Project Selections for Funding Opportunity Announcement 2596: University Training and Research for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management – University Coal Research

Feasibility Study of Coal Refuse and Biomass/Torrefied Biomass Co-fired Power Plant Georgia Southern University Research and Service Foundation (Statesboro, Georgia) plans to design and optimize coal refuse and biomass/torrefied biomass co-fired power plants of 100 and 600 MW capacity to accomplish carbon-neutral or carbon-negative power generation. More specifically, GSU will analyze the performance, techno-economic (TEA), and lifecycle (LCA) of varying co-firing ratios of biomass/torrefied biomass and coal refuse co-fired power plants. The research will provide the effects of biomass and coal refuse cost, capture levels, plant efficiencies, and plant capacities on levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). This project is beneficial for land reclamation of legacy coal stockpiles, and could improve the environment and health of the community. In addition, the project team will train and educate early-career scientists as well as graduate and undergraduate students to meet the goal of a diverse workforce prepared to address the technological challenges associated with climate change.

DOE Funding: $399,993; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $399,993


Co-firing switchgrass and waste coal in a power plant: A techno-economic and life cycle evaluation for the Ohio River Valley (SWITCH) The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio) will lead a team to develop a modeling framework and identify scenarios with net-zero or net-negative greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and lower LCOE production for a waste coal and switchgrass co-fired power plant equipped with carbon capture and storage in the Ohio River Valley. The modeling framework will integrate multiple types of models and tools, including watershed, machine learning (ML), feedstock production, logistics, power generation, CCS, TEA and LCA. The team envisions using the waste coal available in un-reclaimed mine lands and, after removal of the waste coal, establishing switchgrass to reclaim the mine land, reduce environmental impacts, and produce feedstocks for power plants. Furthermore, the modeling framework could be adopted in other regions with waste coal on un-reclaimed mine land. The project will also train postdoctoral researchers and a graduate student in conducting modeling of the proposed system and educate undergraduate and graduate students on the potential of co-firing waste coal and biomass for power generation.

DOE Funding: $399,869; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $399,869


Towards AI-Enabled Autonomy of Robotic Inspection Platforms for Sustainability of Energy Infrastructure Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, Oklahoma) proposes to develop an integrated artificial intelligence (AI)-driven robotic visual inspection (RVI) technology with closed-loop data collection and real-time defect identification for inspection of pipes, tanks and other hard-to-access parts critical to energy sectors, hydrogen production, transport and combustion processes, as well as carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). The team will strive to integrate deep learning defect identification models for dynamic and safe path and motion planning in real-time using multimodal data. To achieve the overall project objective, the team will develop (1) lighten-deep neural networks for low-light image/video enhancement, (2) multimodal and meta-learning for defect classification, and (3) safe and dynamic path and motion planning for autonomous navigation, which will then be followed by (4) implementation and experimental validation of the developed technology through robotics simulator and RVI hardware platforms.

DOE Funding: $500,000; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $500,000


Sustainable and cost-effective phytoremediation technologies in the management of contaminated soils adjacent to a coal combustion product impoundment University of Nevada (Reno, Nevada) plans to address concerns that have been raised about the future of coal-fired power stations due to the solid residues resulting from these facilities and their associated soil, air, or water contaminations. These solid wastes are stacked in vast areas titled Coal Combustion Products (CCP) ponds, which have direct or indirect negative impacts on the environment. North Valmy Power Plant (Humboldt County) is one of the main coal-fired power stations in Nevada. The team plans to mitigate the environmental burdens associated with CCP ponds at the North Valmy Power Plant by finding native plants and establishing a vegetation cover to (Phyto)extract the toxic heavy metals from ponds and (Phyto)stabilize the (ultra)fine particles of residues. This approach would develop a sustainable technology to remediate such affected sites by (1) developing low-cost methods to indicate whether a storage facility is keeping contaminants within its storage boundary and (2) advancing environmentally friendly technologies that can remediate affected sites.

DOE Funding: $396,835; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $396,835


Biogas Utilization in Refuse Power Plants (BURP2) – The University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, North Dakota) project team intends to quantify the bounding conditions for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by integrating biomass with waste coal remediation. The proposed solution adopts biogas (via anaerobic digestion of biomass including municipal solid wastes and wastewater sludge) as a renewable fuel suitable for use in waste coal-fired facilities. The team will conduct TEAs and LCAs to assess how to use existing infrastructure assets with minor retrofits to benefit multiple stakeholders. For project execution, two graduate students will be trained on TEA and LCA assessments. This study will provide future researchers with extrapolation tools to explore a multitude of yet to be conceived integration strategies for renewable and non-renewable fuel use. The technology has the potential to extend the longevity of existing infrastructure assets and enable wider adoption of waste recycling for renewable fuels.

