Seer Fellows 2009-2011-Environment at CMU - Carnegie Mellon University

2010-2011 Steinbrenner Graduate Fellows

poster session 3

Anita Lee, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

Project Team:  John Kitchin (PI- Chemical Engineering)

"A Comprehensive Computational Approach to Evaluating Amine Based Solvents for Post Combustion CO2 Capture"

"The growth of fossil energy usage has led to increases in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and concerns about the effects of CO2 on the climate. As a result interest has grown in developing technologies to manage carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal electricity, due to environmental implications of CO2 as a greenhouse gas and the emerging possibility of governmental regulations on carbon emissions. The leading approach to CO2 capture uses monoethanolamine (MEA) solvent in an absorption-regeneration process. For many years this process has been used in the natural gas and food industries, leading the scientific community to regard it as the most viable first generation CO2 capture technology, due to the ability to leverage existing chemical and process knowledge. However, flue gas CO2 capture, a much larger process than traditional applications if MEA solvents, requires large volumes of steam energy, which translates to an estimated 60%-80% increase in the cost of coal electricity. New approaches are needed to reduce the economic impact of CO2 capture.  Efficient CO2 capture is an essential strategy in the transition away from fossil energy towards renewable energy. This transition will require more efficient, cost effective renewable energy technologies as well as the replacement of the massive fossil energy infrastructure. CO2 capture and sequestration will enable a smoother transition while mitigating the impact of fossil energy on the environment."

Yeganeh Mashayekh, Graduate Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering/Engineering and Public Policy

Project Team: Chris Hendrickson (PI-CEE), H. Scott Matthews (CEE-EPP), and Chris Weber (CEE)

"Impact Assessment of Intelligent Transportation Systems Congestion Management Measures on Greenhouse Gas Emissions"

"Climate change is perhaps the most crucial environmental issue the world is facing today. Accounting for about 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the transportation sector is the second largest source of GHG in the United States.  Surface transportation modes including passenger vehicles, buses, motorcycles and trucks use about 80% of the total transportation energy. Traffic congestion caused by inefficient operation is one of the important factors contributing to the GHG emissions. Responsible for an extra 4.2 billion hours of travel and extra 2.8 billion gallons of purchased fuel, traffic congestion cost Americans approximately $87 billion in 2007.  As the terms of development shifts from the traditional growth to "Smart Growth", many metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), nationally and internationally, are planning urban developments that serve the economy, the community and the environment. Developing a systematic analysis tool for novel congestion management measures with regard to costs and GHG emissions will assist these MPOs in the development of urban "Smart Growth" guidelines and standards contributing to environmentally sustainable urban developments."

Scott Schiffres, Graduate Student, Mechanical Engineering

Project Team:  Jonathan Malen (PI-Mechanical Engineering)

"Waste Heat Scavenging Through Solution Processed Organic Thermoelectric Materials"

"Advanced thermoelectric materials promise to impact our immediate energy consumption through waste heat power regeneration--reclaiming thermal energy in the flue gases of power plants and vehicles. When advanced thermoelectric materials are combined with photovoltaic power generation, solar energy conversion efficiency will benefit as well, since part of the solar energy that isn't directly converted to electrical energy can be recovered in the thermoelectric layer. The same materials can also be used to refrigerate foods and cool homes without ozone-depleting refrigerants or noisy compressors."

Aranya Venkatesh, Graduate Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Project Team: H. Scott Matthews (CEE/EPP), Michael Griffin (EPP/Tepper), and Paulina Jaramillo (EPP)

"Supporting Low Carbon Fuel Policies in the United States using Uncertainty Analysis"

"The Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Review 2008 reports that the transportation sector consumes about 30% of all primary energy within the United States, of which 95% is petroleum based. These statistics suggest two significant concerns: [a] national security, given that the U.S. imports 60% of its crude oil, and [b] associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These concerns have been reflected in recent legislation such as the Energy Independence and Security Act and California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard.  Both policies set baseline life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from conventional petroleum fuels in order to estimate emissions reductions possible with alternatives. The LCFS is calling for a minimum 10% reduction in average carbon intensity of these fuels through substitutions in the fuel mix sold. Similar reductions are expected from EISA.   However, such policies predominantly use single point estimates of life cycle emissions for conventional and alternative fuels, and subsequent decision making does not quantitatively account for underlying uncertainty in these estimates. Given that they may vary over a range of values, any fuel comparisons require a comprehensive treatment of the uncertainty (i.e., to assess whether one truly is lower than the other). One method for dealing with this issue is to characterize the potential range of life cycle impacts by developing probability distributions. Comparisons are achieved by indicating how likely it may be for one fuel type to be preferred over another (by means of probability values), given fixed average emissions targets or percent reductions. Such analyses are essential in order to design any effective alternative fuels policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The transportation sector in the U.S. is highly energy and emissions intensive and growing rapidly, especially in urban areas that have already begun to experience repercussions from increased vehicle density. Therefore, developing regional climate policy that recognizes these concerns and implements appropriate combative measures is crucial for the success of any energy strategy. "

