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Preventing Corroision After Collision Repairs Protects Profits, Performance for the Long Haul

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When a truck or commercial vehicle is manufactured, preventative measures are taken to resist corrosion over the life of that vehicle. These preventative measures come in the form of primers, sealers, and coatings along with various application and process methods. In the event of a collision, these protective materials can be compromised and need to be restored properly. Restoring the corrosion protection and being careful not to create new corrosion hot spots is the key to a proper repair.

When asked to identify the causes of corrosion on trucks today, the common responses are salt and corrosive chemicals, moisture or damaged coatings from stone chips. Most owner/operators and repair technicians don’t consider that collision repairs are commonly the cause of premature vehicle corrosion. Common processes such as grinding, welding and cutting in the truck collision repair process can create opportunities for corrosion. If these processes are not understood and addressed with proper repair methods and corrosion protection, it can lead to cosmetic consequences or, more importantly, compromised protection of structural parts which are critical to the safety of the truck.

What exactly is corrosion? Corrosion is an electrochemical reaction called oxidation that is formed when combining exposed metal, oxygen and an electrolyte such as an acid, salt or moisture. Galvanic corrosion is another type of corrosion that occurs when two dissimilar metals come together in contact with an electrolyte such as moisture.

When OEM coatings are damaged in an accident, it leaves bare metal exposed. Once bare metal is exposed, a corrosive hot spot can start to form on the exterior and interior panels by forming flash rusting. The corrosive hot spot can negatively affect rivet joints, weld joints, floor pan, cab corner extensions and reinforcement pillars. One such coating that could be compromised during the accident is the electrodeposition coating or known as “E-Coat”. During the repair process it is very important to maintain or keep the E-Coat intact and to only remove this coating in the necessary locations.

Areas known as the seam sealer joints can be stressed in an accident resulting in distortion, twisting and damage. Seam sealers are designed to eliminate moisture, air intrusion and, in some situations, noise. Seam sealer joints should be thoroughly inspected after an accident to determine if the seam sealer has been damaged or compromised in any way.

Improper collision repairs can affect exterior and interior truck components. Heat is a promoter of corrosion and can be neglected during the repair process. Repair technicians need to keep in mind that they create heat through grinding, cutting and welding. Continuation of applied heat to surfaces can accelerate metals to high temperatures. When the metal cools, this can result in condensation or moisture. Even though the technician works on the outside of the panel during the repair process, the backside of the panel can be affected throughout the repair. The coating on the backside of the panel is usually compromised or even removed through hammering, pulling, dollies, stud weld pin inserts and even prying. This can leave the exposed metal susceptible to corrosion.

To restore the integrity of this coating when access to the backside is difficult or limited, use 3M™ 08852 Cavity Wax Plus. This product will effectively coat and protect these areas from corrosion by sealing out oxygen from the metal. This is an easy-to-use aerosolized product that can be used with a variety of application wands. The 3M™ Cavity Wax Plus Applicator Wand Kit 08851 contains and 8” wand for easy-to-access areas as well as two longer wands for accessing enclosed areas (frame rails, cab corners/supports).

Technicians need to keep in mind while working with bare metal that bare hands can leave behind salt, moisture and other contaminants. This neglected habit can also lead to corrosion. Wearing gloves and designating tools for specific metals can also help to reduce the potential for creating corrosion during the repair process.

Removing rivets during a heavy duty truck repair can also contribute to galvanic corrosion. For example, steel particles being removed from the substrate can get lodged into surrounding crevice areas. Also, high amounts of heat can be generated while grinding on these substrates which can lead to a potential corrosion hot spot. 3M™ Cubitron™ II sanding and grinding abrasives run cool during the rivet removal process due to consistent shape mineral and fast cutting action. This can help reduce the negative effect of heat during these applications.

The other area of concern during the riveting process is the reattachment point of the rivet. During the repair process the technician inserts coated steel rivets into an aluminum substrate. Even though a coating has been applied to the surface of the rivet, the coating could be scratched during the insert process leading to galvanic corrosion. This is why it’s important during the refinish process to completely coat the rivet on the backside of the panel or even apply 3M 08852 Cavity Wax Plus as added protection.

