The Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) at Princeton University has concluded its fifth year. Having established roots in multiple departments around the university, we now have a mature research program with a strong core group of mitigation experts. Our team has made substantial progress toward achieving our original goals, in the process becoming a recognized force in the field of carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Evolution of Research
In the first years of the grant, our groups developed and improved new tools for making observations, built and refined computer models for simulating the carbon cycle and CO2 injection, explored the economic potential of a wide array of capture technologies, and investigated novel ways to motivate carbon mitigation. Our researchers have used lessons learned in these early studies to identify issues that are important to moving mitigation forward.
These key issues will be the focus for the next 5 years of research as we create systems and mechanisms to promote mitigation and further characterize natural carbon sinks.
- The capture group has identified opportunities for cost-effective CO2 capture in electricity, hydrogen and synfuels plants and is moving forward with research in fossil fuel-biomass schemes that take advantage of the “negative emissions” that come from storing photosynthetic carbon underground. The team is also comparing alternative options for using CO2 captured in electricity and fuels production to support enhanced oil recovery and thereby move forward with CCS technology deployment in the near term. It is also exploring baseload electricity strategies based on wind and natural gas as competition for fossil fuel power generation with CCS
- The storage group has completed studies on cement durability, which have shown that cements are highly susceptible to attack by CO2-rich fluids. The team is refining their experiments to more accurately represent sequestration conditions and has developed a model to predict the actual character of injection fluids likely to interact with well cements. Researchers have also developed fast semi-analytical models and coarse-resolution models with upscaling to incorporate these well-scale findings into large-scale simulations of CO2 injection.
- The science group has been reducing uncertainties about the impacts of rising CO2 and global warming on carbon sinks and ocean chemistry and biology. Extended observations of the O2/N2 ratio of air and new inversion modeling capabilities have helped to narrow estimates of sources and sinks of CO2. Modeling studies have also laid the groundwork for a new software system linking carbon-cycle models with observational data. Finally, modeling studies, observations of biological carbon fluxes, and paleoclimate data are shedding light on the controls of ocean-atmosphere CO2 exchange, resulting in a new proposed mechanism contributing to glacial-interglacial climate change.
- The integration group has characterized environmental and economic impacts of rising greenhouse gas emissions and proposed new ways to motivate mitigation. In addition, the outreach effort has grown substantially in response to the “stabilization wedges” concept. Through conferences, workshops, and work with the popular media, we have introduced a wide variety of audiences – from CCS experts to policymakers to high school students – to the idea that existing technologies can substantially cut emissions.