The National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Committee on Novel Approaches to the Management of Greenhouse Gases from Energy Systems held a workshop at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, California, on February 12–14, 2003, to identify promising lines of research that could lead to currently unforeseen breakthroughs in the management of carbon from energy systems. The information identified by participants in the workshop will be used by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) to award grants for new research in carbon management.
During the workshop, invited participants from a variety of disciplines contributed their expertise and creativity to addressing the problem of carbon management. The ideas developed during the workshop were synthesized into this report by the committee,1 which oversaw the organization and execution of the workshop. However, this workshop summary does not contain any committee conclusions or recommendations, but simply reports on research areas that were identified as promising during the workshop discussions.
The purpose of the workshop, as noted, was to identify novel approaches to the management of carbon from energy systems. Current global emissions of carbon from energy use amount to several gigatons of carbon (GtC) per year. To develop new approaches to managing these carbon emissions, the NRC assembled participants who had not necessarily been engaged in research on carbon management but who were able to creatively apply their knowledge to new fields. Approximately 70 participants were invited from the private sector, universities, DOE, other federal agencies, and other institutions, as well as from the memberships of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering (see Appendix A for the list of participants). All participants other than committee members will be free to apply for DOE grants to pursue research explored at the workshop, but the intention to apply was not a prerequisite for attendance.
Participants assembled with the common goal of finding new approaches to reducing the net input to the atmosphere of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil-fuel-based energy systems. Areas of focus included attention to reducing emissions from fossil-fueled systems based on coal, oil, or natural gas; biological engineering approaches to removal of carbon from the atmosphere; engineering of the entire fuel-cycle system; and geochemical and other approaches to storing carbon.
Following the plenary session, which included overviews of the status of carbon management research and opportunities (see the workshop agenda in Appendix B), the workshop participants were divided into four subgroups on the following topics:
Advanced separations techniques,
Advanced subsurface technologies,
Advanced geochemical methods, and
Novel niches—that is, various concepts (including biological) for converting CO2 to useful products, among other ideas.
For the most part, the sessions were roundtable discussions, with individuals contributing ideas throughout the session.
The workshop is part of a project conducted by the NRC for DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (DOE/FE). DOE/FE will consider the workshop report as it develops a solicitation to be issued in spring 2003. The solicitation will call for research proposals on enabling science and technology research on novel approaches for the management of carbon from energy systems.
Once proposals are received in response to the solicitation, this committee will hold a meeting to review the proposals and will evaluate them on their scientific, technical, engineering, and environmental merits, among others. It will then write a letter report to DOE/FE on its evaluation of the proposals. After DOE/FE has received the letter report and issued its funding decisions, the committee will hold a meeting to identify lessons learned from the process used to elicit this first round of “novel exploratory research” proposals, and it will review DOE/FE’s carbon management program (Carbon Sequestration Program) to consider priorities, balance, and project management. The committee will then write a short final report commenting on the program as a whole and on ways for DOE/FE to capitalize on the lessons learned.
Chapters 2 through 6 of this report summarize the most promising new ideas on carbon management identified by each of the four subgroups at the workshop. In the respective chapters, the ideas are described, their significance is explained, and research opportunities are listed. Each chapter includes a statement of the scientific and engineering challenges related to its topic. Chapter 6 includes crosscutting issues not specific to one of the four subgroups. The chapters themselves do not include detailed analysis regarding feasibility, energy and mass balance, and so forth, as the workshop’s time and scope did not permit this; it is assumed such analyses will be carried out in the research proposals that DOE funds.