You can see how a neglected repair processes could potentially lead to corrosion. Neglecting corrosion protection can affect the life of the truck or possibly change the designed path of energy in the event of a future accident. 3M’s commitment to the commercial vehicle and heavy duty truck market help deliver solutions for corrosion protection as well as other challenges within the repair process.

For more information on heavy duty truck repair solutions from 3M Automotive Aftermarket Division, visit 3MCollision.com/HDtrucks.

An Introduction to Paint Booth Filters & Maintenance

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The filters you choose for your truck refinish paint booth — and how well you maintain them — can have a direct impact on everything from booth efficiency and paint finish quality to booth maintenance costs and the safety of technicians. But before you select your booth filters, it’s important to understand all your booth’s filtration locations and the types of filters that can be used for each location.

Air Make-Up Filters
Depending on your paint booth setup, the first line of filtration defense may be in the air make-up unit, which provides pressurized air to the booth. These filters trap large particles before air reaches the air make-up unit. In addition to protecting the air make-up unit itself, these filters play an important role in extending the life of more expensive intake filtration further down the line. Relatively inexpensive, air make-up filters are sometimes known as a sacrificial layer.

Intake Filters
You likely wouldn’t know it because they are invisible to the naked eye, but particles as small as 10 microns can cause defects in your paint job. For reference, that’s about 0.0004 inches. A paint booth relies on high-quality intake filtration to remove these particles before they can contaminate the paint job.

Intake filters are often internally-supported polyester panel filters or linked panel filters, which are typically designed to be installed without the aid of clips or other mounting hardware to create a leak-free static fit when inserted into the frame. Your paint booth’s airflow style determines the type and efficiency of intake filter used.

Crossdraft Booths: In crossdraft booths, air is either pulled through a filtered intake door or pushed through a filtered intake plenum. Global Finishing Solutions® (GFS) supplies intake filters for crossdraft booths with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) 7 rating, which is higher than the industry standard.

Side Downdraft, Semi-Downdraft and Downdraft Booths: Air is introduced into these booths through a filtered ceiling. The diffusion-type media pad used for ceiling intake filtration is much more efficient, with a rating of MERV 10 or higher. This rating ensures an internal cleanroom atmosphere that removes more than 99 percent of all particles 10 microns or larger from the air entering the booth.

Exhaust Filters
Where intake filters ensure that you are working with clean air from the start, exhaust filters ensure the air leaving the booth is safe for the environment, while also preventing potentially dangerous chemicals from remaining in the booth.

Exhaust filtration also protects your fans, exhaust stack and plenum from the buildup of overspray contamination. To do this effectively, exhaust filters need to hold enough paint to avoid constantly replacing them. At same time, these filters must provide a minimal pressure drop in the booth to ensure particles don’t harden and end up on the painted surface.

Traditional exhaust filters are generally single-stage filtration media made of multilayered polyester and/or fiberglass. Differences in fiber configuration, density and composition impact how exhaust filters will perform. With a 99.94 percent particle removal efficiency and holding capacity of 4.4 pounds, GFS Wave filters are designed to meet or exceed the performance of the original equipment filters.

The same type of exhaust filter can be used in crossdraft, side downdraft, semi-downdraft and downdraft booths but the location and frame configuration differ:

Crossdraft and Semi-Downdraft Booths: Exhaust filters are secured to the plenum located at the rear of the booth.

Side Downdraft Booths: Air is pulled into floor-level filtered exhaust plenums on both sides of the booth.

Downdraft Booths: Filters are located in the exhaust pit in the floor.

Filter Maintenance
Just as important as deciding which filters to use is establishing a regular schedule for changing your intake and exhaust filters. The cleanliness of your spray booth and the work you do within depend heavily on it. Clogged or overloaded filters may not allow proper airflow through the booth, causing dust or overspray to recirculate through the booth and affect the finish of your paint job.

Beyond that, it is also an important step in ensuring your paint operation meets the health and safety standards required by OSHA and NFPA regulations. In more severe situations, clogged filters may create flammable or explosive conditions within your booth.

Filters will reach their “target” reading and require replacement at varying rates. These rates also depend upon the paint type, booth design, fan speed, temperature, spray equipment, etc. One way to establish a change-out schedule for exhaust filters is to compare readings from a manometer or magnehelic pressure gauge with the booth manufacturer’s specs. Without a pressure gauge, it is best to establish a strict maintenance schedule based on the volume of spraying taking place on a day-to-day basis.

