Missouri S&T's Role in the National Energy Policy Effort: Providing Innovative Technological Solutions to Energy Issues

Missouri S&T's Energy-Related Technological Capability

The Missouri University of Science and Technology offers unique broad-based capability to assist the national effort to refine and implement a balanced National Energy Policy in all of its complicated ramifications. A strong, multi-disciplinary, technology-development engineering and science team exists at Missouri S&T, with expertise in coal, nuclear energy, and petroleum and natural gas; non-traditional energy resources; energy transportation, transmission, and distribution; electric power generation and delivery efficiency; alternative and renewable energy sources; energy conservation and efficiency; and the environmental aspects of generation, transport, and consumption of energy resources. Indeed, the members of the energy team at Missouri S&T are recognized experts in most aspects of energy resources, extraction, processing, and power generation from various fuels as well as in the energy transmission and distribution infrastructure.

This concentration of expertise provides a critical mass of research capability that is being directed at developing innovative, comprehensive, and sophisticated technological solutions for addressing the spectrum of energy issues, including resources and efficiency of their use, processing facilities, generation facilities, and the entire energy infrastructure needed as well as ensuring the sustainability of our environment. It is in the integration of innovative approaches to the solution of the problems in these fields that Missouri S&T shines and has proven to be of great benefit to the U.S. science and engineering community.

The General Problem: Meeting Growing Demand

The U.S. consumes the world's largest amount of energy, including on a per-capita basis, to drive the world's largest and most robust economy and continuously improve an unparalleled standard of living for its citizens. The population's superior health status and personal wealth are directly correlated with energy consumption. However, recent high prices for energy sources and disruption of energy flow to consumers indicate serious imbalances in the energy demand-supply-delivery equation, which, if not addressed, could hamper economic growth significantly and deteriorate our standard of living.

Energy experts predict that the U.S. will need to increase its electricity generation capacity by about 40% over the next 10 years to meet the growing demands of a strong economy. The Department of Energy (DOE) estimated that the U.S. would need an additional 300 gigawatts of generating capacity by 2020, which will require doubling of our current capacity. In fact, over the past two years, the demand for energy has grown at 2.1% per year, which is nearly double the rate DOE had projected. Demand rose 3.1% in 2000 alone, growing by 3% in the residential sector and 5% in the commercial sector.

The world's consumption of oil continues to grow. World oil demand is expected to increase from 75.4 million barrels per day in 1999 to 117.4 million barrels per day in 2020. In the US, petroleum demand is projected to grow from 19.5 million barrels per day in 1999 to 25.8 million in 2020-an average rate of 1.3 percent per year-led by growth in the transportation sector, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption. Domestic oil production is projected to decline through 2010, reflecting declines in domestic recoverable reserves. As a result, imports and, similarly, oil prices are expected to increase. Such price increases dramatically affect the quality of life, especially of fixed-income households.

Energy experts agree that the current energy crunch has less to do with a shortage of energy resources and more to do with the insufficiency of infrastructure to convey fuel and electricity to the consumption centers. There is enough oil, gas, and coal in the ground to last us for many centuries. However, there is lack of capacity, on a domestic and global basis, to bring resources to the consumers. This lack of capacity is manifested in refinery capacity, transportation and transmission systems, and power generation facilities.

The increasing awareness of the environmental impacts from the various phases of fuel extraction, storage, distribution, and use also suggests that better approaches are required in each phase. However, the need is more compelling than just one of aesthetics or localized damage. For example, historic methods of extraction have not used the technological sophistication which modern engineering can bring to the energy industry. The impact of innovative technology can resolve many issues in each phase, and do it such that the environment is preserved.

Energy Resource Needs

As Vice President Cheney has recently noted, conservation alone cannot resolve the burgeoning demand that America and the world have developed for additional energy supplies. Thus the need to locate, identify, extract and more effectively use our energy resources must be met if the economies of the world are to be sustained. In this regard, as reflected in the recently published National Energy Policy, the current status of energy production cannot be accepted as adequate, whether for electric power generation, transportation uses, or other industrial or public consumption purposes.

