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Two of the world's wealthiest men have put their vast resources behind what the nuclear industry calls small modular reactors (SMRs) in the quest for the perfect carbon-free energy source. TerraPower, founded by Bill Gates, and PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, are sponsors of the project. The first SMR from TerraPower, the Natrium reactor project, will be built in Wyoming--the nation's primary coal producer--at the very location that once housed a coal station, where the infrastructure for a steam-cycle power plant and distribution to the electrical grid already exist. Last year, the state legislature passed a law authorizing utilities to replace coal or natural gas generation with small nuclear reactors and the US Department of Energy awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial funding to demonstrate Natrium technology; the department has committed additional funding subject to congressional approvals. Just ask anyone in Texas where a combination of frozen wind turbines and unprecedented demand last winter darkened the state for days.
In a quiet industrial park in suburban Toronto, there is a machine that eats carbon dioxide (CO2) and spits out fuel. This place, typically associated with its strip malls, ethnic and cultural diversity, and peaceful middle class life, might also soon be known as a hotbed of energy innovation. The project’s code name is “Pond.”
A world away, at a world-class research institute in Bangalore, India, engineers have developed a completely different technology to convert CO2 into industrial chemicals. They are motivated by the desire to begin tackling rising global CO2 emissions. Their project code name is “Breathe.”
Aside from a healthy obsession with carbon, what these two efforts have in common might surprise you. Rather than collaborating on an international science project or with a company’s industrial research and development, both are competing to win a global competition to transform CO2 from a liability into an asset and, in so doing, create a paradigm shift in the energy space. Both are competitors in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. And the competition is just getting started.
The XPRIZE Foundation relies on the growing power of exponential technologies and revolutionary science to catalyze radical breakthroughs. This means developments in science and technology such as robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, big data, and other disruptive forces have the potential to show exponential impact on grand challenges such as sustainable energy and climate change. By offering a suite of incentives in a prize competition, XPRIZE seeks to inspire the world’s scientists, technologists, and innovators to tackle seemingly intractable challenges.
Transforming our energy systems may be the 21st century’s greatest challenge. Articulating a grand challenge does not solve any problems, but a clear and deep articulation of the problem demands an understanding of the complexity and nuance involved in the problem itself and in a vision for defining characteristics of a solution. In our approach to energy innovation, XPRIZE recognizes that the technological, sociopolitical, and economic changes occurring globally present innovators with a rare opportunity to apply truly groundbreaking research to challenges of worldwide importance. We operate at the intersection of audacious and achievable.
The Carbon XPRIZE is a USD 20 million global competition to incentivize technologies that convert CO2 emissions into valuable products. The winning teams will convert the largest quantity of CO2 from actual flue gas from coal or natural gas power plants into one or more products with the highest net value. The 10 teams that survive the first two elimination rounds (proposal evaluation was in summer of 2016, and lab-scale demonstration from late 2016 through 2017) will use two brand new test centers adjacent to operating power plants in western Canada and the US state of Wyoming to demonstrate their solutions at industrial scale.