Ultimately, it is best to work with your spray booth manufacturer or filter supplier to design an effective schedule for changing your filters that finds a good balance between filtration needs and cost efficiency in your booth’s performance. GFS and many of their distributors throughout North America offer preventative maintenance plans — with quarterly, annual and just-in-time filter replacement offerings — to take the hassle out of paint booth filter maintenance.

     

Road to Green: HD Vehicle Technology Will Change Labor Measurement

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The progression of heavy duty vehicle technology will make a dramatic difference in measuring a typical HD service shop business. The HD aftermarket will have to relearn this portion of the business all over again. You will find that a typical HD shop owner is going to require 6 to 8 days of management training per year moving forward. This labor measurement is one of the changes that will have to be relearned as the old way of setting and measuring labor rates will leave too much money on the table.

As commodity margins decline and HD vehicle software grows, everyone must understand where their management attention must be directed.

A redefined labor measurement will take place within the next year to maximum 2 year period.

A “maintenance labor” category will be just that, pure maintenance work based on the manufacturers recommended service intervals and repairs of worn out or broken parts.

Diagnostic labor will be the analyzation of a situation or interpretation of information. (What is the problem, what caused it and what is the solution?)

Inspection labor will be all completed paid inspections.

Re-Flash will be strictly updating the vehicle from the OEM website.

Calibration labor will be a new category as the lining up of sensors after a repair has taken place will become an additional specialty skill within the HD shop. Software platforms will have to be understood.

The key information that will need to be understood is “what will the mix of each labor category be within the shop?” This brings back the importance of key efficiency measurement for each category as specific training will have to be required and making sure the shop has the right skill set within the team to ensure professional execution of the services on behalf of the HD client. The efficiency measurement of each category will also help establish the billed hours per R/O.

Measuring the “effective” rate will be critical in the labor mix measurement. How much labor should we be getting from each labor category to justify the staffing level?

All that being said another big change coming to the industry will be the setting of labor rates for each category. Labor rate multiples will change from what they are now based around the technicians hourly wage to working with the individual shops actual cost per billed hour.

Better “job quoting” skills will have to be embraced because the knowledge for “how” a job must be done and “what kind of labor” is involved to complete the job to total client satisfaction must be learned.

As you can see, personnel development and business measurement will become more intertwined than ever before. All of these things combined will affect the net profit of the business.

Our heavy duty industry is changing so rapidly and dramatically and the reason for this is due to vehicle technology and technician competency that will be required to fix and maintain a vehicle properly.

I see this as just the beginning of so many changes coming to the heavy duty aftermarket sector within the next 1 to 2 years maximum. What will happen to the HD shops that don’t have a learning culture in their business or won’t want to re-learn and move in the direction they must? Time will not be on their side. It is this kind of change that will dramatically separate the heavy duty shops in a given marketplace.

As the business owner you want to be committed to keep “ahead of the wave” and seek out the business knowledge you will need to keep the business moving forward. Hold on for the ride over the next 2 years, it will be a great one for the heavy duty shops that get it.

Bob Greenwood

Road to Green: Do You Have a Problem with Too Much Staff Turnover?

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Everyone acknowledges the shortage of competent technicians, and staff in general, in this heavy duty industry, but it becomes really scary when a HD service shop can’t keep the staff it does find. When a shop can’t keep good people, it not only affects the shop’s general attitude, it affects the profitability too.

Constant personnel “replacement” is not personnel “management”.

Too much personnel replacement is not good for business. It creates a situation where too much time by the shop owner is used in a perceived negative process, rather than spending time working on the positive processes of the business that builds a client base, and profitability. If the business is not moving forward, then the fact is, it is stagnant, or moving backwards.

