UCFER Inaugural Request for Proposals

University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research newsletter header

On April 22, 2016, UCFER released its inaugural request for proposals to its nine-member coalition. The RFP closed on June 17, 2016. A total of 39 proposals were received and reviewed by the UCFER Technical Advisory Committee and its Executive Council. Funding available for this round of proposals was $1.925 million and the total funding requested was $7.66 million. The following chart summarizes the number of proposals submitted per subtopic area and the amount requested.

RFP 2016-01 Total Topic Area Funding Requested

UCFER recommendations were provided to NETL for funding consideration. The following six projects were approved for funding:

Converting CO2 and Methane to Fuels by Enhanced Plasmonic Effects in a Nanotemplated Catalyst Plasma Project Reactor -  (Princeton University, 18-month project, $199,631)

Rising atmospheric concentration of CO2 is forecasted to have potentially disastrous effects on the climate from its role in global warming and ocean acidification. To alleviate atmospheric CO2 levels, significant cuts in emissions and active removal of CO2 from the atmosphere are necessary. Princeton University will develop a novel nanodischarge reactor with enhanced plasmonic effects from a nanotemplated catalyst structure to achieve highly efficient plasma-enhanced low temperature conversion of CO2 and methane (from natural gas) to chemicals or fuels. Primary objectives are to: 1) demonstrate low temperature operation of a novel nanoplasma catalysis reactor to enable a large volume and uniform discharge, 2) understand and optimize the energy transfer and kinetic interactions between the plasma and catalyst, and 3) increase the selectivity for coupling reactions. The research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Bruce Koel.

Efficient Reduction of CO2 in a Bipolar Electrochemical Cell - (Penn State, 18 –month project, $200,000)

An electrochemical CO2 reduction cell employing a unique bipolar membrane and novel catalysts will be employed to produce scalable, efficient conversion of CO2 to syngas.  The bipolar membrane electrochemical reduction of CO2 to carbon monoxide and hydrogen is meant to circumvent limitations in purely acidic or basic electrochemical systems. This novel concept will be validated at NETL in terms of products produced and efficiency calculations at both Penn State and NETL will ultimately allow this new process to be compared to conventional CO2 conversion technologies and other emerging electrochemical reduction work. The developed membrane and catalyst materials will be integrated into a membrane electrode assembly and tested for the current density and product distribution. This early-stage product will produce the data necessary to assess electrochemical processes for their potential as CO2 conversion devices.

Electrochemical devices are scalable and continuing to push into emerging markets, such as industrial hydrogen generation. This project will assess the economic case of electrochemical CO2 conversion using a novel bipolar electrochemical cell that incorporates inexpensive materials. Dr. Michael A. Hickner will serve as principal investigator for Penn State.

A Low-Cost Technique for In-Situ Stresses and Geomechanical Properties Measurement Based on Leak-Off Tests and Caliper Logs - (University of Wyoming, 18-month project, $325,600)

Knowledge of state of in-situ stress and geomechanical properties is essential to understand the potential wellbore instability and induced fracturing in the injection zone and confining zone as a result of CO2 injection in a carbon storage site. Traditional in-situ measurement of stress field is at high cost, and traditional laboratory measurement of geomechanical properties affected by the disturbed core samples. It’s therefore desirable to develop a method that can keep the measurement in-situ while in the meantime reducing the cost and enhancing the accuracy. The objectives of this project are to develop an in-situ technique for state of in-situ stress and geomechanical properties measurement at low cost and with enhanced accuracy, and to demonstrate the feasibility of such a technique for in-situ stress measurement by comparing with different field data from oil fields. The project is being led at the University of Wyoming by Dr. Shunde Yin.

A Novel Point Process Filtering Paradigm for Modeling and Inversion of Microseismic Monitoring Data During CO2 Storage - (University of Southern California (USC), 18-month project, $244,300)

This project will develop a novel geomechanically driven point process modeling approach for accurate representation and inversion of microseismic monitoring data as a key monitoring technology during bulk CO2 injection into geologic formations. Accurate representation of the distribution and attributes of discrete microseismic monitoring events is critical for characterization of rock flow and mechanical properties. These properties determine the changes in the subsurface stress and strain distributions due to CO2 injection.

