The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will be home to one of 46 new multi-million-dollar Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs).
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu thus outlines the purpose of
the EFRCs: "These Centers will mobilize the enormous talents and skills of
our nation's scientific workforce in pursuit of the breakthroughs that are
essential to make alternative and renewable energy truly viable as large-scale
replacements for fossil fuels."
Among the individual EFRCs named by the DOE to share $777
million over the next 5 years is the Center for Nanoscale Control of Geologic
"This new award will give our team of investigators an
opportunity to probe the fundamental chemical, physical and biological
processes that control the movement of carbon dioxide fluids in the
earth," says Don DePaolo, director of Berkeley Lab's Earth Sciences
Although led by Berkeley Lab, the Center includes collaborating
researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of
California at Davis.
The Center's immediate emphasis is on understanding and
solving – at a fundamental scientific level – the problems of sequestering
carbon dioxide captured from coal-burning power plants. The science of
subsurface flow, however, is directly applicable to a host of other
environmental and energy-related challenges, including geothermal energy
production, storage of spent nuclear fuel, and recovery of oil and gas from
The overarching goal is to establish control over fluids
deep underground at the level of individual molecules as they interact with the
pore network of surrounding rock, including managing how these fluids –
especially carbon-dioxide-rich fluids – flow, dissolve and precipitate. Within
10 years, the researchers hope to fill the many gaps in the present knowledge,
including the effects of nanoscale confinement on fluid dynamics and on
chemical, geological and biological reactions with surrounding surfaces,
materials and microorganisms.
Specific research projects include characterizing the pore
configuration of a wide range of sedimentary rocks, including brine-filled
formations. Geologic sequestration takes place on many scales – both in space
and in time – from the scale of individual molecules of rock or fluid to the
geological scale of entire reservoirs, from fractions of a second to thousands
Understanding chemical and microbiological interactions are
among the key advances that are required. The goal is to fill the available
pore space efficiently without damaging the surrounding rock, since the liquid
CO2 must be stored for hundreds of years without leaking into the atmosphere.
in late summer of 2009, the Center expects to receive approximately $20 million
in funding through the Basic Energy Research program in DOE's Office of
Science, spread over 5 years.
Research Center Funded to Understand Carbon Sequestration
May 8, 2009