gas compression.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, Eaton's liquid-piston natural gas compressor would dramatically increase the efficiency of natural gas refueling systems, which could contribute to accelerated adoption of natural gas vehicles.
Security: 
Improving the convenience of natural gas vehicle ownership could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make consumers less vulnerable to sudden oil price shocks.
Environment: 
Natural gas vehicles produce approximately 10% less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered vehicles throughout the fuel life cycle.
Economy: 
Compressed natural gas currently costs half as much per gallon of gasoline equivalent. With the average American spending over $2000 per year on gas, enabling the use of natural gas vehicles could save drivers $1000 per year.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Dane Boysen
Project Contact: 
Dr. Clark Fortune
Partners
University of Minnesota