Consider the following:

  • In many cases, it is not the staff that is the problem; it is “shop management” that is the problem.
  • If an employee would leave a shop for a $4 or $6 per hour raise, then the employee does not “see” a future with the current shop that would allow him/her to earn in excess of the amount offered, to enjoy a career. The employee sees the current situation as a job. The owner does not seem to believe in, or have the skill to, create positive employee business relationships.
  • Due to a shortage of competent people, it must be recognized that dealing with staff members today must change substantially compared to the 1990’s mentality.
  • It must be recognized that you can buy a man’s time; you can buy his physical presence at a given place; you can even buy a measured number of his skilled muscular motions per hour. But, you cannot buy enthusiasm today; you cannot buy initiative today; you cannot buy loyalty today; you cannot buy devotion to the business today. You must EARN these.
  • Heavy duty shop employers today must learn to be supportive, and willing to take responsibility, of its employee’s long-term “well-being”. The employer, in essence, is stating, “You are not easily replaced, therefore, I am interested in you, and your future, and how working with, and being part of this company can meet, or exceed, your personal goals. Let’s talk.”
  • In the past, you would hear people saying “wouldn’t it be great to work for company X or company Y?” You don’t hear that anymore because in an age known for “slash and burn”, “downsizing”, and “lean and mean management”, which has created a psychological atmosphere within the marketplace, where the prevailing perception among employees is that there are not too many companies out there that VALUE their people.
  • As much effort must be made to nurturing your employees as you do servicing your heavy duty clients. This is a role management must be willing to “get their head around”, because if it doesn’t, what are the long-term financial consequences to the business?
  • An employee-centered management philosophy makes sound business sense. Any corporation, in our industry, that wants to succeed today, has to care passionately about its business and compassionately about its people because businesses that fail to understand, and act on this, will probably fail.
  • The only sustainable competitive advantage in business today is its people. The competition can copy your technology and latest feature, but they can’t copy the skills, knowledge, judgement, and creativity of your committed workforce. People ARE the edge today.
  • There is a new “social contract” being made today where companies are asking employees to change, to be innovative, and creative. Employees, in return, are then stating, “well in that case let me try and do it, rather than watching over my shoulder trying to clone me like you, because I am not you. Yes, I will make mistakes, because no one, including you, is perfect, but I will learn through my mistakes and become a much better employee, and person, for it. When you display, and support, confidence in me, in the long run, I will not let you down. Also, for my concerted effort and dedication to the task requested, it is only fair that I am properly compensated.”

All these are key points, and there is no doubt there are heavy duty service shops who will either agree with them, or argue it is still the employees fault anyway because “they just don’t want to work.” At this point, with statements like that, one must make an assessment as to whether this shop owner is willing to change the way he/she thinks. People are willing to work when they have something positive to be motivated about that creates the desire to work. A good starting point for management is to have a respect for the employee as an individual, and a respect for the skills that they have worked so hard to achieve. The next hint is to display pride in your “team”, and each member, openly in front of the client. If you arer not proud of your team and each member in your shop, it doesn’t say much for management’s ability; after all, who hired them, who trained them, and who pays them?

Today everyone must be willing to understand that personnel management is not a “one time meeting”, but rather a nurturing process that requires on-going discussion and understanding of points of view from both sides over a longer period of time. The over-all benefits to the business, and its bottom line, are enormous. This is truly the expression of “entrepreneurship” where the

management of the shop is leading the business, and the “employees” have a strong desire to follow.

As this sample problem has shown, if the owner is not prepared to change, then one must accept that the shop will not grow, and will actually experience serious financial difficulties, if not already there. Entrepreneurs must devote their time to the progression of their business, because they realize that their shop will be one of the few that will be here in five years, coupled with a “team” standing alongside with them. Everyone has each other’s back !!!

Take the time to learn about your employees. Express, and show, your concern for their future, and I believe you will be amazed at the positive response you will get from the better technicians/staff in the marketplace.

Taking the steps to strengthen your relationship with your employees is good business sense. Strengthen it by having open discussions about the industry, the business, and every individual’s role within the business. It does take time. It does take several meetings. It does take commitment, but the long-term rewards are great. The choice is yours.

Effective personnel management takes creative thinking. Consider that anyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. However, it’s only the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that succeeds.

If you’d like help, I’m here; it’s my specialty. Reach out and e-mail me: greenwood@aaec.ca

Bob Greenwood

Road to Green

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The following is a checklist of items for consideration to be measured each and every month.  Keep in mind that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.  Get focused, measure your HD service business properly so you can make the right management decisions to move forward and achieve what you want to achieve.  

