Advancing Sustainable Low Carbon Energy - University of Houston
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Advancing Sustainable Low-Carbon Energy through Convergence: READ ONLINE DOWNLOAD REPORT

Description of Topic and Importance of Convergence Research:

Image of Sustainable Energy Trilemma Triangle

In the era of accelerating climate change and the clear reality that we are at a critical stage of the energy transition globally, the development and deployment of sustainable low carbon energy solutions is front and center. This energy transition will demand affordable, reliable and sustainable energy to address global energy poverty and fuel economic growth. This emerging energy transition therefore demands a lower carbon future, and underpinning the transition is the reality that affordable and cost competitive options are essential to sustainability.

The convergence of advancing science and engineering focusing on issues of energy and sustainability including carbon management, renewable energy including alternate fuels such as hydrogen and energy storage are crucial to drive the energy transition. Moreover, developing the capabilities and competencies of the workforce and the tools that will enable this transition. These include big data analytics, the integration of real-time artificial intelligence and machine learning with virtual and augmented reality to advance decision-making, and advanced technologies that offer significant opportunity that address the decarbonization of the energy resources and improve the air, water and land environment. These technological and workforce assets must be complemented by aligning regulatory policy, public policy and business policy to improve and enhance the rapid adoption of such a sustainable energy paradigm.

People Involved:

  • Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti, University of Houston
  • Charles D. McConnell, University of Houston
  • Patrick Lewis, Sustainability Ventures Group
  • Jim Lawnin, Sustainability Ventures Group

Evidence of Research Community Readiness:

  1. National Petroleum Council: Meeting the Dual Challenge A Roadmap to At-Scale Deployment of Carbon Capture, Use, and Storage, (2019)
  2. Deployment of Deep Decarbonization Technologies: Proceeding of a Workshop, (2019)
  3. National Research Council. 2015. Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press
  4. The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics, Ellen Macarthur Foundation, (2017)
  5. The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action, Ellen Macarthur Foundation, (2017)
  6. The Future of Hydrogen, IEA, Paris, (2019)
  7. The Role of Hydrogen in the De-carbonization of the Energy Industry, UH Energy White Paper Series, (2019)
  8. Managing the Carbon Challenge for the Energy Sector, UH Energy White Paper Series, (2018)

Scientific and societal needs in the topic area:

Development of sustainable energy paradigms that are economically realizable and reliable remains at the forefront of technological development and policy drivers. Important challenges are developing grid-scale energy storage that is reliable and affordable, innovating novel carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) that is economically feasible, reducing the energy and environmental footprint of chemical conversion, imagining and delivering a decarbonized and affordable industrial energy and a truly circular plastics economy that ensures a zero-waste paradigm.

Deliverables that could be expected within a two-year research effort by a cohort of teams:

The key deliverables Advancement of roadmaps and guiding documents for the engagement and rapid deployment of socially conscious and commercially viable, affordable, reliable and sustainable energy across commercial and consumer spheres.

An active and engaged innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem for a low carbon energy paradigm that will serve as a model for nationwide deployment is envisaged. The engagement with a broad group of engaged and active stakeholders across the value chain in the sustainable energy development sphere will result in the advancement of road-maps for the engagement and rapid deployment and advancement of such paradigms in the energy capital of the world. Specifically, we anticipate the development of roadmaps as well as guiding documents such as best practices for the rapid but socially and commercially conscious advancement of affordable, reliable and sustainable energy across both commercial and consumer spheres. Further, the development of an active and engaged innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem finely tuned to the advancements in science, technology, policy and commercialization of a low carbon energy paradigm that will serve as a model for nationwide deployment is envisaged. These roadmaps and ecosystem creation should lead to technology advancement that can be brought to market through various mechanisms including startup development, funding and scale.

We propose to bring leaders from the UH Law Center, specifically faculty associated with the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources center, to provide regulatory insights that can be key enablers to the advancement of sustainable solutions. Additionally, UH has a recently formed Hobby School for Public Policy, where under the leadership of Dean Kirk Watson, the school has a significant strength in the area of energy and environment focused public policy.

Advancing business and economic approaches to energy and sustainability solutions is crucial and UH has a leading effort through the Gutierrez Energy Management Institute. Moreover, UH is also uniquely placed regarding the integration and advancement of student-based entrepreneurship with the nation’s top ranked undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship.

Lastly the convergence of advancing technological solutions and their interface with people drives or stalls much of the innovation in the areas of energy and sustainability. UH has an outstanding group of experts in the area of industrial psychology and their focus has been centered on the human – machine interface.

The meeting program is likely to be organized through a three-part facilitated interaction with industry, NGO and academic leaders in the areas of low carbon energy innovation with a focus on understanding the opportunities, barriers and possible breakthrough issues to advance convergence acceleration of research in the areas of sustainable low carbon energy solutions. The process will follow the design – thinking approach and be structured to ensure maximum value addition with an outstanding group of subject matter experts.

The first step will identify common baseline understanding and development of scenarios to provide a common understanding of the challenges, the opportunity and challenge space and the possible pathways as identified by subject matter experts and with challenge and validation by stakeholders. As a second step, the experts will be asked to take on alternate personas and reasonably dissect the conclusions developed in the first phase, identify key gaps, group thinking and challenge based on tail-ends of scenarios identified in the first phase. A revised set of opportunities and challenges will be developed and reverted to subject matter experts to contest and design new methods / approaches to advance the field.

The output will be a short white paper outlining the opportunity, challenges and key gaps that must be addressed through an activation and acceleration phase of converged scientific and technological solutions across a broad spectrum of sustainable, decarbonized energy solutions.

Expected impacts (including scientific and societal impacts) of the project looking forward 10 years:

The scientific impact would be towards the decarbonized energy, chemicals and materials value chains. These will adopt broad electrification, carbon management and the minimization of waste streams while protecting water, air and the land environment. Societally, over ten years, this would lead to a reimagined workforce, a cleaner environment and a disruptive clean energy ecosystem.

Areas of development and deployment and the critical gaps in the scientific and translational domains in the following will be addressed through the workshop:

  1. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Mitigation:
    1. Measure, monitor, and verify GHG emissions and inventory
    2. Efficiency and energy footprint improvements for processes to capture GHGs and verification of carbon footprints
    3. CO2 capture and processing for utilization and storage assurance and permanence
    4. Fugitive and flared CH4 capture and utilization
    5. Alternate separations processes (moderate and low concentration GHG streams)
    6. Direct Air Capture
    7. Carbon currencies and application of block chain
  2. Efficiency Optimization of Process Systems:
    1. Process & renewable energy integration in refining, chemicals and fertilizer manufacturing
    2. Process intensification & energy efficiency
    3. Distributed feedstock and energy systems
    4. Modularization and numbering up for distributed chemicals production
  3. Alternate fuels and renewable energy:
    1. Hydrogen
    2. Biofuels
    3. Offshore wind
  4. Storage options for fuels, electricity, renewables integration and optimization:
    1. Combined cycle systems and integration
    2. Grid optimization and microgrid integration
    3. Application of advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence
  5. Circular Plastics Economy:
    1. Recycling pathways for existing product suite
    2. Designed sustainability
    3. Biorenewable feedstock adoption