Inaugural UCFER Meeting

University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research newsletter header

Dr. Neil Sharkey, vice president for research, Penn State

Dr. Neil Sharkey, vice president for research, Penn State

Dr. Grace Bochenek, director, National Energy Technology Laboratory, and Dr. Chunshan Song, director, UCFER, and director, EMS Energy Institute, Penn State

Dr. Grace Bochenek, director, National Energy Technology Laboratory, and Dr. Chunshan Song, director, UCFER, and director, EMS Energy Institute, Penn State

Representatives of the Coalition universities and DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory met on May 19, 2016, to kick off the University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research (UCFER).

The meeting with NETL, attended by representatives of eight of the nine member universities involved, including Technical Advisory Council Members, was to discuss the vision, mission, and direction of UCFER, and for the UCFER Operations Management Team (OMT) to discuss the logistical operation of UCFER.

The primary objectives of the meeting were to:

  • Provide a face-to-face meeting for key personnel of UCFER, which included NETL personnel, UCFER Technical Advisory Council representatives, and key Penn State personnel
  • Understand NETL’s perspective of UCFER, which was provided by Dr. Grace Bochenek, director of NETL in her introductory remarks
  • Provide an overview of UCFER’s vision, mission, management, and operation to the TAC representatives, which was given by Dr. Chunshan Song, Director of UCFER
  • Discuss the UCFER proposal online submission and review process (and project management) web portal, which was provided by Elizabeth Wood and Bruce Miller
  • Discuss direction, funding, and operation of UCFER in the future
  • Provide tours of the EMS Energy Institute laboratories

The meeting started with introduction of the delegation members from NETL, UCFER Technical Advisory Council, and Penn State participants. This was followed by welcoming remarks by Dr. Neil Sharkey, vice president for research, Penn State, and Dr. Grace Bochenek, director, NETL, U.S. Department of Energy.

 “This is a great time for Penn State,” said Sharkey. “We have a real focus on energy at this point and we really want to make this project a working collaborative.  Penn State takes its mission seriously and we want to work closely with NETL and our partner universities.”

“What we are trying to achieve is collaboration,” said Bochenek. “We are going to drive technologies that are truly transformational. We see things that say we can walk away from fossil fuels, but everyone in this room knows you can’t. We want to provide the country and the world with the growth in the economy that we need. We consider this a new opportunity and an opportunity where we can be a strong group together to achieve some of the challenges facing us.”

Song then discussed the UCFER vision, mission, management, and operation of UCFER. “The vision of the program is a secure, reliable and affordable energy future with the more environmentally friendly and more efficient production and use of fossil fuels including carbon dioxide capture, storage and use/reuse,” said Song.”The challenges of the twenty-first century are to supply clean fuels, electricity, and water to meet growing energy demand; increase efficiency; eliminate environmental pollutants; minimize greenhouse gas emissions; and develop sustainable energy and sustainable organic materials.”

Song noted that there is no silver bullet for the future of energy in the foreseeable future.  Both fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas, and shale and renewable sources like solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric, and geothermal will be necessary.

Dr. John Hellmann, associate dean for graduate education and research, Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Dr. John Hellmann, associate dean for graduate education and research, Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

“Many of the fossil energy technologies we will work on can be translated to or are directly applicable to developing renewable energy technologies,” said Song, who is also Distinguished Professor of Fuel Science and Chemical Engineering. “These include translations such as from coal to biomass and from natural gas to biogas.

“While we work to develop more renewable energy, we also need to continue the R&D on more environmentally friendly and more efficient utilization of carbon-based resources, which provide over 80 percent of our energy supply and builds our bridge to the sustainable energy future.”

Even before the meeting, member representatives and NETL have worked together to set up the basic framework for the UCFER program. UCFER’s OMT explained the newly created website and online submission system for proposals and the first UCFER call for proposals on carbon use and reuse, carbon storage, recovery of rare earth elements from coal, and crosscutting research and analysis, which was issued in late April 2016.