You’ve heard the old saying “making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” The Department of Energy (DOE) is trying to apply that adage to a new problem: greenhouse gases.
The DOE has chosen 13 research ideas (out of nearly sixty submitted concepts) for their carbon sequestration program (finding ways to capture and/or recycle gases) with the goal of reducing the cost to $10 or less per net ton of carbon emissions by 2015-adding less than a penny per kw to an average customer’s electric bill.
Current options for carbon capture and storage average $100-$300 per ton per ton of carbon.
Unlike previous projects funded nearly exclusively by the government, these will be partnerships between industries, universities and research institutions. The DOE, however, has promised $15 million over the next three years to help support the thirteen projects. Private sector cosponsors have agreed to an additional $10 million (or 40 percent of the total cost).
The thirteen programs include:
- Developing a high-temp membrane to separate CO2 from gases when coal is reacted with steam. (Media and Process Technology Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.)
- Finding an economical solution to separate CO2 from flue gas at combustion plants. (Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, N.C.)
- Using coalbed methane recovery technology to test the storage of CO2 in coal seams in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico and Colorado. (Advanced Resources International, Houston, Texas)
- Using nuclear magnetic resonance to identify geologic formations that may lend themselves to long-term CO2 storage. (Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas)
- Studying saline reservoirs in the Rockies to determine if CO2 can be stored within and what happens to the stored gases. (University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah)
- Determining how much CO2 can be stored in the Black Warrior coalbed methane region in Ala. (Geological Survey of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
- Determining the long-term fate of CO2 injected deep into the ocean and the response of deep-sea biology. (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, Calif.)
- Conducting analysis of frozen CO2 deposits on the sea floor. (Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.)
- Evaluating a reclamation/reforestation program to sequester carbon in trees on abandoned mine sites in the Appalachians. (Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacoqdoches, Texas)
- Enhancing photosynthesis by attaching organisms to designed growths in a “bioreactor” to manipulate the rate of CO2 conversion. (Ohio University, Athens, Ohio)
- Developing technologies that use micro-algae to photosynthesize CO2 from plant exhaust. (Physical Sciences Inc., Andover, Mass.)
- Developing a computer model to assess options and costs from local to national levels. (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.)
- Developing a digital database to catalog site information in Ill., Ind., Kan., Ky. and Ohio. (University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.)
“The selection of these projects signals our strongest commitment to date for carbon sequestration research,” said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson in DOE’s Fossil Energy Techline. “Should these projects result in real breakthroughs, America and the world will have a new set of options to help meet the challenges of global climate change.”