Fossil fuels will need to provide a large part of the base electric power demand, but a rational National Energy Policy will need to address the trade-offs among coal (currently generating 52% of our electricity), nuclear (20%), natural gas (16%), hydroelectric dams (7%), oil (3%), and other energy sources (2%) as well as their impacts on society. There are age, capacity, delivery, and environmental issues associated with each source, which need to be addressed in a holistic way. Some need to address the global warming issue better, while others need to develop more favorable public support concerning waste generation and disposal issues.

In light of the growing demand, it is important that new and alternative energy sources be developed in a reasonable timeframe to ensure that we ultimately do not run short in supplying the growing energy demand in decades to come. Along these lines, developing greater and more broadly tapped capability in solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources is important. Increased use of biomass and developing greater use of bio-diesel and bio-gasoline fuels are also needed.

A major research and development effort will be needed to bring most of the non-traditional resources to feasibility for meeting some portion of the energy demand. For example, oil (tar) sands and oil shale will offer very unique challenges, including identification of reserves, improvement of the processes of bitumen extraction (through retorting and solvent extraction), and how to mine and process the reserves inexpensively and with minimal environmental impact. As another example, methane hydrate is omnipresent in the high-pressure and low-temperature environment of the deep seas and under permafrost in Canada and Siberia. Worldwide reserves of this energy source will potentially double the entire fossil fuel reserves on earth, and Japan, Germany, Canada and the U.S. will jointly mine methane hydrate for the first time beginning in 2002. There are many challenges, however, to cost-effective utilization of this reserve.

The time is now right for final development and demonstration of technologies for coal gasification and liquefaction. In some cases implementation of larger commercial-scale facilities to demonstrate the economic competitiveness of the technology is needed. In other cases, initial commercial-scale or even pilot-scale facilities need to be constructed. Finally, better combustion and pollution control technologies are needed in order to expand the necessary use of coal, our cheapest and most plentiful source of energy.

Energy Infrastructure Needs

The deficiencies in oil refinery capacity and energy transportation infrastructure exist at different stages. Because of these deficiencies, there is not enough oil/gas well production capacity, even in the OPEC countries, to quickly bring resources in sub-surface to the consumption centers. Within the U.S., there are numerous energy rich states with sufficient oil, gas, gasoline and electricity to meet the demands of energy deficient states, in theory. However, in the short-term, the refineries (minimum 20 years old), pipelines and transmission grids have been pushed to their limits. Addressing short-term and long-term energy sufficiency will require a critical analysis of energy resources and their extraction efficiencies, as well as the capacity and efficiency of the processing and transportation/transmission infrastructure. There exists, ultimately, a tradeoff between cost, flexibility, reliability, efficiency, and environmental impact, not only regarding the mix of energy resources, but also concerning energy infrastructure.

Bulk power systems form one of the largest complex inter-connected networks ever built and their sheer size makes control and operation of the grid an extremely difficult task. With heavier power transfers, aged (30 to 40 years old) power transmission systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading failure. Many parts of the U.S., especially central and northern California as well as the Northeast and Midwest, are transmission limited instead of generation limited. Transmission capacity development has not kept pace with electric power demand, 0.8% growth versus 2.1% growth. Electric utility restructuring ("deregulation") has enabled open access to the transmission system to both suppliers of power and consumers. The impact on the network is that certain transmission corridors are becoming overloaded during peak electrical demands, leading to voltage control difficulties, extreme wear and tear on system components such as transformers, and increased probability of system-wide cascading failure.

New electricity generation capacity will be needed to match the projected growth in consumption. Even now there are regional imbalances in power generation and consumption, with California being the most visible example of imbalance. Other imbalances have been manifested in the past in New England and in the southeastern U.S. A long-term effort must pursue construction of approximately1300 to 1900 new power plants over the next 20 years or so in order to keep pace with demand. Major changes in planned construction, long overdue, are just now occurring (e.g., California, Missouri, and Wisconsin).

Important Role for Conservation and Efficiency

Energy conservation and efficiency of energy use are both important factors for future energy sufficiency. In some regions of the U.S., the primary choice for attaining an energy balance has been conservation and efficiency. The "power" of energy conservation has been demonstrated by New England. Although on the brink of suffering blackouts in the past, New England adopted an aggressive energy conservation program, allowing utilities to profit as conservation efforts succeeded. In the end, energy was conserved through adoption of efficient lighting and appliances, turning down thermostats, installation of more insulation, maintaining furnaces and air conditioners well, etc. Reflecting on that success, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimated that we could eliminate 40% of the growth in peak electrical demand over the next decade by following the successful New England approach to conservation.