DOE Funding: $400,000; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $400,000


Systems Analysis for Advancing Coal/Waste Coal-Biomass Co-Firing Power Plants with Deep Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage toward Net-Zero Emissions University of Wyoming (Laramie, Wyoming) plans to: (1) estimate the life cycle GHG emissions of pulverized coal/waste coal-biomass co-firing power plants with CCUS using liquid solvents for 95−99% carbon capture; (2) determine the breakeven co-firing level of biomass required to achieve net-zero GHG emissions on a life cycle basis, including its dependence on key factors; and (3) quantify bounding conditions for the techno-economic performance of net-zero CCUS-enabled power production leveraging waste coal and biomass as feedstocks in both deterministic and probabilistic forms. The team will use an integrated systems modeling framework that combines techno-economic analysis for CCUS-enabled power production with LCA in both deterministic and probabilistic forms. The proposed modeling framework will be incorporated as new modules or options into the Integrated Environmental Control Model, a power plant modeling tool, which will be publicly available on the tool website along with associated educational materials. This project will directly train one doctoral student and one postdoctoral researcher on deep decarbonization of fossil energy.

DOE Funding: $399,284; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $399,284


A Data-driven Multiscale Phytotechnology Framework for Identification and Remediation of Leached-Metals-Contaminated Soil Near Coal Ash Impoundments Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Virginia) intends to develop a cost-effective phytotechnology approach, where available data and to-be-acquired satellite data will be used to search for vegetation bio-indicators to identify and remediate leached-metal contaminated areas surrounding CCP impoundments. The analyses will consider potentially contaminated areas surrounding CCP impoundments of southern West Virginia, southwest Virginia, eastern Kentucky, western Tennessee, and North Carolina. The team plans to: (1) process and analyze satellite images and historical data to find vegetation-related abnormalities; (2) find a correlation between the leached-metal contamination and the identified abnormalities; (3) validate the model and data through soil and vegetation sampling for a limited number of sites; (4) propose a phytoremediation approach based on the specific attributes of hyperaccumulator plants, sites and environmental and geological conditions; (5) select and rank site candidates for phytoremediation based on environmental and meteorological conditions, soil type and condition, severity of contamination, and environmental justice.

DOE Funding: $400,000; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $400,000


Integrated life cycle and techno-economic assessments of Central Appalachian legacy mine sites for biomass development and waste coal utilization West Virginia University (Morgantown, West Virginia) plans to quantitatively assess legacy coal mine sites in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, remediation, biomass development, and the availability and potential uses of waste coal and biomass to reduce GHG emissions and achieve the net-zero/negative goal for the regional decarbonized economy. Methods to be employed include geospatial data analytics, ML-assisted coal refuse pile estimation, and integrated ML-based TEA-LCA. Potential impacts include: (1) characteristics of the legacy coal mine sites; (2) strategies and best management practices of biomass development on legacy mined lands; (3) a robust database and models of LCA for biomass development and the utilization of legacy mine waste materials; and (4) integrated LCA and TEA data and impacts of the net-zero or net-negative pathways of biomass development and waste coal utilization. This project will train four graduate students, two to four undergraduate students, and two post-doctoral fellows in the technical areas of geographic spatial analysis, legacy mine land reclamation, biomass development, LCA and TEA, and machine learning approaches.

DOE Funding: $400,000; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $400,000


An Autonomous Robotic Inspection System for Coal Ash and Tailings Storage FacilitiesWest Virginia University (Morgantown, West Virginia) intends to deliver an aerial robot-enabled inspection and monitoring system for active and abandoned coal ash and tailings storage facilities while training a highly skilled U.S. workforce in the Northern and Central Appalachian Region of West Virginia. The project team intends to: (1) develop and program an intelligent drone that will autonomously inspect the structural components of a storage facility; and (2) create AI-based hazard detection algorithms that will use the multispectral and georeferenced images (i.e., thermal and visual) and 3D Point Clouds collected by the drone to detect hazards in the facility structure that would indicate uncontrolled leakage to the environment or lead to the potential failure of the structure. The automation of the inspection process proposed by the project has the potential to advance the inspection of such coal ash and tailings storage facility, preventing future accidents and protecting public health and the environment.

