Day: May 14, 2021

University researchers working to turn toxic sewage sludge into renewable energy

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

A team of researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) received a nearly $2 million grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to create renewable fuel from sewage sludge, a byproduct of wastewater treatment that creates greenhouse gases and water pollution when dumped into landfills.

New DOE-funded projects set to design energy storage systems for power plants

by Lisa Sheppard, Prairie Research Institute

It is challenging to integrate renewable resources into the distribution grid of fossil-fueled power plants when energy is most needed. The results are often intermittent and unpredictable, which makes it difficult to match energy demand with supply.

In three new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded projects, scientists in the Prairie Research Institute will design systems and explore the feasibility of combining the use of renewable and fossil energy sources to ensure both short and long-term reliability in electric power delivery.

A natural gas energy storage system

In a three-year project, scientists at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) will design a 10 MWh compressed natural gas energy storage (CNGES) system at the University of Illinois’ Abbott Power Plant, which uses oil and coal to power campus.

Electrically powered compressors are used in CNGES to raise the pressure of natural gas during off-peak hours. Natural gas is then stored in cylinders or in an underground pipeline.

During peak-demand hours, the stored gas is discharged through an expander-generator to partially recover the electricity used in the compression step. The chemical energy stored in the natural gas is integrated with fossil fuels to provide peak power using existing compressors and pipelines.

“The project, which will demonstrate the benefits to the power plant, energy grid, and the environment, will advance the CNGES technology towards commercial use. Some of the benefits include reduced fuel costs, carbon emissions, and maintenance. It also increases plant efficiency.

Kevin OBrien, Director, Illinois sustainable Technology Center and Project Principal Investigator

The CNGES technology has not yet been tested with fossil fuels. Once the project is complete, findings will aid in understanding the advantages and challenges of integrating energy storage with coal and natural gas fired power plants.

DOE awarded $200,000 for the $250,000 project. The co-principal investigator is Mohamed Attalla, executive director of the U of I Facilities and Services.

Compressed air storage

A team of geologists at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), along with engineers and power plant specialists, are designing a compressed air energy storage system that will increase the reliability of renewable energy from solar and wind farms and integrate the system with the Abbott fossil fuel power plant. DOE awarded $200,000 for the project, with a total budget of more than $250,000.

Compressed air energy storage (CAES) is a technology used to store compressed air in the subsurface sedimentary strata so that when the high-pressure air is returned to the surface it powers turbines to produce additional electricity as needed during power interruptions from severe weather or fossil fuel disruptions. The team plans to design an integrated system to store compressed air and thermal heat generated by compression underground.

Part of the project will involve evaluating the capability of sandstone aquifers to quickly release air to run turbine generators and determining the equipment needed to remove residual saline water to avoid corrosion in the system. The team will also quantify the storage capacity and evaluate this method for storing air and heat in the subsurface.

Heat dissipation during air compression has been considered an important factor in CAES energy capture efficiency, so researchers will evaluate the captured heat that is stored in the porous reservoirs with the compressed air, while determining other factors such as air speeds and the volume of formation water. The project team will also determine how much of the injected air remains in the formation during the recovery period.

“CAES has been geographically limited to areas with caverns created from subsurface salt deposits. However, the Illinois CAES project will evaluate using subsurface porous reservoirs without the need for caverns by injecting compressed air into subsurface porous strata. This is the first ever subsurface porous reservoir CAES system that is being attempted.”

Hannes Leetaru, Geologist, Illinois State Geological Survey and principal investigator of the project

Underground and above-ground hydrogen storage

Scientists at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) will team with several companies on a $200,000 DOE-funded project to study the feasibility of storing hydrogen underground in sedimentary rock, by determining baseline subsurface requirements and conditions for hydrogen storage. An above-ground compressed hydrogen storage system will also be used for a combined storage of more than 250 megawatt hours.

The hydrogen will be produced from natural gas by the Gas Technology Institute’s novel compact hydrogen generator. This process also produces carbon dioxide that will be captured and sequestered geologically.

Some of the hydrogen will be stored on the surface for immediate demand use and some will be stored underground separately from the carbon dioxide for longer duration energy storage. The combination of generating hydrogen for energy coupled with storage of carbon dioxide is considered “blue hydrogen” and results in a very low carbon emission energy source.

