Carbon Mitigation Initiative
CMI

Ninth Year Annual Report Executive Summary

Now entering our 10th year, CMI is both producing important results in original research areas and expanding into new territory. At the same time, our researchers are taking on important external projects to accelerate mitigation research and inform climate policy.

Capture Group

The Capture Group has made major strides in identifying and understanding low-carbon solutions for both liquid fuels and repowering electricity in the U.S., and has a new emphasis on biofuels and electric storage technologies.

Strategies developed by the Williams Group use coal and biomass combined with carbon capture and storage to provide liquid fuels with less biomass needed than for cellulosic ethanol, and motivate CCS at lower emissions prices than for coal plant retrofits. Recent shale gas discoveries are also motivating new modeling of systems using natural gas and biomass with CCS.

The Arnold Group is exploring how to optimize existing energy storage technology to meet the needs of alternative energy sources and extend battery lifetimes.

A new combustion research center led by Chung Law, leader of the Law Group, will bring Princeton researchers together with experts from across the nation to study and develop new alternative fuels for use in advanced engines.

Storage Group

The Storage Group is continuing to develop novel experimental techniques and expand capabilities of models, plus delve into new research areas with external funding.

New time-lapse images of corroding cements are supplying the Scherer-Prevost Group with more detailed information on corrosion kinetics for an improved Dynaflow model.

The Celia Group has added processes important on the long time scales relevant to storage security to their large scale models, and has begun a new collaboration with the Capture Group to explore using produced brine for both plant cooling and control of CO2 injection.

The Debenedetti Group has initiated a new program thrust on the formation and stability of CO2 hydrates.

And finally, members of the group are part of an exciting new multipurpose underground national laboratory (DUSEL), where they will study CO2 sequestration on realistic length scales in a project led by Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Catherine Peters.

Science Group

The Science Group continues to narrow the uncertainty in the causes and magnitude of the terrestrial and ocean carbon sinks.

New research by the Pacala Group points to the impact of nitrogen cycling on terrestrial carbon sinks, and its new biosphere model is the first to reproduce the history, magnitude and latitudinal distribution of carbon uptake.

The Sarmiento Group is working to improve calculations of the ocean carbon sink and explain a puzzling increase in terrestrial uptake in the early 90s.

New field and lab results from the Bender and Morel Groups are providing insights into controls on the distribution of ocean productivity and the impacts of ocean acidification. In paleoclimate studies, new samples retrieved by the Bender Group may be able to extend the Antarctic ice core record much further back in time, and the Sigman Group's latest results are narrowing down the possible mechanisms of ice age CO2 drawdown.

Policy & Integration Group

The Policy & Integration Group is pursuing innovative new modeling work that ties future emissions to national income distributions, has initiated a historical study of scientific assessments, and is extending CMI's outreach activities.

A paper from the Pacala-Socolow Group proposes an accounting scheme to allocate future global CO2 emissions across nations, based on an individual emissions cap that would count only "high emitters" (roughly, the one billion highest emitters on the planet). The scheme treats these high emitters the same, regardless of where they live and has received much attention as a possible strategy for mediating disputes between developed and developing countries.

A new research thrust in the Oppenheimer Group on the history of scientific assessments is gleaning lessons learned from the stratospheric ozone story to inform the current debate on climate change.

On the outreach side, the new CMI website has made our research much more accessible and is serving as a platform for materials on both the "billion high emitters" paper and our now classic "stabilization wedges" concept.

CMI faculty are also involved in two other ambitious University programs that are raising Princeton's profile as a center for studies of energy and the environment. The Siebel Energy Grand Challenge, part of the university's larger Grand Challenges program on Energy, Health, and Development, funds research into energy technology, policy and security, and climate science. The recently created Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment within the School of Engineering and Applied Science will focus on making fundamental "cleantech" discoveries and moving those findings rapidly into the marketplace.

In addition to its research contributions, CMI is helping steer the national dialogue on carbon mitigation. Co-Directors Pacala and Socolow have both undertaken substantial projects in the service of U.S. carbon policy. Pacala is leading a committee of the National Academies on carbon monitoring. Socolow has been a member of two National Academies' panels on America's Energy Future and America's Climate Choices, and is co-directing (with BPs Michael Desmond) an American Physical Society study on the potential for CO2 capture from air.

Finally, CMI has benefited from close interaction with our BP colleagues over the year. Our CMI co-directors and group leaders have had fruitful meetings with members of the BP America office both on the Princeton campus as well as in Washington, DC. Both students and faculty have benefited from the on-campus presence of BP executives through the Vann Fellows Program.

Fall of 2009 brought Kate Hadley Baker, BP's Director of Well Planning and Geotechnical Exploration Operations, to the university. Dr. Baker taught a graduate level seminar on Petroleum Engineering. We are looking forward to welcoming Mike J. Smith, Vice President of Reservoir Management and Exploration Production Technology in the spring of 2010, and Michael B.J. Bowman, Vice President of Geosciences and Subsurface Description, in the fall of 2010.

With renewed funding and a growing portfolio of research, CMI continues to serve as a solid source of information on the carbon and climate problem while breaking new ground. After nine years, our members are seasoned veterans in carbon and climate issues and increasingly prominent voices in the climate policy conversation.

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Last update: February 17 2011
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