An interdisciplinary team of researchers is positioning Auburn University for a big future in carbon dioxide utilization and storage research.
Buoyed by a significant influx of faculty in engineering, a new project is geared toward developing an Alabama CO2 Utilization and Storage Center housed at Auburn University. This research initiative is launching with support from Auburn University’s new Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research, or PAIR, a $5 million program created by President Steven Leath.
With carbon dioxide considered a major contributor to climate change, the team’s research has the potential to significantly shape how our society addresses the topic.
"Atmospheric emissions of CO2 continue to increase, so a means of reducing those emissions is really critical," said Lauren Beckingham, assistant professor of civil engineering and the project’s principal investigator. "As an interdisciplinary team of engineers and geologists, we are looking at a myriad of ways that CO2 can be utilized for purposes such as producing green fuels, chemicals and materials or enhancing energy production. We are also investigating storage solutions such as geologic subsurface formations."
The focus of the group’s utilization research will include areas such as enhanced oil recovery, enhanced geothermal systems and compressed air energy storage. The second thrust will examine carbon dioxide storage options, including geologic sequestration and catalytic mineralization.
In particular, storing carbon dioxide underground could be a critical way to increase the effectiveness of renewable energy sources.
"Typically renewable energy sources only produce energy if the sun's shining for solar or if the wind is blowing for turbines, so we need a means of storing energy and recovering it when those renewable sources are not generating power," Beckingham said. "In this case, CO2 can actually be used as a working fluid where we can inject CO2 underground when we have excess energy and then extract CO2 when energy demands are exceeding production."
In addition to the long-term goal of establishing a new Alabama CO2 Utilization and Storage Center, the researchers aim to garner funding to support graduate students and enhance facilities as well as establish a seminar series and annual symposium.
"We're looking to really expand the number of people involved at Auburn, and we'd like for this to grow into a CO2 Utilization and Storage Center that can serve as a hub for the southeastern United States," Beckingham said.
The team is comprised of faculty with expertise in geology, environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, civil engineering and chemical engineering. In addition to Beckingham, faculty members on the team include Andrew Adamczyk, Bryan Beckingham, Carlos Carrero and Tae-Sik Oh from chemical engineering; Marta Miletic and Anton Schindler from civil engineering; David King, Ming-Kuo Lee and Ashraf Uddin from geosciences.