  1. Labor rates – fluid service rate, maintenance rate, diagnostic rate and re-flash rate.  Are you up to date on the right multiples to achieve between the amount paid hourly to the technician and the rate charged to the HD client?
  2. Effective Labor Rate  — what are you really achieving in your labor rate after it is measured against the shop’s potential? Knowing the shop’s potential number is a critical calculation to understand.
  3. Number of R/O’s written each month.  Are you controlling your volume or are you missing potential revenue because the service shop is too busy?
  4. Average Labor Hours Billed per R/O.  Are you measuring productivity accurately or just sales?
  5. Average Sales and Gross Profit per invoice.  What are you really making on that average sale in your shop?  Is it growing or shrinking? Measure the total Gross Profit dollars against your total cost per billed hour times the number of hours billed on that invoice.
  6. Average Labor produced per technician. Are your people above or below average, and are they improving as their knowledge increases?  Minimum 8 hours billed for 8 hours worked? If not why not?
  7. Daily Operating Expense of the Shop.  What does it cost to turn that key in the morning? Are you giving more thought to the “common sense” expenses of the shop?
  8. Current Ratio.  Is the business getting more “liquid”?  Can all the bills be paid when due?
  9. Age of the Receivables.  How long is it taking to collect the average receivable from the HD client?  Is progress being made to eliminate receivables?  What is the true net profitability of each account factoring in the number of days to get paid?  
  10. Age of Payables.  Are we paying all bills when due and taking advantage of discounts offered for prompt payment?
  11. Labor to Total Wage Package Ratio.  Helps measure the effectiveness of management’s ability to “make the shop productive”
  12. Gross profit by Revenue Category.  What is the contribution to our business of each revenue category?  Are we focusing on the important issues that drive “net profit”?
  13. The Shops Sales Mix.  What is the breakdown which, when analyzed properly, can tell what type of client base is in the service shop, therefore competent management decisions on the type of staff, equipment and training can be made.
  14. Inventory Turn / Earn Index.  Is the shop carrying the right level of inventory in each category or are we under or over stocked? Cash is king and we want to make sure it is working properly for the business.
  15. Shop Efficiency. This seems to be the most misunderstood term in the Heavy Duty industry and yet “inefficiency” is the biggest cost per hour in running a service shop.  Is the shop meeting the right site efficiency percentage for the HD client it is serving?

By following the trend  in your business (always analyze the year to date numbers), one can start to maximize profitability, enhance business relationships, and really move their  HD service shop to the next level that is necessary today; the level that is required to ensure you do not buy yourself a job and therefore allowing you to enjoy a career.

Make the time to learn Heavy Duty Business Management techniques and get focused on your future. One of the biggest factors in success today of any Heavy Duty service shop is the courage to understand something. Enroll into a class and really start the process to understand your business.  If you are interested in a personal business coach to help guide you to move your business forward let me know and we can discuss the depth of what is involved and how it works in your favor.

Robert (Bob) Greenwood, AMAM
1-800-267-5497
greenwood@aaec.ca

Building Relationships and Staying Ahead in HR Technology

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HR Tech Connect

Given the rapid rate of change and proliferation of options from HR Systems to Individual Apps for each phase of recruiting, engagement and workforce management, it’s important to find ways to maintain a pulse of the industry, while learning real-world best practices for selection, implementation and integration from the innovators, practitioners and suppliers in this new, converged HR technology workplace. To assist HR and IT professionals in keeping up with this ever-changing industry, WorkforceNEXT launched the HR Tech Connect Summit taking place this November 5-7, 2017 at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

HR Tech Connect is a focused and intimate conference for both HR and IT professionals to network, share information, strategize and discover the latest HR technology solution offerings from industry-leading vendors. This event is exclusively for qualified executives responsible for driving the next wave of business decisions, strategy, implementation and technology investments to advance and solve their organizations’ HR, Talent Acquisition, Employee Engagement and Workforce Management challenges.

The key players in attendance are fully vetted in order to ensure the highest level of peer networking and learning in the HR tech space. These select professionals are fully hosted, which means that HR Tech Connect covers airfare, hotel, meals and registration fees in exchange for valuable time spent out of office. The conference program builds in boardroom-style case study sessions as well as 1:1 time for face-to-face interaction between attending executives, supplier representatives and industry experts, allowing attendees to accomplish months worth of meetings with solution providers and market experts in just 2.5 days.

The summit agenda is more business intensive than any other event focusing on the HR tech landscape. HR Tech Connect’s unique format offers keynote presentations, panels, breakout sessions and case studies focused on delivering and implementing a successful HR and Workforce digital transformation strategy. There is no wasted time and those in attendance walk away with solutions and strategies they can act on immediately. The goal of HR Tech Connect is to build lasting relationships so all members in these complex ecosystems can better understand and advance their needs.

