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Carbon Cycles

Lead by George Guthrie, Program Manager

The carbon thrust ties directly with one of the Lab-wide energy security foci. This focus at the Lab-level encompasses the carbon fuel cycle (i.e., the anthropogenic carbon cycle). Within the EES division, carbon additionally encompasses the natural cycles involving the terrestrial–atmospheric–ocean interactions, which, at the Lab level, are within three thrusts (carbon, water, and climate). The division leads the carbon thrust for the Lab’s Energy and Environment Council, and the division owns the program management activities for the carbon sequestration work. Hence, this thrust is well integrated with Lab goals.

During the past year, this thrust (at both the division and Lab levels) has focused on geologic storage, in response to both the growing (inter)national interest and the funding opportunities emerging from DOE. These funding opportunities have centered largely around the regional partnership program, in which Los Alamos has been very active. The Lab has also worked with DOE-Fossil Energy Program to identify opportunities within the Permian basin to exploit the U.S. experience in CO2 injection (as part of enhanced oil recovery) as well as to evaluate the long-term efficacy of engineered CO2 storage. This latter aspect is critical to any decision to pursue engineered storage and it is one that would complement technical investigations that are being pursued in the regional partnership program.  Various funding mechanisms are being explored.

In addition to leading the program development efforts on geologic storage, EES is involved in many ongoing technical efforts that fall broadly into three categories: separations, CO2 storage, and innovative carbon management concepts. A recently begun LDRD-DR (an institutional program development initiative) is helping to position LANL technically as a lead organization in understanding the long-term fate of CO2 in the subsurface; this institutional investment is particularly timely, because a key area of focus for the thrust in the near term is science-based prediction for engineered geologic storage of CO2. Another LDRD-DR is developing a base in clathrate science and engineering, which is a new area of focus under the carbon cycles thrust.  With respect to fuel utilization, the patent for LANL’s zero emission carbon utilization was issued; the Lab has begun to identify other technical partners for moving this technology forward.

In short, the overall intent of the carbon thrust is to capitalize on LANL's breadth, depth, niche, and vision and its balance of short and long-term carbon management approaches to generate a strong, large, and vibrant program.  Along these lines, additional questions/opportunities may arise in other storage options (e.g., terrestrial, CO2 mineralization, and ocean).  Hence, the Lab maintains a vibrant research program in these other storage areas (in particular, in terrestrial sequestration) in the hope of being positioned to provide broad-based technical leadership.  Over the next year, the Lab’s terrestrial roadmap will be re-evaluated to identify strategies for growth of that effort.


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