Conventional Fuels Research
Conventional fuels will still remain a primary source of energy for power generation. Consequently the thrust of the energy center program is to mobilize advanced technology to increase the recovery of traditional fuels, optimize conservation, and preserve the quality of the air and the environment. Development of wireless remote visualization and sensing technologies are central to these efforts in order to monitor the safety, ensure the reliability and maximize the efficiency of the energy transmission and distribution systems. There are two major thrusts in this area that will be undertaken by the center.
Despite being one of the oldest sources of energy, coal still leads the list of the President’s Advanced Energy Initiatives, since it still provides more than 50% of the power used to generate electricity across the nation. The major technological and economic hurdle is the construction of completely emissions-free coal burning plants. This challenge is now being met by a BNL/ USB/Farmingdale collaboration where innovative nanotechnologies are being explored to produce selective catalysts that filter the air and eliminate sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. Carbon sequestration: Even carbon dioxide, the least detrimental output, can be safely sequestered and reused through new technologies. The overall carbon sequestration scheme currently involves: 1) CO2 capture from stationary sources (e.g., power plants), 2) transport of captured CO2, and 3) CO2 burial in ocean or deep aquifers. The major focus of new research in the center will be to develop alternate cost-effective pathways. We are looking at several options that go beyond just burying CO2. These are: (a) Formation of CO2 Hydrates for subsequent energy generation. This forward approach visualizes CO2 capture followed by catalytic CO2 hydrogenation to produce liquid fuels essentially recycling carbon and closing the carbon production cycle. (b) Developing pathways to utilize supercritical CO2 (Sc CO2) to replace organic solvents in polymer synthesis and processing and in cleaning of extremely large areas, such as LNG pipelines of organic residues.
b) Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG):
LNG is an efficient source of energy which burns with far lower emissions than fossil fuels. The demand for LNG is predicted to grow by 30% in the next decade as new power plants are built which try to meet or exceed the increasingly stringent federal air-quality regulations. Even though plentiful reserves still exist, most are far from the markets. Hence research in the center will focus on engineering more efficient means of storage, transport, and monitoring new nanocomposite materials that are UV resistant, self extinguishing and can withstand large temperature extremes will be designed. Built in electronic sensing chips can be incorporated which will transmit wireless code to ensure the safety and security of LNG infrastructure.
Due to its inherent volatility, natural gas distribution is anther area of concern in populated areas. The distribution lines are prone to corrosion, leaks, and more recently terrorist threats. Yet, natural gas is usually mined far from the areas where it is used. Hence a major thrust of the center will be addressing problems associated with safe and efficient storage and transport of LNGs. The relevant issues to be addressed here are: (a) Purity of the natural gas delivered to the end user (b) Monitoring the distribution lines for leaks and environmental impact, (c) Remote wireless sensing, fault diagnosis, and warning of malicious tampering and possible terrorist sabotage.
It is inevitable that in the short run conventional fossil fuels will continue to be an important source of energy. Consequently the development of advanced technologies that allow enhanced recovery from existing wells, increase the accuracy of prospecting, and the safety of operations under extreme climate conditions are of high interest. Extensive research in these areas, in partnerships with international oil companies (Conoco, Exxon/Mobil) and New York State industries (CEWIT industry partners), are already in progress at Stony Brook and Brookhaven National Laboratory. These efforts will be further coordinated by the center and integrated with other research in wireless communication, cyber security, conservation, power transmission, and environmental remediation.