Visit www.hrtechconnect.com for more information. For attendee inquiries, contact David Pesko, dpesko@ngagevents.com or Tom LeComte, tlecomte@ngagevents.com. For sponsor inquiries, contact Joe Warring, joew@stonefortgroup.com.

United Kingdom CO2 emissions fall to lowest level in nearly a century

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LONDON — A record drop in coal use — coupled with the rapid growth of renewable energy, an expansion of energy efficiency programs, and an increase in burning natural gas for electricity — have driven carbon dioxide emissions in the UK to their lowest levels since the 1920s, according to a new study by the non-profit group, Carbon Brief.

The study said that CO2 emissions in the UK fell 5.8% from 2015 to 2016, driven by a 50% drop in emissions from coal burning. In the past decade, coal use in the UK has fallen by 74%, a major reason why UK carbon emissions are now 36% below emissions levels in 1990, according to Carbon Brief.

The UK’s carbon emissions were 381 MMt in 2016, the lowest level since the 1920s. UK coal usage has been plummeting because of increased use of natural gas, carbon taxes on coal, expansion of renewables, falling energy demand, and the late-2015 closure of the Redcar steel works.

Three coal-fired power plants closed in the UK in 2016, the Carbon Brief report said. The huge drop in coal emissions in 2016 was partially offset by a 12.5% increase in natural gas usage and a 1.5% increase in oil consumption as lower gasoline prices led to UK residents driving more miles.

>> Link to original article.

‘Spinning sail’ rebooted to cut fuel and make ocean tankers greener

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LONDON — An ocean-going tanker is to be fitted with a type of “spinning sail” invented almost a century ago in a step that could lead to more environmentally friendly tankers worldwide.

The unusual sails are rotating columns fixed to the deck of the ship, whose interaction with the wind provides forward thrust. The trial is backed by Maersk and Shell’s shipping arm.

International shipping runs largely on highly polluting “bunker” fuel and the industry is coming under increasing pressure to play its part in tackling climate change by reducing emissions. Technologies being explored to cut pollution include kites, batteries or biofuels.

The spinning, or rotor sail, was invented by the German engineer Anton Flettner and he put it into practice on two ships, one of which crossed the Atlantic in 1926. It propels the ship because when wind passes the spinning rotor sail, the air flow accelerates on one side and decelerates on the opposite side, creating a thrust force perpendicular to the wind direction.

The rotor sails being installed on a 240 m-long Maersk tanker are modern lightweight versions produced by the Finnish company Norsepower. They will be 30 m tall and 5 m in diameter, the largest rotor sails ever deployed and the first to be used on a tanker.

In favorable wind conditions, each rotor sail can produce the equivalent of 3MW of power, much more than the 50kW of electricity needed to turn it, said Norsepower’s CEO, Tuomas Riski. If the wind direction reverses, the rotation of the sail can be also be reversed.

Riski said that overall fuel savings of 7-10% were expected, equivalent to about 1,000 tonnes of fuel a year: “We are pretty confident we are in this kind of range.” The company has already deployed its rotor sails on a roll-on/roll-off ferry and saw a saving of 6%.

The new sails will be fitted during the first half of 2018, then analysed at sea until the end of 2019.

“The IMO was first charged with acting by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and now, two decades later, the IMO’s latest greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan envisages a further seven-year period to collect data and navel gaze with no commitment to act at the end of all this,” said Bill Hemmings at the NGO Transport & Environment.

However, some shipping companies are already exploring cleaner energy systems, with the cruise liner firm Hurtigruten ordering a pair of hybrid powered ships that will use a battery system to help power them. Another approach is to use the waste heat from a ship’s diesel engines to produce electricity.

The German company SkySails uses large kites to provide wind power to modern shipping, while another, Enercon, fitted four rotor sails to a transport ship in 2010, though Norsepower’s rotor sails will be larger.

>> Link to original article.

UT researchers link methane in groundwater to natural sources near Barnett wells

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AUSTIN, Texas — Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin have found that high levels of methane in well water from two counties near Fort Worth are probably from shallow natural gas deposits, not natural gas leaks caused by hydraulic fracturing operations in the underlying Barnett Shale.