DOE Funding: $499,846; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $499,846


Project selections for Funding Opportunity Announcement 2598: University Training and Research for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management – Minority Serving Institutions

R&D Scoping Study and Infrastructure Self-Assessment of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management Based Research Capabilities for California State University, Los Angeles Cal State LA University Auxiliary Services, Inc (CSULA) (Los Angeles, California) plans to conduct a research and development (R&D) scoping study and infrastructure self-assessment of fossil energy and carbon management-based research capabilities at CSULA as a collaboration between the College of Natural and Social Sciences and the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology. This self-assessment is to determine whether CSULA has the requisite resources and capabilities to conduct early-stage R&D activities that align with the goals of decarbonization. CSULA will also identify gaps in research and education capability and develop strategies to enable CSULA to be competitive for future decarbonization-related solicitations.

DOE Funding: $200,000; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $200,000


Innovative biomonitoring and remediation of heavy metals using phytotechnologies at the Savannah River Site (SRS) coal combustion product (CCP) impoundment sites Florida A&M University (Tallahassee, Florida) intends to develop phytoremediation, an alternative approach for heavy metal (HM) remediation using the native HM hyperaccumulating plants as bioindicators of HM presence, ecological impacts, and remediation. Phytoremediation approaches are cost effective, environmentally benign, and carbon-neutral for the removal and rehabilitation of hazardous contaminants. The focus of phytoremediation has recently moved to using a new generation of “green” technology that has strong remediation potential via unique cellular and molecular processes. The goal of this project is to develop low-cost technologies for biomonitoring of ash pond contaminants—mainly heavy metals—to confirm that they have remained confined within the storage boundaries and develop effective plant-based environmental cleanup strategies for rehabilitation and revitalization of impacted communities that will potentially attract commercial sector investment.

DOE Funding: $369,528; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $369,528


Mapping Soil Contamination from Coal Ash with Remote Sensing Analysis to Determine the Spatial Distribution and Impact on Soil Chemistry of Hyperaccumulator Plant Species Kentucky State University (Frankfort, Kentucky), in collaboration with Lincoln University of Missouri and the University of Illinois, plans to map the distribution of soil contamination, groundwater composition, and spatial distribution of hyperaccumulator plant species by combining a comprehensive soil sampling program with geographic remote sensing methods to image and map changes in contaminant contents in the plants and soil. A key objective of this project is to develop competent and dedicated scientists with knowledge of and sensitivity for culturally diverse customers and business partners. This project will train one graduate student at Kentucky State University and support paid research of two undergraduate students and foster the growth of a developing partnership between the two Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

DOE Funding: $399,197; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $399,197


Producing Algal Biomass from Wastewater as Cotton Plant Fertilizer to Reduce Carbon Footprint Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) (Prairie View, Texas) plans to investigate how chemical fertilizer can be displaced with algal biomass for growing cotton plants to reduce the agricultural carbon footprint. The project team plans to: (1) add essential components in water to maximize the growth of algae in wastewater using a Rotating Algal Biofilm reactor system; (2) use different spectroscopy and advanced imaging techniques to measure the carbon uptake and composition of algal biomass; (3) evaluate the algal biomass as biofertilizer for cotton plant growth under varying environmental conditions to reduce carbon footprint; and (4) carry out cotton plant growth trials in test plots using varying amounts of algal biomass and evaluate the environmental and economic benefits. The team will carry out a detailed LCA and TEA for the entire process as per the guidelines of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. This 2-year project will support several graduate and undergraduate students at PVAMU and University of Houston to develop the skills of minority students in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. An integrative approach of the lab to field trial coupled with modern tools will help develop algal biofertilizer as a viable alternative to chemical fertilizer, reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and benefiting the environment.

DOE Funding: $399,680; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $399,680


An Experimental and Computational Approach to Investigating CO2 Uptake of Cellulose-producing Algae from Cellulosic Ethanol Production The Regents of the University of California (Oakland, California) intends to investigate a novel, low-cost approach to carbon dioxide (CO2) uptake by algae for a highly relevant and cost-effective agricultural application. Moreover, this approach will achieve a rigorous, fundamental understanding of a novel way to capture waste CO2 from ethanol fermentation using algal cultures to produce microcrystalline cellulose. The project team intends to (1) optimize Nannochloropsis salina cultures on effluent gas produced directly from cellulosic ethanol fermentation, (2) characterize the fermentation products, quantify cellulose production, and calculate CO2 uptake efficiency with predictive quantum calculations, (3) conduct a life cycle and techno-economic analysis of the proposed integration, and (4) provide training opportunities to the diverse body of minority students attending the University of California-Riverside (UC Riverside).

