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Physical Sciences Division
Research Highlights

July 2010

PNNL, Chinese Researchers Begin Cooperative Clean Energy Work

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is part of a joint U.S.-Chinese team embarking on projects in three separate research areas to accelerate the development and deployment of coal conversion, emissions capture, and carbon storage technologies.

Laboratory directors from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., and the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, W.Va., met with researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing to kick off the new clean energy technology research effort in June.

The projects are the first activities to come out of a 2009 memorandum of understanding among the three organizations.

"Establishing a strong scientific alignment between U.S. and Chinese researchers is the key to developing and deploying solutions to our collective emissions problem," said PNNL Director Mike Kluse. "We must use our nations' complementary skills, in collaboration, to move discoveries and technologies into the marketplace."

China Map
Researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the National Energy Technology Laboratory, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have formed the Clean Energy Partnership to accelerate the development and deployment of emissions reducing technology. Shown above: a 2009 assessment by PNNL concluded China has 2,300 billion metric tons of potential underground storage for emissions like carbon dioxide.

As part of the MOU, the research team, called the Clean Energy Partnership, will perform research projects in three areas.

First, researchers will evaluate the challenges and costs of deploying emissions capture and storage technologies in China in depleted oil fields and deep geological formations.

Second, scientists and engineers will collaborate on co-gasification of coal and biomass as well as the development of new, higher temperature materials and processes to remove impurities in the emissions stream.

In the final research area, the team will improve the overall efficiency and economics of converting synthetic gas into natural gas using advance computational simulations and through developing new catalyst materials.

PNNL's collaborations with China date back to the early 1990s when it helped found the Beijing Energy Efficiency Center.  However, collaborations have become more common in recent years.

In 2006, PNNL joined with the Chinese Academy of Science's Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics and its Institute of Coal Chemistry to form the International Consortium for Clean Energy, or ICCE. Supported by an investment from PNNL and with encouragement from CAS President Lu Yongxiang, this mechanism has brought more than 25 senior U.S. and Chinese scientists together to conduct research.

In the course of forming the ICCE, Yongxiang challenged CAS, PNNL and NETL to develop a more extensive effort to address fossil energy conversion and emissions capture and sequestration. As a result, PNNL and NETL directors signed an MOU with the CAS Research Center for Energy and Power in May 2009, with the aim of significantly reducing environmental emissions and improving efficiency of fossil fuel conversion.

"The United States and China are the world's two largest economies and face similar challenges with growing energy consumption and its impacts," said Kluse. "We owe it to ourselves and the world to develop and then deploy technology that will significantly reduce industrial emissions."

PNNL scientists are solving complex challenges in energy, including researching the next generation of biofuels, designing smart grid technologies, and helping set building efficiency standards. PNNL also is known for its role in providing data used to establish energy policy, and in integrated climate assessment and climate change research.


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