The research, published in the journal Groundwater, builds on previous studies on well water quality in the Barnett Shale and uses chemical and geographic evidence to tie the elevated methane level in certain water wells to methane in natural shallow deposits.

J.P. Nicot, a research scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology, a unit of the UT Jackson School of Geosciences, led the research. Collaborators include researchers from the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences and the University of Michigan.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas. Fracking is a method of artificially producing fractures in wells thousands of feet deep to reach natural gas deposits in shale rock. Methane is also found in much shallower and smaller deposits located hundreds of feet below the ground. These deposits formed when methane from deeper sources moved toward the surface over millions of years. The shallow reservoirs in the study area are in a geologic formation called the Strawn Group.

“Over geologic time, methane has accumulated into these shallower reservoirs,” Nicot explained. “These fresh-water wells are very close to these shallower reservoirs and may be the source of the methane.”

To examine the source and extent of methane in water wells, the researchers analyzed samples from more than 450 wells across 12 counties in the western Barnett Shale. The vast majority of samples—85 percent—showed very low methane levels in the groundwater of less than 0.1 milligrams of methane per liter of water. However, a cluster of 11 wells in Parker County and Hood County had methane levels above 10 milligrams per liter of water, a level that can trigger venting of well water systems to ensure the flammable gas does not become hazardous.

The Silverado neighborhood was at the epicenter of the cluster of wells containing high levels of methane. They are found in a roughly 6-by-8-mile area that also includes wells with low levels of methane.

This finding prompted the researchers to take a closer look at the cluster. Starting at the center of the cluster and working outward until no methane was detected in the water, they took samples from 58 locations and analyzed them to see where the gas originated.

“What we wanted to do was understand how much methane there is and determine the size of the high methane hotspot,” Nicot said.

Methane is produced two ways: thermogenically, from the breakdown of organic material under elevated temperature and pressure; and biogenically, by microbial activity. Biogenic methane is generally generated at shallow depth. Thermogenic methane is always produced at depth, although sometimes the gas can migrate over geologic time to shallower areas.

Researchers used carbon isotope analysis to determine that the methane was thermogenic, which ruled out biogenic sources but didn’t pinpoint whether the gas came from the deeper Barnett or the shallower Strawn. Additional analysis of the samples’ noble gases conducted by members of the same research team and led by University of Michigan researchers linked the methane to the shallow natural gas deposits of the Strawn. The results were complemented by another of the team’s studies in 2015 that found nitrogen isotopes associated with the Strawn.

Although the findings suggest that methane from the Strawn Group is the most likely source for the methane in water wells in Parker and Hood counties, the researchers said they can’t completely rule out that some of the methane may have come from leaks caused by hydraulic fracturing operations. In fact, the researchers suggest that leaks from deep reservoirs might help explain certain cases recorded by other studies where methane levels in water wells are increasing over time and cases where methane is present in water wells where it used to be absent.

For wells where the methane origins are still questionable, the researchers suggest a more extensive sampling and analysis campaign.

The study was funded by Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America, a program authorized by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005.

>> Link to original article.

Scottish councils invest £1.7 billion into fossil fuel companies

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EDINBURGH – In a departure from the fossil fuel disinvesting trend, Scottish local authorities are pouring £1.7 billion in 52 fossil fuel companies, realizing perhaps its bounty of hydrocarbon resources, according to a news article in the Ferret.

Pension funds for more than half a million council staff are being poured into oil, gas and coal companies. The revelation has shocked pension fund members, angered campaigners and upset trade unionists, who are all calling for fossil fuel investment to be phased out. But the investments have been defended by councils and the industry.

The company given the most money by Scotland’s 11 council pension schemes is the oil and gas giant, Shell, which received nearly £130 million of investments in 2015-16. The coal and mining multinational, Rio Tinto, was given £74 million, BP £64 million and ExxonMobil £44 million.

The Scottish local government pension scheme has 505,769 members and total funds of £35.4bn. Nearly five per cent of its funds were invested in fossil fuels, equivalent to about £3,300 for every member.

Globally, 701 institutions with total investments valued at £4.5 trillion have promised to pull out of fossil fuels. Four local authority pension schemes in England – Haringey, Waltham Forest, Southwark and South Yorkshire – have made commitments to cut their fossil fuel investments.

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