Warmer winters are changing bird migratory patterns, warmer seawater is linked to coral reef bleaching in the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico, and more extreme climate events are affecting society and ecosystems. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), the increasing air and water temperatures, decreasing water availability across regions and seasons, increasing intensity and frequency of storm events, flooding and sea level rise have caused major issues to the energy sector over the past decade. Our world as we know it is evolving because of climate change.
Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, our reliance on fossil fuels, expanded transportation, and deforestation have resulted in the accumulation of excess carbon dioxide or CO2 in our atmosphere. The present amount of CO2 is estimated to be 40% more than the pre-industrial amount. DOE estimates that human activity now emits an astounding 40,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every minute. CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to our climate extremes and the world has taken notice. Carbon capture and permanent safe and secure storage (carbon sequestration) is underway around the world and is an important component of the global CO2 emission strategy to mitigate climate change and save our beautiful world.
Many significant carbon sequestration research programs are progressing throughout DOE with federal, state, and private sector regional partnerships, in addition to interagency, industrial, and international programs. The National Energy Technology Laboratory Annual Report: Carbon Storage (30 September 2012) reports on the progress of a diverse set of research activities in laboratory experimentation, field work, and numerical modeling. The enhancement of the geospatial data portal NATCARB is included as part of this project.
DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy received $3.4 billion from the Recovery Act for initiatives that focus on research and development, deployment of technologies to use coal more cleanly and efficiently and for projects that capture and sequester CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Office of Fossil Energy leads Federal research, development, and demonstration efforts on advanced carbon capture and storage technologies to facilitate achievement of President Obama’s climate goals.
DOE is celebrating a decade of carbon storage research successes through seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships to help develop the technology, infrastructure, and regulations to implement large-scale carbon sequestration in different geologic formations across the nation. This aggressive initiative represents more than 400 unique organizations in 43 States and four Canadian Provinces.
Research at DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) led to 15 patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2013. These newly patented technologies support NETL’s mission to address challenges associated with the continued use of our nation’s fossil energy resources, such as advanced sensors to an improved throttle valve to sorbents that capture CO2. These technologies are now available to the private sector for commercialization in pursuit of the nation’s energy goals.
DOE also represents the United States in the global Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF), a Ministerial-level international climate change initiative that is focused on the development of improved cost-effective technologies for the separation and capture of CO2 for its transport and long-term safe storage. The CSLF is currently comprised of 23 members, including 22 countries and the European Commission.
Dr. William Watson’s latest white paper In the OSTI Collections: Carbon Sequestration provides information about underground sequestration chemistry and research, university training efforts in the area of monitoring and quantifying CO2 sequestration, and sequestration by forests. Additional carbon sequestration research papers and related resources can be found in DOE’s SciTech Connect, the federal science gateway Science.gov, and the global WorldWideScience.org. The DOE Science Showcase - Carbon Sequestration additionally provides an overview of DOE’s carbon capture and storage research programs and initiatives.
Image credit: Brookhaven Naional Lab