DOE Funding: $400,000; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $400,000


Carbon Management with Advanced Materials: An Assessment of Experimental and Computational Capabilities at the University of California-Riverside The Regents of the University of California (Oakland, California) intends to conduct an R&D scoping study and university-wide self-assessment to evaluate how its current capabilities, expertise, personnel, and facilities/equipment align with FECM goals, particularly decarbonization. The project team intends to assess its capabilities in the following research thrust areas: (1) hydrogen with carbon management, (2) carbon transport and storage, (3) CO2 removal and conversion, and (4) point-source carbon capture. In addition, this assessment will also identify gaps in capabilities and provide a discussion on what would enable UC Riverside to be better prepared for potential future competitive FECM related research efforts. This project aims to ensure that minority-serving institutions such as UC Riverside have the requisite resources and capabilities to (1) conduct early-stage research and development activities that are aligned with FECM goals centered on decarbonization and (2) support the education and training of minority students from underrepresented and structurally marginalized communities.

DOE Funding: $200,000; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $200,000


Infrastructure Assessment for Technology Innovation, Development and Training in Carbon Management Texas State University (TXST) (San Marcos, Texas) plans to conduct an R&D scoping and institutional self-assessment study through its TXST Carbon Transport and Storage Program (TxCTSP) and evaluate how the capabilities, expertise, as well as facilities and equipment at TXST align with the FECM’s training, research, and technology development efforts. The team will first evaluate the current R&D capabilities and thrusts, and then identify the gaps for other required resources to develop active FECM-related research and education programs. This project will highlight additional facilities, equipment, educational resources, programs, course modules, projects, seminars, mentoring, and training plans that will be required to increase the number of underrepresented students and trained workforce in FECM fields. Three graduate and six undergraduate students led by three faculty members from three different departments will actively participate in conducting this extensive R&D scoping and self-assessment effort. TxCTSP’s ultimate goals are to develop key technologies in carbon capture and storage while significantly increasing the number of minority students trained in FECM-related fields and their retention and matriculation rates at TXST.

DOE Funding: $200,000; Non-DOE Funding: $39,485; Total Value: $239,485


Capabilities Development at the University of Texas at El Paso for Hydrogen Generation Research and Education The University of Texas at El Paso (El Paso, Texas) intends to assess the R&D capability of the university to develop a research-scale modular high-pressure municipal solid waste gasifier for hydrogen production and plan the transition to hydrogen energy systems research. The R&D scoping of a modular gasifier will be conducted at the energy division of the Aerospace Center at the University of Texas at El Paso. The project team will focus on the current state-of-the-art analysis, technology gap analysis, capability assessment and planning toward hydrogen research facility development, and student training on gasifier design analysis and modeling of a municipal solid waste gasifier for hydrogen production. The Aerospace Center’s extensive experience in combustion and propulsion research and development expertise in energy systems design provides the necessary underpinning for the proposed hydrogen research facility development.

DOE Funding: $200,000; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $200,000


Assessment and Plan of R&D Capabilities on Decarbonization at UTRGV The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) (Edinberg, Texas) plans to conduct an R&D scoping study and university self-assessment to evaluate how its current capabilities, expertise, personnel, facilities, and equipment align with FECM objectives. The team will then identify gaps in capabilities and provide a plan to better prepare UTRGV for potential future competitive solicitations focused on FECM supported technologies. The first objective of this project is to assess existing UTRGV research thrust areas and associated resource capabilities relevant to the mission of FECM to meet the decarbonization goals set for 2035 and 2050. Available faculty expertise, laboratory equipment and other resource capabilities, relevant course offerings, and curriculum will be assessed. Additionally, UTRGV will assess missing resources to become more competitive in obtaining R&D grants. The key objective is to develop student training and education plans to ensure UTRGV’s minority students are prepared to conduct R&D projects. The team will also suggest ways that FECM may support the professional development of minority students from underrepresented and structurally marginalized communities of Rio Grande Valley.

DOE Funding: $200,000; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $200,000