Alvarado, Vladimir (University of Wyoming) | Yu, Meng (University of Wyoming) | Chang, Yang (University of Wyoming) | Marcy, Peter (University of Wyoming) | Huzurbazar, Snehalata (University of Wyoming) | Lynds, Ranie (Wyoming State Geological Survey)
Abstract For industrial-scale CO2 injection in saline formations, produced CO2 and pressure buildup can limit storage capacity and efficiency. Sensitivity analysis on operational strategies and reservoir parameters serves to select the optimum injection strategy to increase injectivity, relieve pressure buildup, improve CO2 trapping efficiency, and constrain brine leakage. In this paper, we developed a surrogate model for aquifers in the Tensleep Formation based on features of the the Tensleep reservoir at Teapot Dome in Wyoming. The corresponding oil reservoir model was history-matched using production data from the Teapot Dome. The history-matched simulation model was turned into an aquifer by eliminating the oil phase, but preserving the main geological traits. We then proceeded to investigate operational strategies to achieve an effective tradeoff between higher CO2 trapping efficiency and delayed CO2 breakthrough at producers. A well architecture consisting of two horizontal production wells completed at the bottom of the aquifer downdip and two vertical vertical injection wells completed updip in the reservoir. A 50-point experimental design, aimed at evaluating the effect of depth, porosity and permeability on CO2 storage, was conducted in four models: single-porosity model without solubility, single-porosity model with solubility, dual-porosity model without solubility and dual-porosity model with solubility. The result of the 50-point design shows that compared to single-porosity models, CO2 trapping efficiency is lower in dual-porosity models. In addition, the small variability in trapping efficiency for dual-porosity cases was almost completely explained by depth. This contrasts with the single-porosity models whose large variability in CO2 trapping efficiency was explained primarily by porosity, then permeability, and finally depth. We demonstrated the value of selecting optimum injection rates and well configurations considering effects of natural fractures and solubility on storage capacity. The results of the study provide insights either in selecting the operational strategies for CO2 storage in fractured reservoir systems or analyzing the effect of reservoir parameters on storage capacity and efficiency in saline aquifers in terms of regional considerations.
How will the switch to cleaner energy sources occur? This is the basic question Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology and Allday Endowed Chair professor at The University of Texas at Austin, explores in the documentary film, Switch, which he co-produced and in which he is featured as interviewer and narrator. Attendees at this year’s SPE Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition (ATCE) enjoyed a complimentary screening of the film Monday evening, 8 October. In addition, Tinker delivered the keynote presentation at the SPE Research & Development (R&D) Technical Section annual meeting, held at ATCE the evening before.
The quest Tinker embarks upon in Switch is one of keen interest to those involved with energy R&D, because both the continued cost-effective exploitation and delivery of fossil fuels as well as the search for alternative sources of energy depend on innovations in technology.
The documentary follows Tinker as he travels the world to discuss “the switch,” giving us along the way an inside look at all the major types of energy—hydro, coal, crude oil, biofuels, natural gas, geothermal, solar, wind, and nuclear.
Geology Is Destiny
Starting with “one of the most successful energy transitions in the world … , energy so clean you can drink it,” Tinker explains that Norway’s geology is why it can generate 99% of its electrical power from hydro. In fact, a country’s geology proves critical in determining its ability to transition from electricity’s mainstay—cheap and abundant coal. As Tinker says in the film, “Take massive global fuel supply, combine it with fast, simple power generation, and you get the cheapest electricity in the world. That’s why we’re still hooked.” Getting unhooked is difficult, given our species’ large and growing presence, as well as the push for a greater proportion of people to participate in the lifestyle benefits that accrue from energy use.
The logistics of maintaining while also continuing to build a global system of transport, communication, and comfort for humans is formidable. The massive physical infrastructure changes, capital equipment costs, and economic consequences involved in a global energy switch make its pace one involving decades or centuries rather than months and years. Switch gives us insight into the physics, economics, and scale involved in current energy supply and demand. An example is given early in the film of the scale involved in keeping the world supplied with energy. The annual volume of the material moved at the Belle Ayr Mine in the US Powder River Basin—the largest coal reserve in the world—is equal to three times the volume of the entire Panama Canal. And that is just one of the mines in the Powder River Basin.
