We once again invited Colorado researchers to display a poster during the 7th Annual 21st Century Energy Transition Symposium, in Ft Collins, CO

The symposium steering committee made up of former Colorado Governor, Bill Ritter, now Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at CSU, Dr. Bryan Willson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Executive Director of The Energy Institute, and Dr. Diana Wall, Director at the School of Global Environmental Sustainability invited faculty, staff and students involved in energy, water, air or natural gas-related research to enter a poster at the 7th annual Symposium.

Cost:  There was no cost to participate.  Those submitting posters didn’t have to be at all symposium sessions or stand by their poster all the time unless they choose to.

Date:  October 30-31, 2017

We’ve added something exciting this year students!

The CSU Energy Institute (www.energy.colostate.edu) recently launched two important initiatives aimed at further establishing CSU as a leader in translating science and creativity into global energy and societal impact. First, CSU now offers a campus-wide interdisciplinary minor in sustainable energy administered through the School of Global Environmental Sustainability. This minor is different than most at CSU because it is designed to accommodate students from any major. Second, the Institute launched an Energy Club aimed at promoting and advancing student participation in energy-related research, writing, and artistic endeavors as well as energy conservation initiatives.

To encourage and highlight student participation in the 21st Century Energy Transition Symposium, the CSU Energy Institute selected one undergraduate and one graduate student researcher, writer, and/or artist whose displayed work best exemplifies and promotes excellence in the field of sustainable energy and environmental stewardship.  Winners received $200 and a “2017 21st Century Energy Transition Symposium’s Excellence-in-Energy Award” on Oct. 30th and 31st during the two day symposium.  The winning undergraduate student poster was won by Yichen (Carrie) Zhang and the winning graduate student poster was won by Lizette Van Zyl.  See all poster submissions below.

Submission Details:

  • Colorado researchers actively engaged in any energy-related work were invited to display their poster during the entire two day “21st Century Energy Transition Symposium”.  They included water, air, land use, biofuels, renewable energy, transmission, electric grid, social and behavioral sciences and other related topics.
  • A public reception was held on October 30, 2017 at the symposium from 5:00-6:00pm MT (complimentary appetizers served, cash bar). Since October 2011 that CSU has hosted this symposium, networking opportunities like this have resulted in small to large grants for various applied research projects between faculty, industry and other organizations.
  • We invited posters conveying research that is underway, research just starting, a special class project, an outreach activity or whatever the researcher wanted to present relevant to the energy industry, natural gas industry, renewable energy, transmission, utilities and respective supply chains.
  • Those submitting research posters were not expected to be present during the two day event on October 30-31, 2017 but were most certainly invited to any or all of the symposium.  The symposium was free of charge.
  • All brought posters to Lory Student Center ballroom (third floor) on the CSU campus by 12:30pm MT on October 30.  They removed their poster after 5:00pm MT on October 31, 2017.
  • Poster display — The posters will be displayed on the back wall of the ballroom.  Students didn’t have to stand by their posters unless they wanted to.  They were able to attend some or all of the sessions as their schedule allowed.
  • Poster size — Not larger than 22″ x 28″

Research Posters Submitted

Poster #1

Submitted by:  Shane Garland, Graduate Research Assistant, Mechanical Engineering, CSU
Fellow researchers:  Derek Young, Alex Grauberger, John Simon, Dr. Todd Bandhauer – Advisor

Title of project: Experimental Validation of a Waste Heat Driven Cooling System

Project description:  Power generation systems are one of the largest consumers of water in the Unites States, using 40% of all withdrawals. Approximately 4% of this water is evaporated in the form of vapor plumes from cooling towers (roughly 4.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water per minute). The goal of the current investigation was to model, design, construct, and test a system that can provide additional cooling to power plants without reducing plant efficiency or drastically increasing cost. By providing additional cooling, evaporative cooling towers can be removed from power plants, thus reducing the large amount of water wasted by the plants.

