The Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS) and the Institute for Quantum Science and Engineering (IQSE) hosted “Energy and the Environment: Scientific Economic and Legal Issues” in the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium in the Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy on April 18, 2016.
This one-day symposium on energy and the environment featured preeminent scholars, including Nobel Laureates, scientists, and distinguished higher education administrators.
William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Physics, Stanford University
Former United States Secretary of Energy
Nobel Prize in Physics, 1997
The industrial and agricultural revolutions have profoundly transformed the world, but there have been unintended consequences. I will briefly describe the recent climate monitoring data and the rapidly changing energy landscape before turning to how energy efficiency and clean energy sources are becoming the low cost option to our energy needs.
Christodoulos A. Floudas
Director, Texas A&M Energy Institute
National Academy of Engineering, 2011
Fossil fuels supply more than 85% of the current energy consumption worldwide, and contribute to the anthropogenic CO2 emissions. In the United States, large stationary sources such as power plants, cement production, iron and steel industries, refineries, petrochemicals, and gas processing plants emit more than 60% of the total emissions. Stationary sources are point sources with large CO2 emissions, and provide a realistic opportunity to reduce CO2 emission. In this presentation, I will introduce a multi-scale energy systems engineering framework for addressing the grand challenge of CO2 capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) at an individual process level and at the supply chain network level. Depending on the selection of CO2 sources, utilization and/or sequestration sites, CO2 capture technologies, processes and materials used, CCUS costs vary. Key decisions involve the identification of the best capture materials, and the selection of source plants, capture processes, CO2 pipelines, locations of utilization and sequestration sites, amounts of CO2 storage, as well as the optimization of each CO2 capture process. Computational results will be presented for individual carbon capture processes, as well as optimized supply chain networks which can reduce 50% of the total stationary CO2 emissions.
Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science, Emeritus, Harvard University
Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1986
In science, dramatic advances often spring from elementary ideas taught in introductory courses. Those episodes have the character of parables, in that they offer lessons that transcend the technical particulars. Here four such molecular parables, featuring carbon chemistry, are presented: (1) “Climbing the Mt. Everest of Chemical Synthesis”—Making just one desired structure of a molecule which has 1021 distinct structures. (2) “Sex and the Single Methyl Group”—The profound impact of adding or subtracting a CH3 group. (3) Discovery of “Buckyball”—C60, nearly adopted as the “State Molecule” of Texas. (4) “Making gas from wet rocks,” producing methane and higher hydrocarbons in diamond-anvil cells at high pressures (>20 kbar) and temperatures (>600 C), conditions expected deep (>60 km) in earth’s upper mantle.
Bruce A. McCarl
University Distinguished Professor Texas A&M University
Nobel Peace Prize, 2007 (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)
Energy and the environment are highly intertwined. Many issues have been posed regarding the energy environment intersection. But comprehensive treatment of the full spectrum of these issues is beyond the time allotted for this presentation. Consequently the presentation will focus on: a) energy, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change; b) renewable fuels – agriculture and the environment; and c) minor treatment of air quality involving mercury and ozone. Coverage will involve: a) energy interactions in these arenas, b) effects on society, c) policy needs and challenges, d) potential or emerging policy, e) policy design, and f) energy related adaptation and mitigation. Due to my background the coverage will exhibit a partial agricultural, economic and data driven analytical bias.
Kenneth W. Starr
Alexis de Tocqueville famously observed that in America most questions of significant moment invariably become legal issues to be addressed by courts. In the Age of Innovation, that insight seems hopelessly out of date. Save for intellectual property issues (and routine commercial law questions), science and technology in the 21st Century would seem by their nature to be happy exceptions to the imperialistic reach of law’s domain. Not so. To illustrate the sweeping scope of American law and regulation, this talk will focus on the controversy swirling around climate change, and analyze how even globally significant policy questions find their way into American courtrooms – and ultimately to the Supreme Court of the United States. Specifically we will examine the unratified Kyoto Protocol (the debate over climate change) and the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. EPA. (a.k.a. the Climate Change Case) and how this case is not just about global warming, but about power, in particular, judicial power. We will find, in short, that even with respect to a policy question of undisputed global significance, both practically and diplomatically, the Supreme Court demanded – and secured – its own place at the decision-making table. By doing so, the nation’s High Court gave fresh meaning to the Toquevillian insight of almost two centuries ago – in America, great questions of policy inexorably are drawn into the vortex of American constitutional adjudication.
Michael K. Young
President, Texas A&M University
Energy Alternatives in the Economy of Texas
At the event, Professor Christodoulos A. Floudas, director of the Texas A&M Energy Institute and Erle Nye ’59 Chair Professor for Engineering Excellence in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, presented “Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage: A Multi‐scale Grand Challenge.”
In his presentation, he discussed that reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions has become a key part of many plans to combat global warming and climate change. In recent years, as much as 84% of greenhouse gas emissions originating from human activities were CO2.
As potential targets for these plans are considered, fossil fuels are the frequent focus, as they supply more than 85% of the current energy consumption worldwide, and their usage contributes to CO2 emissions.
Looking deeper in the United States, however, large stationary sources of CO2 emissions such as power plants, cement production, iron and steel industries, refineries, petrochemicals, and gas processing plants emit more than 60% of the total CO2 emissions.
Therefore, these stationary sources provide a realistic opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions, but the methods and processes must be evaluated carefully to maximize impact and keep the costs as low as possible.
“Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) is the most important grand challenge of the 21st Century,” says Professor Christodoulos A. Floudas, director of the Texas A&M Energy Institute and Erle Nye ’59 Chair Professor for Engineering Excellence in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University.
He and his research group are analyzing CO2 sources, utilization and/or sequestration sites, CO2 capture technologies, processes, materials, and even supply chain networks through a multi-scale energy systems engineering framework to address CCUS at both the source and across systems.
To arrive at an objective and quantitative analysis of all available options within the United States, as well as considerations for costs, extensive efforts were undertaken by Professor Floudas and his collaborators to scrutinize capture materials, the selection of source locations, capturing processes, CO2 pipelines, locations of utilization and sequestration sites, available CO2 storage sites, as well optimization considerations for each CO2 capture process.
The results showed that commonly used materials for capture may not always be the most efficient, and certain processes are more or less efficient under certain situations.
“There is no single material, process, or technology that is the best for all conditions, so we must not focus on one aspect,” says Professor Floudas. “Our results show that through optimization of both individual carbon capture processes, as well as optimized supply chain networks, we can reduce 50% of the total stationary CO2 emissions and reduce the cost of CCUS to approximately $35 per ton of CO2.”
Currently, the estimated cost of CCUS is $55 per ton of CO2, so saving more than $20 per ton would have a substantial impact on the viability of these efforts.
“CCUS is a multi-scale systems engineering problem that needs this quantitative analysis,” says Professor Floudas. “It goes from the materials level to the process level and includes technology selection. We must also factor in quantitative considerations for the supply chain. Our framework contains ideas and tradeoffs among all of these components, and this will be a key contribution in moving forward to address this significant grand challenge.”