Archive for July, 2009

A climate bill must keep electricity affordable

Evidently, the American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) has decided to join the debate over America’s energy future—after having previously confessed that they’ve been asleep at the wheel on the issue.

Today, ANGA placed an ad in the Washington Post claiming we can reduce America’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 50 percent right now. All we have to do is slash coal use by more than half while doubling use of natural gas.

Sound too good to be true?

It is.

Whether the infrastructure for this massive conversion is already in place (power plants, natural gas pipelines, etc.) is highly debatable.


RECS: Filling an Academic Need in Carbon Storage Research

 Well, that wraps up another year at the Research Experience in Carbon Sequestration (RECS).

It was a great chance for us to meet the men and women behind the latest clean coal technology (CCT).

As we discovered, some of America's smartest people are working around the clock on the next generation of CCT, which includes the capture and safe storage of carbon dioxide. (VIDEO: See for yourself.)

RECS Director Pamela Tomski told us that RECS fills a void, as there are no university programs dedicated to CCS. Instead, academic research typically is fragmented into different disciplines.

To counter that, RECS offers a comprehensive overview of all aspects of the science, technology and policy behind of CCS.

In the video below, Tomski talks about the success of this year’s RECS program:

RECS: Researchers are injecting CO2 into the ground in New Mexico


After getting the fundamentals of geological carbon storage through classroom and group exercises, it was finally time for the RECS group to go out into the field and see CCS in action.

Along with RECS, our team went into the field with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Southwest Regional Partnership (SWP) on Carbon Sequestration.

At New Mexico’s Pump Canyon, our team toured SWP’s test project site, where researchers are injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) into the ground.


Happy Rain Day 2009!

Here in Washington, D.C., almost every day this summer has been a rain day.

But in Waynesburg, Pa., there’s only one Rain Day. And it was yesterday.

Rain Day is a Greene County, Pa., tradition dating back to July 29, 1876. All parts of life revolve around coal in Greene County, and folks in the area are proud of the rich heritage it has given them.

We weren’t around for the first Rain Day, but we participated in the celebration last year.

Take a look at the video we put together at Rain Day 2008.

RECS: Students agree on the need for CCS


There are many ways to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and each has its pros and cons — a successful solution will involve a balanced mix that includes all options available to us.

At the Research Experience in Carbon Sequestration (RECS) program, Ph.D. and graduate students played the Stabilization Wedge Game developed by Princeton University’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative. The object is to keep CO2 emissions flat using wedges representing different strategies.

Teams included students from academic institutions such as Columbia University, Ohio State University, Indiana University, Penn State University, Rutgers University and Johns Hopkins University.

A major part of the game includes weighing the financial costs of each CO2 reduction strategy. That is, we all want to reduce CO2 emissions, but we need to take into account the need for affordable and reliable electricity and ensure that we protect our economy.

The best Stabilization Wedge Game players put together a realistic option for CO2 reduction that wins over the following stakeholder groups: taxpayers/consumers; energy companies; environmental groups; manufacturers; industrialized nations; and developing nations.

Invariably, this means including CCS as a wedge strategy. Students at RECS agreed that since we rely on coal for 50 percent of our electricity, the solution must include a plan to increase our investments in CCS projects.

That’s what we’ve been saying all along, but it was nice to see a team of academic scholars reach the same conclusion.

RECS: We Believe in Clean Coal

Sometimes in this job, it’s easy to feel like people just don’t get it. And as I get older, I often feel like my parents when I see young adults who are very firm in their conviction and purpose but just fail to see the bigger picture.

That’s why it was so exciting to see the video posted above, in which the next generation of environmental scientists, geologists, engineers and researchers talk about CCS, the shorthand for carbon capture and sequestration.

These are America’s top minds at places like Columbia University and Rutgers University. And in the face of the energy challenges facing our nation, they’re working toward a solution. They recognize the necessity that we have carbon capture and storage because we will still need to use coal (both here and around the world), but they also get that technology is the solution.

Other voices from the academic community on CCS:

See video: Dr. Sally Benson, director of the Global Climate Energy Project at Stanford University, is an expert on how carbon dioxide flows through rocks.

See video: Dr. Klaus Lackner, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is an expert on ensuring that sequestered CO2 stays in the ground in a safe manner.

See video: Dr. Michael Celia, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University, is an expert on assessing CO2 storage possibilities.

With so many talented individuals working toward the same goal, it’s all the more evident that clean energy technologies like CCS can and will reduce emissions while allowing us to use our most abundant and affordable energy source: coal.

RECS: Stanford University Studies Ways to Make CCS Effective and Safe

This week we’ll be attending the Research Experience in Carbon Sequestration (RECS) – a 10-day program that advances scientific research and professional training in the field of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Here at RECS, our team caught up with Dr. Sally Benson, director of the Global Climate Energy Project at Stanford University. She is an expert on how carbon dioxide flows through rocks, a key to understanding the ways to make CCS effective and safe.

At Stanford, she teaches courses on CCS and greenhouse gas mitigation technologies. She talks to us about her work at Stanford:

Learn more about Dr. Benson’s Lab.

RECS: How to determine the best sites for CO2 storage

This week we’ll be attending the Research Experience in Carbon Sequestration (RECS) – a 10-day program that advances scientific research and professional training in the field of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

When it comes to the capture and safe storage of carbon dioxide (CO2), it’s important to learn about geology and permeability.

Research is underway all over the world to determine the best sites for the safe storage of CO2. At RECS, our team has heard a lot from scientists about permeability (the ability of fluids to flow through rock), which is measured in units called millidarcies.

As we’ve said, the National Energy Technology Laboratory estimates that North America has enough storage capacity at our current rate of production for more than 900 years worth of carbon dioxide. This storage capacity is located deep underground across the continent in varying types of geological formations – including unmineable coal seams and oil and gas reservoirs.

This week at RECS, we listened to Travis McLing, a research scientist and carbon sequestration technical lead at the Idaho National Laboratory. Later, Dr. Mark Holtz of Praxair talked about enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and carbon storage optimization.

We also talked with Dr. Michael Celia of Princeton University who studies “injectivity and leakage” in CO2 storage in deep saline aquifers. That is, it’s important to make sure geology can handle the rate at which the CO2 is injected—as well as to ensure that the CO2 does not leak out.

Here’s what Dr. Celia had to say:

Sometimes people forget, but Basin Electric Power’s North Dakota-Weyburn project has been capturing CO2 for nearly a decade – the project involves sending the CO2 to an oil field in Saskatchewan for enhanced oil recovery.

And as the sessions so far have proven, there are other possibilities for carbon sequestration, with talented minds working on ways to ensure that we have the safe, effective storage of CO2 that we need.