Mutz, K. M. (Natural Resources Law Center University of Colorado Law School) | Rice, K. L. (Natural Resources Law Center University of Colorado Law School) | Walker, L.. (Natural Resources Law Center University of Colorado Law School) | Palomaki, A. C. (Natural Resources Law Center University of Colorado Law School) | Yost, K. D. (Natural Resources Law Center University of Colorado Law School)
Abstract The Intermountain West Oil and Gas BMP Project (BMP Project) is a collaborative effort of the Natural Resources Law Center and its partners, including the Environmentally Friendly Drilling Program. The BMP Project has developed a comprehensive, free-access, searchable, web-based database of oil and gas best management practices (BMPs) for the Intermountain West (). The database includes over 7, 000 BMPs addressing air and water quality, soils, visual aesthetics, health and safety, wildlife, and other resources. These BMPs are currently required or recommended for responsible resource management by various levels of government, communities, conservation organizations, industry groups, or individual companies. The project website includes resource pages on development issues and controversies as well as case studies of industry efforts to minimize environmental impacts. A community page illustrates community-industry efforts to negotiate, rather than litigate the best options for rational development. The BMP database focuses on source materials regarding both conventional and unconventional development from the Intermountain West states of Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. The website resource pages also focus on the Intermountain West, but draw on information from unconventional gas developments beyond this region. This paper describes the Intermountain Oil and Gas BMP project resources and addresses the role of BMPs within the range of law and policy options available for facilitating development while promoting environmental and community health and safety. The paper also summarizes what is known of the efficacy and cost effectiveness of BMPs. Communities embrace development for the economic benefit it brings to their areas, but both communities and conservation groups vigorously work to prevent oil and gas development from recklessly disrupting their lives and destroying sensitive environments. Governments consider new means to control impacts while still promoting development. Many companies work to balance cost effective production with practices that protect the environment and the communities they impact. The Intermountain BMP project helps these stakeholders identify appropriate practices for minimizing impacts to surface resources during planning, design, construction, drilling, operations, reclamation, and monitoring. BMP Project resources can also help stakeholders learn to work together to fuel the country's energy requirements and address the economic needs of communities without sacrificing the quality of their environment.
Abstract Renewable energy sources, such as wind energy, are expected to be sources of sustainable energy as fossil fuels are depleted. Wind energy is a promising, but intermittent energy source. Large scale energy storage such as Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) is needed to account for intermittency. CAES is designed to store off-peak energy to make it available for use during peak demand periods. Currently, CAES plants are located in caverns, which are uncommon in occurrence. CAES wind farms can become a more reliable energy source if other geological structures such as depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs are used for storage. This study used a black oil simulator to model CAES in a typical cavern setting, in a hypothetical reservoir setting, and in a potential CAES wind farm area in the Greater Green River Basin (GGRB) of Wyoming. The cavern setting is modeled after the Huntorf CAES facility in Germany. Wind speed and resulting power data for GGRB models were taken from the Medicine Bow Wind Project in Wyoming. Porosity, permeability, and injectivity information from GGRB was used to construct four models of hybrid systems that combined wind energy and CAES for different geographical locations and geological properties. The model of a cavern setting validated use of a black oil simulator for CAES applications. The study showed that CAES can be used in a variety of geologic settings, and that the GGRB has good potential for supporting wind energy and CAES systems. This talk will present details of the study and provide suggestions for future work. *Now with Schlumberger **Now with Chevron Introduction The need for sustainable energy is an ever-increasing concern. The topic of peak oil is under constant debate, leaving the energy supply for the future uncertain. The use of fossil fuels also comes with the problem of a negative impact on the environment during their extraction and use. In order to compensate for the inevitable decline in hydrocarbon production and the detriment to the environment, alternative energy sources should be considered. A promising renewable energy source is the ability to harness wind through wind turbines and wind farms. Turbines have become highly efficient over the years and can generate energy at a cost that is comparable with other sources. However, wind is still an intermittent energy source. A process needs to be in place that can help increase the efficiency of the wind itself. Excess wind needs to be exploited and energy must still be accessible when the wind is not blowing. Large scale energy storage systems offer solutions to accomplishing this task. One of the most promising forms of large scale storage is a process known as Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES). CAES is designed to store off-peak energy to make it available for use during peak demand periods. During the off-peak periods, a motor can consume power to compress and store the air in subsurface structures. Then during peak load periods, the process is reversed allowing the already compressed air to return to the surface and drive turbines as the air is slowly heated and released. No additional compression is necessary to drive the turbines because the enthalpy is already included in the compressed air. Currently, CAES plants are located in caverns, either mined rock caverns or solution-mined salt caverns. This type of setting is ideal for the use of CAES, but these structures are also low in occurrence. In order to make CAES wind farms a reliable energy source, other geological structures must be explored, such as aquifers and reservoirs similar to those found with hydrocarbon production.