Center recognized for excellence

UCI’s SMART Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) was recently awarded $25,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy, Advanced Manufacturing Office, in the Eighth Annual IAC Awards for Excellence in Applied Energy Engineering Research competition. The goal of the award effort is to create funding for undergraduate and graduate students to pursue energy assessment-inspired research projects.

Engineering students Meraf Amare, UCI; Jasmine Glover and Jason Kim, California State University Northridge (CSUN); along with team adviser G.P. Li, UCI CALIT2/INRF/SMART IAC director, were recognized for their proposal titled, “Mixing Hydrogen with Natural Gas as an Alternative for Fuel Switching in Manufacturing for Decarbonization/Reducing GHG Emission.”

“Decarbonization is a hot topic,” said Chelsea Choudhary, SMART IAC, program manager. “We chose a related topic but instead of electrification we took a more unique approach. For many reasons electrification might not be an option for decarbonization– financial barriers, process-specific barriers, etc. Our proposal is to switch natural gas processes to using a hydrogen/natural gas blend. While this does not eliminate the use of natural gas, it does reduce it, therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is a good step toward decarbonization in situations where pure electrification is not feasible.”

The UCI proposal was one of eight winners deemed “excellent” from the largest number of proposals ever submitted in the nationwide competition. “Obviously it was a highly competitive field, not only because of the number of proposals, but due to the innovative and exceptional nature of the proposed research,” said John Smegal, workforce development lead, DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office.

UCI’s SMART IAC is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Centers Program. It offers no-cost energy consulting services to qualifying manufacturers within 150 miles of UCI. Assessments typically require one-day, on-site visits and can identify up to 20% savings in energy use and productivity.

Following the on-site assessment, manufactures receive a detailed report outlining several ways the facility can save energy and money. The analysis includes detailed engineering and economic calculations of potential energy saving ideas.

To date, the IACs, one of DOE’s longest-running programs, have provided nearly 20,000 no-cost assessments for small- and medium-sized manufacturers and more than 147,000 recommendations for improvement measures. Assessments typically identify more than $130,000 in potential annual savings opportunities for every manufacturer assessed, nearly

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