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The Interdisciplinary Nature of Energy Applications. A Course in Carbon Capture and Sequestration

Jennifer Wilcox and Sally Benson. Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University, 367 Panama Street, Green Earth Sciences 065, Stanford, CA 94305

World carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to rise from 26.9 billion metric tons in 2004 to 33.9 in 2015 and 42.9 in 2030.1 Concerns of global warming, increasing carbon emissions, and an ever-present demand for energy production, has led to an increase in students pursuing energy-related careers. To be prepared for such a career, a connection needs to be made between traditional fields such as engineering, fundamental sciences, economics, and policy so that the student can understand energy production and its impacts from both environmental and economic perspectives. The Department of Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University is concerned with the design of processes associated with energy recovery and recently a course on CO2 capture and sequestration has been designed. Bridging concepts within the fundamental aspects of physics and chemistry for understanding the effective separation of CO2 from both flue and fuel gas streams with the processes involving its transport and potential long-term storage can be difficult without an interdisciplinary teaching approach. An underlying life cycle assessment concept to determine the overall cost of electricity based upon carbon separation and sequestration exists throughout the course to provide students with an understanding of the economic feasibility of such approaches to carbon emissions mitigations. The course is taught by instructors from multiple disciplines, ranging from materials science and mineral engineering to physical chemistry and chemical engineering.

The course is separated into two components, with the first focusing on CO2 separation from both syngas and flue gas, for gasification and combustion processes, respectively. Traditional absorption separation techniques using monoethanolamine are investigated, along with more novel polymer-based and inorganic-based membrane processes. The second part of the course will address transportation of CO2 in pipelines and sequestration in deep underground geological formations. Using a real-world sequestration project, we will learn about all of the aspects of CO2 transportation and sequestration in geological formations. Options for geological sequestration in oil and gas reservoirs, deep unmineable coal beds and saline aquifer are compared and assessed.

1Energy Information Administration, www.eia.doe.gov, May 2007.