2009-2010 Steinbrenner Graduate Fellows

poster session1

Emily Fertig, Graduate Student, Engineering and Public Policy

Project Team: Jay Apt (PI-EPP/Tepper)

"An engineering-economic optimization of compressed air energy storage (CAES) to enhance wind power reliability"

"Concerns about global climate change have caused 25 states to establish renewable portfolio standards to reduce the greenhouse emissions of the electricity industry.  As the proportion of electricity generated from renewables increases to 20% and more, the problem of variability in generation must be overcome with large-scale bulk storage. The proposed research dovetails with the Steinbrenner Institute's focus on energy transition strategies and the environment.  For clean, renewable energy such as wind and solar to be integrated into the electricity grid on the expanded scale proposed by the current administration, engineering challenges regarding bulk diurnal storage of electricity will have to be addressed.  The proposed research takes a broad, interdisciplinary approach toward assessing technical and economic performance of wind/CAES systems, and could help enable significantly greater penetration of intermittent, renewable energy into the electricity market." 

Catherine Izard, Graduate Student, Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy

Project Team: Christopher Weber (PI-CEE), H. Scott Matthews (CEE/EPP)

"Economic and Emissions Effects of Climate Change Policy on the Iron and Steel Industry in the United

"One of the concerns with the establishment of a national climate policy is the effect of that policy on energy intensive industries (EII; e.g. the iron and steel, aluminum, pulp and paper, glass, and chemicals industries). Because they use large amounts of energy, EIIs will see significant cost increases if the energy sector is forced to pay for carbon production. If climate policy is unilateral, EIIs could face higher operating expenses in regulated countries than in unregulated countries. Some fear that these competitiveness concerns could cause EIIs to migrate to unregulated countries, increasing net carbon emissions (carbon leakage) and hurting domestic industry. Several types of climate policies, from national level (border tax adjustments; BTAs) to global level (industry sectoral agreements) have been proposed to mitigate competitiveness concerns and maximize global emissions reductions.  Understanding the dynamics of the steel sector is vital for energy transitions for several reasons: the industry is a large consumer of energy, both in the U.S. and worldwide, and its products are critical to infrastructure redevelopment for any energy development pathway."

Elizabeth Traut, Graduate Student, Mechanical Engineering

Project Team: - Jeremy Michalek (PI-Mechanical Engineering)

"How Does Energy Policy Affect Vehicle Design?"

"This research addresses energy and environment issues by examining the market viability of transitioning vehicle technologies, and by providing a basis for engineers and policymakers to make more informed and better decisions, avoiding unintended negative consequences. The transportation sector accounts for 28% of U.S. GHG emissions (EPA, 2006) and about 66% of U.S. oil consumption (DOE, 2004). Vehicle use will continue to be critical to the U.S. transportation sector in the near future, and therefore major issues including climate change, foreign oil dependency, and peak oil are tied to vehicle design. Emerging vehicles technologies are tied to issues of urban infrastructure and sustainable cities through the necessity not only of road infrastructure but also of fueling and charging infrastructure for alternative fuel and electric vehicles. Predicting the market viability of these vehicles will help predict infrastructure requirements."

Jessica Wilson, Graduate Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Project Team: Jeanne VanBriesen (PI-CEE) and Kelvin Gregory (CEE)

"Brominated Disinfection By-Products in Drinking Water: Impacts from Shale Gas Production in Pennsylvania"

"The goal of this research is to investigate the effect on drinking water sources in southwestern Pennsylvania from natural gas extraction, specifically the relationship between increased bromide concentrations in source water and increased haloacetic acid concentrations in finished water.  The link between energy transition strategies and the environment is a crucial part of this research. Natural gas exploration will be an important part of energy production in the near future, and the environmental impacts on water resources, particularly on the provision of clean safe drinking water, must be considered. This research will provide data on how HAA concentrations and HAA speciation in drinking water are altered by the release of produced water from shale gas wells. Further, details of the effect of bromine on speciation will be used to evaluate the suitability of current EPA regulations regarding HAAs."