COVID-19 UPDATE

All CMI scheduled meetings are being held virtually. CMI faculty, staff and students should continue to check the Princeton University homepage for University-wide updates.

Year Two of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative (calendar year 2002) was a year of consolidation and cohesion. Nearly all of the faculty, staff, post -doctoral and graduate students recruited during the first year remained involved, and recruitment continued. A notable addition to the group is Michael Oppenheimer, Professor of Public Policy and Geosciences, who has assumed a leadership role in our policy research.

This brief report of the research results of Year Two is supplemented by lists of publications and presentations.

Our research activity is presented under the four subheadings that continue to be useful in describing our program: carbon capture, carbon storage, carbon science, and carbon policy.

During the past year, we have deepened our understanding of not only membrane reactors for H2 manufacture from coal (the focus of our first year) but also alternative configurations of conventional technologies for making H2 from coal that involve use of physical solvents and pressure swing adsorption technologies for gaseous separation, instead of membranes. This extension resulted from our preliminary finding near the end of the previous year that the particular membrane reactor we had focused on did not seem to offer substantial economic benefits, relative to conventional H2 production technologies.

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Our focus is on storage of CO2 in deep aquifers. We have two broad themes:

  • Development of a framework for leakage estimation in mature sedimentary basins;
  • Identification and characterization of specific environmental risks associated with CO2 leakage.

In combination, results from these two efforts can be used to develop risk maps and measures of relative risk that should help to guide decisions on CO2 injection strategies.

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IPCC models continue to predict an enormous future benefit from the fertilization of the terrestrial biosphere by CO2 – over 5 billion tons of carbon per year taken from the atmosphere by 2050 and approximately 2 billion tons per year today. This year, we published the last of a three-paper set, begun in Year One of the CMI project, showing that the terrestrial sink in the U.S. is large (currently ~0.5 billion tons of carbon per year), caused by land use change instead of by CO2 fertilization, and will disappear during this century. We have begun to extend this work to the rest of the northern hemisphere, and our preliminary carbon budget leaves little room for a global sink caused by CO2 fertilization, unless there is a corresponding missing source. There are also other new experimental and theoretical results that cast doubt on predictions of a large CO2 fertilization sink in the future. Emission cuts necessary to stabilize atmospheric CO2 are substantially more stringent without a future benefit from CO2 fertilization and must begin sooner.

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Our main objective is to analyze the economically optimal use of carbon sequestration in the face of potential climate thresholds. The main achievements in the last year were:

  • a workshop on integration of new carbon cycle science into integrated assessments;
  • further exploration of an innovative allowance trading regime for greenhouse gas control;
  • modeling of optimal sequestration, considering induced technological change, technological inertia, and carbon leakage;
  • analysis of efficient policies to reduce the risk of dangerous interference with the climate system.
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Participation in BP meetings in London, visits to BP facilities in Houston, and the hosting of a BP Technical Advisory Committee meeting in Princeton are among the occasions which provided CMI with invaluable insight into the challenges of carbon management for the oil and gas industry. A six-person two-day visit to Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, jointly with opposite numbers from MIT, provided parallel insights into the challenges for the auto industry and ideas for three-way collaborations.

Just after the kick-off meeting two years ago, we committed to a third-year goal of producing a comprehensive assessment of proposed solutions to the carbon and climate problem, as well as our own recommendations. Our idea at the time was to produce an integrated assessment of the size and significance of the problem, the various ways of reducing net emissions, economic costs, risks to human and environmental health, and policy options.

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