The Turbo-Compression Cooling System (TCCS) accomplishes the goals of the project by utilizing normally wasted low-grade waste heat from the power plant stack to generate additional cooling. The system works by utilizing the exhaust heat to vaporize a fluid that passes through a turbine, thus generating power. The power is directly transferred to a compressor which then operates a refrigeration cycle and generates a cooling effect. Because the compressor is directly coupled with the turbine, no additional electrical input is required to operate the refrigeration cycle and many inherent efficiency losses can be reduced as compared with other waste heat recovery systems. Furthermore, two different fluids are used for the power cycle and the cooling cycle which allows both the turbine and compressor efficiencies to be optimized. Due to the simplicity in design, the cost of the TCCS is low compared to other waste heat recovery options, and the power plant efficiency will actually increase because the heat source is normally wasted energy.

A scale model of the TCCS has been designed, constructed, and tested at the CSU Powerhouse Energy Campus. The facility encompasses 40X25X18ft (LXWXH) and has a maximum cooling capacity of 250 kWth which is approximately 1/133th the size a power plant application. The experimental results show the system is able to meet the design targets at the required ambient conditions. Furthermore, the theoretical modelling matches well with the experimental results at a wide range of operating conditions. The modelling approach can be used to design systems for any type of waste heat recovery application. Future research will include experimental validation with different system configurations.

Poster #2

Submitted by: Hailey M. Summers, Graduate Student, CSU
Fellow researchers:   Sproul, E., Johnson, J., Jason C. Quinn

Project Title:  Sustainability Assessment of Bioproducts from Southwest Arid Crops

Project description:   The United States currently imports two arid crops, guar and guayule, to meet the demand of their products which has led to a non-sustainable bioeconomy. Current interest has focused on investigating the social, economic and environmental sustainability of utilizing arid, southwestern United States for harvesting of guar and guayule to support the bioeconomy. Recent industry growth has focused on developing facilities for small-scale guayule cultivation in the southwestern U.S. However, high-fidelity analyses of the economic and environmental impact have yet to be investigated on an industrial scale. Furthermore, the introduction of guar in the southwestern U.S. has not been approached. Thus, the sustainable feasibility of producing high-valued products will be critically evaluated through techno-economic (TEA) and life cycle assessments (LCA) which analyze the production pathway economics and emissions, respectively.

Guar (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba L.) and Guayule (Parthenium argentatum) are two drought-resistant crops that produce high-valued products, guar gum and rubber, respectively. Guar gum is a thickening and stabilizing agent used in production of paper, cosmetics, paints, detergents and foods (ketchup, jam, yogurt, dressings and milk, to name a few). In addition to these demands, within the past decade, guar has peaked an interest in the fracking of shale oil and gas and thus exponentially increased the need for local harvest. The guayule plant is known for its hypoallergenic source of latex and has recently gained interest as a replacement for rubber in tire manufacturing. Additionally, it is being investigated for a viable biofuel source as it does not compete with current crops used for food. Guar and guayule are known for their high-valued products, however, the social, economic and environmental feasibility of industrial-scale production in the U.S. is not yet understood.

Initial TEA and LCA modeling has focused on a first-order assessment, establishing the system boundary and allowing for approximate comparison to existing literature and industry standards at the process level. Preliminary work has suggested that the agricultural production portion of guar and guayule will need to have a total greenhouse gas emissions value under 2 kg-CO2 kg-dry-1. Additionally, the economic investigation highlights the need for rubber production from guayule cost less than $2.76 kg-dry-1 and the production of guar seeds to cost less than $1.00 kg-seed-1. For co-product investigation of fuels, the renewable fuel standard states an objective of 60% reduction in emissions compared to gasoline or diesel. From here, efforts will focus on increasing process level fidelity for the entire production pathway, allowing for data feedback throughout the model development. Data feedback will focus on providing steps to reduce the largest contributors to the overall process cost and emissions with the goal of providing competitively priced and sustainable crops to support the U.S. bioeconomy.

Poster #3

Submitted by:   Evan.Sproul@colostate.edu, Graduate Student, CSU
Fellow researchers:   Jack Johnson, Hannah Mendel, Jason C. Quinn

Project Title:  Developing a Pathway to Net-Zero Energy at Denver’s National Western Center

Project description:  In partnership with the National Western Center, CSU was tasked with modeling a net-zero-energy campus. Modeling parameters included the use of on and off campus energy generation, but was limited to renewable energy sources. Energy modeling was conducted in 3 stages: calculating projected energy demands for the future campus, researching energy technologies, and developing a full model to compare economic feasibility.

