Jobs and growth can help halt greenhouse gas

Experts worldwide are meeting this week in Calabria, Italy to focus on ways to deploy carbon dioxide capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies.

Kevin OBrien
Kevin OBrien, director of ISTC and interim director of ISWS, at CO2 Summit III in Calabria, Italy.

Today Kevin OBrien, who leads both the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Illinois State Water Survey, spoke about the opportunities to treat “CCUS as a Regional Economic Development Tool.”

The presentation was made at the CO2 Summit III: Pathways to Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Deployment conference.

Reducing CO2 emissions while also maintaining economic growth requires balancing many complex technological, political, and social aspects, according to OBrien.

Deployment will bring significant implications for regional energy, water, and transportation, he said. By focusing on job growth and community resilience, OBrien said, CCUS can draw on, and build on, regional alliances for education, business, and community development.

The Prairie Research Institute, through its Illinois State Geological Survey and ISTC, have become leaders in the development and implementation of carbon capture and storage. ISTC is also developing a Center for Carbon Utilization on the University of Illinois campus.

“The goal is to not only evaluate technologies, but also demonstrate how communities may be able to monetize captured CO2,” said Kevin OBrien. The effort provides a unique opportunity to create jobs and build new markets, he said.

conference participants
CCUS experts from around the world gathered in Calabria, Italy this week to explore ways to speed the implementation of carbon capture, utilization, and storage.

In Race to Capture Carbon Dioxide, Remember the Need to Use It

Kevin O'Brien at the International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Technologies
ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien spoke in Lausanne, Switzerland today on the importance of developing new uses for ‘waste’ carbon dioxide.

The capture and utilization of CO2 provides a unique opportunity to create jobs and build new markets. Illinois is leading this charge, said ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien today in a presentation at the International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Technologies (GHGT-13) in Lausanne, Switzerland.


While research on economical technologies to capture and store CO2 is a priority at the University of Illinois and around the world, it is equally important to develop new approaches to monetize and utilize the gas as a commodity, O’Brien said.


He outlined the Carbon Dioxide Utilization and Reduction (COOULR) Center being formed at the University’s Prairie Research Institute. He called this effort a model for other communities committed to creating jobs and accelerating economic engines.


The University’s openness to discovery and innovation, coupled with the U of I’s interest in becoming carbon neutral by 2050 makes for a fortunate confluence of factors. “There is a need to be able to explore a multitude of utilization approaches in order to identify a portfolio of potential utilization mechanisms,” he said. “This portfolio must be adapted based on the economy of the region.”


The Carbon Dioxide Utilization and Reduction (COOULR) Center being formed at the University's Prairie Research Institute.
The Carbon Dioxide Utilization and Reduction (COOULR) Center being formed at the University’s Prairie Research Institute is intended to be a model for other communities to explore new uses for captured CO2.

A research effort like the COOULR Center “is one of the key steps in the formation of a market for captured CO2,” he added. “The goal of the Center is to not only evaluate technologies, but also demonstrate at a large pilot scale how communities may be able to monetize captured CO2.”


The GHGT Conference is held every two years by the International Energy Agency‘s (IEA) Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme. The IEA consists of the U.S. and 28 other industrialized nations that work to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy supplies.


Co-authors of the paper delivered by O’Brien are: Yongqi Lu, Sallie Greenberg, Randall Locke (Illinois State Geological Survey); Vinod Patel (ISTC); Michael Larson (U of I’s Abbott Power Plant); Krish R. Krishnamurthy, Makini Byron, Joseph Naumovitz (Linde LLC); and David S. Guth, Stephen J. Bennett (Affiliated Engineers Inc. (AEI)). The university team and the private partners are currently involved in major research projects to test advanced carbon capture systems at the University’s power plant.

Sen. Durbin Backs Research to Capture More Carbon from Coal Plants

Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) toured the Abbott Power Plant at the University of Illinois on Jan. 15 for a briefing on Prairie Research Institute (PRI) research to develop next-generation carbon capture technology.

PRI has just released an informative video introduction to the work underway at the Abbott Power Plant.

Durbin featured in project video
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin spoke about the carbon capture research following a tour of the University of Illinois’ Abbott Power Plant.

The first-hand look at the project was an “eye opener,” Durbin said. If selected for the federally funded project, the technology would economically extract at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide following an Abbott Power Plant retrofit. The ramifications for coal-rich Illinois – for jobs, the economy, and keeping utility rates low – could be profound.

“What’s going on here at the Abbott Power Plant is an effort to show that there is an environmentally responsible way to deal with the sources of energy whether they’re coal, natural gas, or oil,” Durbin said after the tour. “We’re working with the university, and the power plant, on an application for a Department of Energy research effort; and their goal, of course, is to take even more of the emissions and turn the pollution into profits and make certain that it doesn’t at least harm the environment in serious ways.”

For many nations around the world where coal is likely to remain the fuel of choice well into this century, the new technology could be a game changer in the challenge to limit global warming. The project includes expert advisory panel representing some of the largest power producers around the world, including China, India, and Brazil, said Kevin O’Brien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and primary investigator for the project.

“We’re living in an era of dramatic change,” Durbin said. “Ten years ago we depended on OPEC oil. Now we’re talking very seriously about climate change and the need to reduce emissions.”

Senator Durbin was Supportive of the research on carbon captureHe praised the efforts at the University for keeping the more than 70-year-old plant at the forefront of efficient and effective technologies to deliver both steam and electric power to students and staff. “It still serves the campus today,” Durbin remarked. “The good news is that over the years there have been some dramatic efforts to modernize this plant and to make sure that it not only meets the standards but goes beyond, and sets the standard for new technology and new energy development.”

“So it was good to see this first hand today — to be educated. I will tell you that it came as an eye opener to me.  The steam generation and how important it is to the University of Illinois and also very important to generate the kind of electricity that sustains a modern campus in the 21st century.”

The project would put Abbott well beyond existing standards for emissions control. Abbott’s current pollution control technology, consisting of a combination of electrostatic precipitators and a flue gas desulfurization unit (scrubber), remains the “best available control technology” for removing pollutants from the byproducts of coal combustion.

The carbon capture research project also will look ahead to developing new uses for waste carbon dioxide. The project seeks partners interested in forming and building the overall “value chain” for captured CO2 – including members/ suppliers to the coal and power industry, and current and potential end-users of CO2. To learn more about the opportunity, call +1 (630) 472-5016.