Factored into the mix of conservation and energy efficiency measures are better internal combustion engines, implementation of new or emerging prime-mover sources, the use of new light weight materials, minimization of waste during production, and development of new technologies to supplant or better-control energy-intensive equipment and plants. All of these approaches will also lead to increased productivity and improved cost of operation for the businesses that adopt them.

Worldwide Perspective: Sustaining Development and Quality of Life

As the world's population inexorably increases exponentially beyond the current six billion people, the demand for energy will increase accordingly. Each nation in the world community must plan how it will pursue meeting its energy demands and to what extent its strategy will impact its people, land, air, and water. Each nation's decision will impact other nations. As highlighted by the Rio Treaty on global warming, there is an uneasy but inevitable march toward global environmental sustainability. Important global debates will continue against the backdrop of the growing demand for affordable energy with minimal public-environmental impact.

The U.S. under the Bush Administration is dedicated to establishing a rational, balanced National Energy Policy. There will be many challenges in tackling the very complicated issues surrounding the identification, development, production, processing, transportation, transmission, and use of traditional and non-traditional energy resources and in pursuing development of technologies to allow the "right" balance to be achieved with minimal adverse impact on society, domestically and abroad.

Missouri S&T's Energy Research and Development Center

Broad-based integration of multiple engineering and science disciplines to address technological challenges has long been one of the strengths of the Missouri S&T campus, which is highly respected nationally among industry and its university peers. Capitalizing on these strengths and its track record in delivering innovative and useful technology, Missouri S&T's center is focused on a full spectrum of energy-related issues and technologies. The center is timely, and it provides an avenue through which Missouri S&T researchers can collaborate in a lead role with other researchers in Missouri and across the Nation to address the key energy issues with a concerted and comprehensive research and development effort. This impetus allows Missouri S&T to bring its tradition of developing innovative technology to bear upon important energy issues and allows Missouri, in concert with other key states, to play a lead role in energy-related technology development.

New technologies are needed to ensure adequate, environmentally acceptable energy supplies at a reasonable cost. The challenges surrounding the U.S. energy future must be met with sound science and engineering in an accelerated timeframe. While it is beyond the scope of this introduction to enumerate all the forthcoming technical issues regarding energy supply, distribution and use, as well as its environmental impact, there are some principal themes within energy sectors that Missouri S&T researchers are particularly poised to address. In addition to the important research topics already mentioned, others that can be addressed holistically include the following:

  • Considerable research effort is required to develop new technologies and operating strategies to predict and prevent catastrophic power transmission outages. Not only is research required to improve the reliability of the bulk power system, but also to provide pure ac current and voltage, without spikes, sags, or other glitches that may adversely affect the operation of computer-controlled systems. Missouri S&T has experts in power generation and transmission on-board.
  • The oil industry is challenged to find an economically competitive means of recovering the 36 billion bbls (two-thirds of proven reserves) of oil locked in mature fields and heavy oil accumulations. New technologies are needed to produce remaining U.S. oil in the Lower 48 states. Missouri S&T is well positioned to research improved recovery of remaining oil reserves that are not recoverable by conventional methods.
  • New technologies are needed to develop the vast deepwater oil and gas reserves in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Sub-sea processing, riser-less drilling and other new technologies are required to tap these domestic reserves. Reliability studies and issues related to system control will be an important part of future deepwater developments.
  • The natural gas industry is challenged to store and transport adequate gas supplies during peak demands, in some locations. Methane hydrates and purpose-built storage caverns are technologies being investigated as novel gas storage methods. Well completion methodologies are also needed to tap gas reserves in deep, high-temperature, and low-permeability reservoirs.
  • A better understanding of procedures used to extract gas from unconventional sources (e.g., example hydraulic fracturing) is needed to ensure protection to drinking water and also to contamination of shallow soils. Within 30 years, access to fresh drinking water is expected to become a significant issue, almost to the level of today's energy crisis. It is important to understand how fossil fuel extraction affects aquifers and USDWs.
  • While the United States continues to build more oil and gas pipelines, the existing lines are aging to the point of concern. Increased demand for natural gas is already stressing the capacity of existing infrastructure. Many of the pipeline problems that have contributed to the recent energy crisis may have been detected and repaired with an embedded monitoring and control system. Missouri S&T is well positioned to conduct research on infrastructure reliability and development of new technology for assessing pipeline integrity as well as smart coating technology.
  • The coal industry is focusing on technologies aimed at providing electric power supply, while meeting the EPA standards adopted within the Clean Air Act. 'Clean coal' refers to methods of generating fewer nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide emissions. Example technologies include coal-gasification and converting coal gas to methanol as a source of fuel. Other new technologies include new scrubber technology, using electro-chemical processes for burning coal, and intelligent controls to fine-tune combustion processes.
  • Missouri S&T offers the synergy of Mining, Petroleum and Chemical engineering to research into technologies such as coal gasification and liquefaction or coal slurry mining from deep coal mines. Opportunities also exist in coal bed methane, which addresses resource as well as mine safety issues.
  • Carbon sequestration refers to methods of capturing and removing carbon from the by-products of combustion processes. Carbon sequestration is a relatively new concept, but it is integral to the future zero-emission philosophy in energy supply. Technologies for gathering carbon gases and storing carbon are needed to reduce the greenhouse effect of power plant emissions. The synergy of Mining, Petroleum, and Chemical engineering joint research offers distinct opportunities for sequestration in abandoned coal mines or petroleum reservoirs.
  • The energy plant of the future will also provide the flexibility to handle multiple feedstocks and processing technologies. Fuel cell technology, and other new technologies are needed to develop the modular concepts in plant design.
  • Missouri S&T is well positioned to address various nuclear industry issues, including next-generation reactor development research, materials research for conventional plant life extension, nuclear waste management, both short-term and long-term, and lastly international collaboration. New, innovative, acceptable advanced reactor concepts and end uses of low-, medium-, and high-level wastes are needed, as well as a strategy and policy to regain public acceptance.
  • Many of the waste products associated with energy production can be treated using chemical metallurgy processes, for example, the encapsulation of toxic products from oil refining in metallurgical furnaces producing slags. Isolating such products from the environment is a key goal.
  • Many of our modern processes are limited by the unavailability of materials capable of providing desired properties. In terms of energy, good examples are materials needed for operation in irradiated environments; for nuclear waste containment; for high temperature furnaces for coal, oil, and gas combustion; for high temperature fuel-efficient engines; and for automotive applications for fuel efficiency.
  • New materials are needed for energy and energy-efficiency development. Composite technology will provide lighter components for development of offshore oil and gas fields. Smart materials, such as those already being deployed by Missouri S&T in bridge design, will become an integral part of energy-related structures. Smart coating may provide the ability for monitored buried pipes and subsea pipelines to detect (and deter) third party infringements.
  • Improved mineral processing and chemical metallurgy processes are still needed to "clean" fossil fuel energy sources to enable low emission combustion.
  • Biological processes may play an increasingly more significant role in improving power plant efficiencies and mitigation of environmental threats by waste material.

The comprehensive Missouri S&T energy center will also provide a vehicle for assisting and educating the general public with respect to energy supply, distribution, conservation, efficiency, and use. An example of potential impact can be gleaned from Missouri S&T's effort through the Industrial Assessment Center, which leads the "Saving Energy in Missouri" outreach program. This program helps create and sustain healthy environments, enhance economic viability and build strong communities by focusing on energy efficiency and management for Missouri community buildings, hospitals, manufacturers and schools. The program is a 4-Step program that [1] conducts on-site assessments, [2] presents energy education via seminars on energy efficiency and management, [3] conducts hands-on training via workshops, and [4] participates in building check-up fairs.

Missouri is a partner in the Industries of the Future program, funded by the Department of Energy's Office of Industrial Technologies, with the primary target being achievement of energy efficiency in the participating industries. Missouri's Department of Natural Resources has partnered with Missouri S&T's Industrial Assessment Center to lead this initiative in Missouri, focusing on the agriculture, aluminum, and chemicals industries. There are a number of research projects at Missouri S&T funded by the Industries of the Future programs, including the Mining Industry of the Future. Missouri S&T is well poised to leverage its involvement in these programs toward making the proposed comprehensive energy center quickly successful.

Missouri S&T has always played another important role historically, i.e., providing top-notch industry leaders. Importantly, we have educated energy leaders for industry, government and academia. This role will expand as the key energy issues are tackled through the center's work.