Modeling future energy demand required separating the model into two distinct segments. The first segment estimated the total full build-out energy demand based on the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2015). The second segment leveraged existing campus demand measurements to estimate future electricity and natural gas demand on a monthly basis.

Following development of a demand profile, seven renewable energy technologies were analyzed based on their energy outputs, overall efficiency, and economic viability. The seven technologies researched were photovoltaic cells, small and large scale wind turbines, sewage heat recovery, pelletizing of waste, solar heating, and geothermal energy in the form of a vertical bore ground source heat pump system.

In the final stage, an overall model was built that included future energy demand, energy supply from renewable technologies, and an economic assessment. This model allowed users to select technology types and sizes to match projected energy demand. Based on these inputs, the model generated the resulting yearly energy profile and a levelized cost of energy (LCOE).

Of the technologies considered, results show the three most viable are large scale off-site wind, pelletized bedding waste, and photovoltaic panels with internal rate of returns of 17%, 9%, and 7%, respectively. Maximizing use of pelletized thermal energy in combination with off-site wind proved to be the most effective combination of technologies to cover 100% of the electrical and thermal energy demand. This combination yields a levelized cost of energy as low as $0.06/kWh based a 10% internal rate of return.  When compared to the projected LCOE for grid based electricity and natural gas ($0.05/kWh), the optimized solution shows an increased cost for energy resulting from achieving net-zero-energy.

There are multiple areas for expansion upon current modeling work. One such area is improving demand resolution over campus build-out phases. Current modeling uses energy projections based on a completed full build-out of the NWC campus. Another area that would benefit from continued work is improving understanding of waste bedding. Pelletized bedding represents a viable energy source within the overall campus energy profile. However, current estimates of volume are not validated by existing data. One final area that could be refined is understanding power-purchase agreement options for electrical technologies. These agreements have high potential to impact the LCOE and IRR findings of this project.

Poster #4

Submitted by:  Michael.Somers@Colostate.edu, Graduate Student, CSU
Fellow authors:   Peter Lammers and Jason C. Quinn

Project Title: Sustainability of Microalgae Cultivation as a CO2 Mitigation Strategy

Project Description:  As the world faces climate change due to atmospheric accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from anthropogenic emissions, mitigation strategies will be necessary to decelerate and avert lasting consequences. One promising method is to use microalgae for CO2 mitigation by fixing waste carbon in biomass that can be further converted to renewable biofuel and bioproducts. The current challenge is the holistic development of technologies and systems to improve the sustainability and economic viability of recycling waste CO2 using microalgae. This study applied a systems approach through engineering process, life-cycle, and economic modeling to evaluate the sustainability of CO2 transport and delivery to large-scale algal cultivation facilities for the production of biofuel. Results indicate that economics, not energy consumption and emissions, limit the sustainability potential of microalgae as a CO2 mitigation strategy. Currently, CO2 does not represent a limiting resource, but as systems are deployed and scaled up it will quickly become important, highlighting the need for the efficient delivery and use of CO2 for the deployment of a sustainable system.

Poster #5

Submitted by: E.Taylor@colostate.edu, Undergraduate Student, CSU
Fellow researchers:   Alannah Liebert, Tim Weinmann, Jacob Kimiecik, and Dr. Jill Baron

Project Title: The Nitrogen Footprint of Colorado State University: Implementing a Nitrogen Reduction Goal into the Climate Action Plan

Project Description:  Reactive nitrogen causes a cascade of negative effects on the environment. As it cycles through different phases (on land, in the atmosphere, and in bodies of water), it causes different effects.  Nitrogen in the atmosphere contributes to local effects like air pollution in urban areas and forest die-back with acid precipitation, as well as affecting global climate change in the form of greenhouse gases. In bodies of water, nitrogen contributes to various effects that include ocean acidification and eutrophication of lakes and estuaries, which degrade aquatic ecosystems. Large, higher education institutions are a significant source of nitrogen. CSU, being a land-grant institute, contributes nitrogen to the environment from utilities, transportation, housing and dining, research animals, and research farms. In November 2014 the SoGES Student Sustainability Center began compiling data for the first calculation of Colorado State University’s nitrogen footprint. A team of undergraduates, under advisement of Dr. Jill Baron (NREL), completed the preliminary calculation in May 2015. The final revised calculation for 2014 was completed in January 2016.