The proposed method establishes physical correlations among rock mechanical properties and discrete microseismic events, a fundamental requirement for formulating and solving inverse problems to estimate rock physical properties from observed microseismic monitoring data. Point process modeling techniques are discrete stochastic methods that are suitable for describing binary random processes (such as microseismic events) and their associated uncertainty with very high accuracy and resolution.  While point processes represent discrete observations, which are challenging to incorporate into inverse problems, their underlying parameters are continuous and a more amenable estimation with well-established inverse formulations. The proposed point process model constitutes a measurement operator for coupled flow and geomechanic state-space models. This observation model, in turn, enables the development of theoretically rigorous filtering methods to infer rock mechanical properties from discrete microseismic data. Dr. Behnam Jafarpour will serve as principal investigator for USC.

Integration of Geophysical and Geomechanical Modeling to Monitor Integrity of Carbon Storage  - (University of Southern California, 12-month project, $244,100)

The geological storage of CO2 in saline aquifers is considered to be a primary technology to address greenhouse gas emissions in the short term. The safe, long-lasting storage of CO2 requires a combination of a structural trap with intact integrity, and a suitable monitoring system to image the movement of the injected CO2 and determine any potential breach or leakage points. Several successful pilot projects have been implemented to tackle some of those issues, utilizing 3D seismic, time-lapse borehole seismic surveys, cross-well and Vertical Seismic Profile (VSP), and Electromagnetic (EM) based methods.

The focus of this research is the use of different types of geophysical data (seismic and EM) with different resolutions for CO2 monitoring. The work will involve rock physics and geotechnical based modeling to conduct sensitivity analyses to determine the feasibility of seismic monitoring under different geologic settings.  Proposed techniques are intermediate scale (1-100’s m) geophysical surveys providing information in between the large scale of surface seismic (km’s) and the smaller scale of well logs and core measurements (mm to m). The time-lapse seismic signature extracted from cross-well, VSP, seismic, and EM, in certain geological settings, can be extremely useful for the monitoring of CO2 injection and storage. The physical properties of CO2 with reservoir pressure and temperature, and the properties of the reservoir rocks saturated with CO2-fluid mixtures after injection, will determine the strength and the detectability of the 4D signal. The core objective of the project is to conduct research to develop appropriate techniques for an effective, low-cost, and geohazard-risk-free CO2 capture, storage, and monitoring. The work will complement several current projects within the USC Reservoir Monitoring Consortium (RMC). The size and the standalone nature of this project is comparable to some other initiatives that are either in the planning stage or ongoing. Collaboration with the NETL will provide the opportunity for an exchange of data and ideas with the industry partners of RMC. The project will be led by Dr. Fred Aminzadeh of USC.

Grid Independence and Uncertainty Quantification in Gas-Solid Flow Simulations - (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 12-month project, $134,000)

Grid independence studies for modeling gas-solid flows are challenging because of the particularly prohibitive computational cost of high-resolution simulations. Most efforts in the literature are focused on specific operating conditions and, as such, there is a need for robust criterion for determining the optimum grid resolution.

The proposed work will employ large-scale 3D simulations (periodic and/or large reactor sizes) for a systematically sampled range of operating conditions (particle properties, solids concentration, gas velocity) and domain sizes, determined using statistical methods developed at NETL and in-house. Grid independence will be realized based on the convergence of cluster dynamics with decreasing grid size, in addition to global metrics such as the pressure drop and/or bed height. Subsequently, using the response surface for the corresponding grid resolution and cluster statistics generated from these sampled cases, a robust criterion for grid independence will be proposed and its sensitivity to operating conditions will be evaluated. Cluster and/or bubble statistics will be computed using MS3DATA, which has been developed in-house for detecting and tracking interfaces accurately and efficiently. Numerical errors propagating because of the spatial and temporal discretization will be quantified using mixed-order analysis and their relative importance will be compared with the uncertainty arising from operating conditions, using UQ approaches such as those developed by Gel et al (Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 52(33): 11424-11435, 2013). The project will provide essential guidelines for high-fidelity simulations for the conversion of fossil energy and other chemical processes using fluidized beds. The project will be directed by MIT’s Dr. Ahmed Goniem.