“The integrated energy system will also provide the means to further test and perfect the technological components to store energy underground and reduce carbon emissions. Successful integration of this approach will significantly increase opportunities for hydrogen storage across the U.S. as well as transform energy sustainability options by the tandem sequestration of CO2.”

Steve Whittaker, Geologist, Illinois State Geological Survey

Partners on the project include the Gas Technology Institute, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Hexagon Purus, and Ameren. DOE provided $200,000 in funding for the $316,000 project.


Media contacts: Kevin OBrien,; Hannes Leetaru,; Steve Whittaker,

This post originally appeared at Prairie Research Institute News. Read the original post.

Mattel PlayBack to give old toys new life

Read the full story at Sustainable Business.

With new takeback program, families can now send old toys back to Mattel, which will recover and reuse materials for use in future Mattel products.

NASA reboots its role in fighting climate change

Read the full story in Nature.

Space agency aims to breathe new life into its Earth-science programme as US President Joe Biden pushes an ambitious climate agenda.

Amazon raises $1 billion sustainable bond for climate, social causes

Read the full story from Reuters. Inc issued its first sustainability bond on Monday, raising $1 billion to invest in renewable energy, clean transport, greener buildings and affordable housing.

GE Foundation commits up to $100 Million to increase diversity of young people in engineering

Read the news release.

The GE Foundation is committing up to $100 million to create the Next Engineers program – a global college-readiness initiative to increase the diversity of young people in engineering. The program will focus on underrepresented students in grades eight to 12 (ages 13 to 18), provide hands-on exposure to engineering concepts and careers, and ultimately award scholarships to pursue engineering degrees. Over the next decade, the goal is to reach more than 85,000 students in approximately 25 cities globally, inspiring the next generation of engineers to build a world that works.  

Pittsburgh pursues sustainable deconstruction policy to salvage building materials

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

The City of Pittsburgh is pursuing a building deconstruction policy meant to spur the potential recovery, recycling and reuse of materials from certain city-owned condemned structures. Leaders say potential benefits of such a policy include removing blight from neighborhoods while decreasing waste sent to landfills, advancing climate action goals, and opening opportunities for job training.

Mayor Bill Peduto signed an executive order last week tasking the city with creating a process for identifying and assessing structures potentially eligible for sustainable deconstruction, with particular focus on historically Black business districts and low-income communities.

There are currently more than 1,700 condemned structures in Pittsburgh, said Sarah Kinter, the city’s director of the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections. Pittsburgh will move forward with a pilot this year on deconstruction of city-owned properties, but also plans to create material recovery standards for city-funded demolitions. The city hopes to begin deconstruction projects this fall, Kinter said.

New initiative to create global online database with animal production data from all over the world

Read the full story from Wageningen University and Research.

For the development of sustainable farming systems, people from all over the world need data. However, specific details on animal production in certain parts of the world are either lacking, inaccessible or outdated. The Circular Food Systems (CiFoS) project at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has decided to take the lead in making this data available for everyone by collecting it through an easily accessible online survey. The goal is to develop a global database that becomes an open resource for researchers, policymakers, farmers, businesses and anyone who is interested in the future of animal production. The project is realized in close collaboration with researchers from World Bank, CSIRO (Australia) and other international partners.

Cover crops for the birds

Read the full story at Agrinews.

Providing a bird habitat has been added to the list of benefits that cover crops offer to the farmland.

Michael Ward, University of Illinois associate professor of natural resources and environmental sciences and Illinois Natural History Survey avian ecologist; Rich Kirchenfaut, Gibson City area farmer; and Brodie Dunn, U of I graduate student, spoke of their work and the impact of cover crops, wildlife and integrated pest management in a recent Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction podcast.

‘Increasing visibility is a must’: New digital archive shows Dallas’ history of environmental racism

Read the full story at KERA.

Story by story, Dallas residents can now scroll through the county’s long list of environmental injustice fights that dateback to the 1920s.

The new digital tool, ‘Dallas Environmental Injustice Archive’ was developed by Paul Quinn College and the advocacy group Downwinders At Risk. It’s the first part of a year-long partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative University, a program designed to develop leaders around the word. The groups will record and share oral histories from Dallas residents who have been impacted by environmental injustices.

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