Poster #6

Submitted by: Lizette van Zyl, lvanzyl@rams.colostate.edu Graduate Student, CSU
Fellow researchers:  Nicholas Good, Kelsey Bilsback, Kristen Fedak, and John Volckens (advisor). All are affiliated with Colorado State University.

Project Title:  Effects of Fuel Moisture Content on Pollutant Emissions from a Rocket-Elbow Cookstove

Project Description:  Rudimentary cookstoves are a major but poorly quantified source of air pollution. Fuel moisture content is expected to be an important determinant of cookstove emissions, however it has been investigated in few studies and for a limited number of climate- and health-relevant pollutants. We measured emissions from fuels with 5%, 15%, and 25% fuel moisture contents. The tests were conducted in a controlled laboratory environment on a rocket-elbow cookstove with chopped and milled Douglas fir wood from the same tree. Gas-phase emissions measurements included carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. Particle-phase emissions included PM2.5, elemental carbon, organic carbon, and ultrafine particles. At 5% fuel moisture content, PM2.5 emissions (grams per kilogram of fuel burned) were reduced by 63% (p<0.001) compared to 25% fuel moisture content. The PM2.5 composition changed significantly between 5% and 25% fuel moisture content, with the elemental carbon to organic carbon ratio decreasing from 1.2 at 5% to 0.1 at 25% (p><0.001). Carbon monoxide emissions (grams per kilogram of fuel burned) were reduced by 49% (p=0.001) at 5% compared to 25% fuel moisture content. Carbon dioxide emissions did not change significantly (p=0.6) between fuel with 5% and 25% fuel moisture content. The hand cut and milled fuels showed no significant differences (p>0.05) in pollutant specific emissions on a dry fuel-mass basis, suggesting no comparative benefit of either preparation method. A large decrease in modified combustion efficiency was observed as the moisture content of the wood increased. These results suggest that using fuel with 5% moisture content instead of 25% substantially reduces emissions of some health and climate-relevant pollutants. Our results indicate that drying fuel below the EPA recommended 20% moisture content could be of further benefit. Analysis of emission factors for volatile organic compounds, carbonyls, and ultrafine particles is currently underway.

Poster #7

Submitted by:  Jesse Cruce  jrcruce@colostate.edu, Graduate Research Assistant, CSU
Fellow researchers:  Braden D. Beckstrom, Michael D. Somers, Peter H. Chen, Dr. Jason C. Quinn

Project Title: Life-cycle and techno-economic harmonization of reported algal biofuel process results,

Project Description:  Research into algae-derived biofuels as a potential replacement for fossil petroleum dates back to at least the 1970s. However, the large range of reported values of life-cycle assessments (LCA) and techno-economic assessments (TEA) in the algal biofuels field is concerning; this wide range results creates difficulties when attempting to directly compare different processes and technologies across publications. This project attempts to rectify this difficulty by unifying the diverse methods of reporting results within this research sector. A harmonization of life-cycle assessments was completed for over 20 published journal articles. Harmonization included the standardization of units to MJ/kg algae, results to a growth rate of 25 g/m2/day, and a Well-to-wheels (WTW) system boundary. Implementation of these standardized assumptions and system metrics produced a significant decrease in the range of reported values for both the Net Energy Ratio (NER, the energy input required to produce 1 MJ of fuel output) and Global Warming Potential (GWP, g CO2-equivalent / MJfuel). Similarly, 22 models were developed from 9 publications and harmonized by TEA methodology and growth rates, using the standard assumptions from the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). A second TEA harmonization examining only downstream conversion technologies was performed by standardizing the cost of algal biomass. TEA results suggest that future economic modeling efforts should include a BETO assumptions baseline case for better comparisons to other published work. Additionally, a productivity of 25 g/m2/day is a suitable baseline yield for analysis, as higher productivities result in diminishing returns for TEA results, but lower productivities skew the results significantly. Finally, harmonizing algal biomass cost for input into downstream conversion technology evaluations allows for more effective cross-technology comparisons by significantly reducing the range of results. Harmonization work like this effort can help more effectively determine which production pathways and technologies have the best future potential.

Poster #8

Submitted by:  Yichen (Carrie) Zhang, carrie_5477@163.com, Undergraduate Student, CSU
Fellow researchers:  Oluwatobi Oke & Ellison Carter

Project Title: Assessing feasibility of densified biomass fuel production at-scale for rural household use in China

Project Description: 

Residential solid fuel use for cooking and space heating is common in many regions of the world, where it generates air pollution that is harmful to people’s health and the environment. Clean household energy alternatives that meet diverse heating and cooking needs are needed to replace incomplete combustion of solid fuels and reduce harmful pollutant exposures. Densified biomass fuels (e.g. pellets, briquettes formed by compression from raw biomass residues) combined with gasifier stove technologies demonstrate clean and efficient combustion in the lab and in the field, reaching top stove performance standards under conditions of actual use. In fact, these fuels have been used successfully for decades in North America and Northern Europe, where space heating demands are high.  Space heating demands are similarly high in many Chinese provinces, where traditional space heating fuels include wood, crop residues, and coal. At a national level, the Chinese government supports renewable energy policies that promote biomass utilization (e.g. densified biomass, biogas) as a strategic measure aligned with national economic development programs and goals, including rural household energy transitions. Despite numerous studies that have investigated household-level factors and their demand-side influence on cookstove adoption and long-term use, far fewer studies have synthesized information on the scalability of processed biomass fuel development for cooking and heating in rural households. To address this knowledge gap, we conducted a systematic review of existing documentation on biomass pellet production in China and collected key informant interviews with biomass densification factory managers and district- and town-level government officials in three Chinese provinces. Combining these data sources, we identify factors that presently impact scalable displacement of solid cooking and heating fuel with processed biomass pellet fuel in China.

Poster #9

Submitted by:  Ben Luck, Benjamin.Luck@colostate.edu, Graduate Student, CSU
The researchers on the team are:  Dan Zimmerle (PI), Dr. Laurie Williams, Dr. Anthony Marchese, Dr. Kristine Bennett, Dr. Timothy Vaughn, Cody Pickering, and myself, Benjamin Luck

Project Title:  Gathering and Boosting Station Emission Factors

Project Description:

Natural gas has significant potential as a “bridge fuel” on a path to a sustainable energy future. However, the climate benefits of natural gas are highly dependent upon the emission rate of raw methane from the vast natural gas infrastructure.  Methane is the primary component of natural gas and a powerful greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 84 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe.

In midstream natural gas operations, natural gas from wells is gathered into pipelines and boosted in pressure at gathering compressor stations for transport to downstream processing plants and the gas transmission system. The purpose of this study is to measure emission rates at the component level on gathering and compressor stations and to use these data to build a national model for methane emissions in this sector.  The model can then be utilized to develop activity-weighted emissions factors which will account for the mix of gathering compressor station types and use models in the national system.

To accomplish this, CSU researchers partnered with AECOM and nine midstream natural gas companies to design a nation wide, 20 week field campaign to collect emissions data from a selection of sites that are representative of the range of facilities and gas types that comprise the midstream sector in the United States.  In addition to traditional leak measurement methods, researchers at CSU developed two novel measurement methods to quantify the emission rate of un-combusted methane in compressor engine exhaust and to collect long duration emissions data from gas powered pneumatic valve controllers.  The 20 week field campaign is currently 95% complete and CSU and AECOM researchers have begun compiling data.  The next several months will be spent processing data and scaling up component level emissions measurements into a national model of emissions for gathering compressor stations.  The results of the study will inform future versions of the EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory, which now employs the CSU-derived facility-level emission rate for gathering facilities but does not yet include component level emissions rates for these facilities.