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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2013-12-06 11:35:00
  • Article ID: 611296

At Agu: Shale Sequestration, Water for Energy & Soil Microbes

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory shares research at world's largest geophysical science meeting

  • Credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

    PNNL research is digging into using empty space in underground shale formations to permanently store carbon emissions from power plants. This map shows where shale gas formations (purple dots) are near carbon-emitting power plants (orange dots).

SAN FRANCISCO – Scientists from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will present a variety of their research at the 2013 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, which runs Monday, Dec. 9 through Friday, Dec. 13 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Among the noteworthy PNNL research scheduled to be discussed are carbon sequestration in empty shale reservoirs, water needs for future energy production and how soil microbes adjust to climate change. More information is below.

Chemistry informs economics of carbon sequestration at shale gas sites

Shale formations – underground mixes of mud, minerals and gas that have sparked a natural gas drilling boom in the United States – could also help power plants meet proposed EPA emission regulations by permanently storing carbon dioxide. But while many pollution-emitting power plants are located near shale formations, little is known about the complex chemistry of shales reacting with pumped-in carbon emissions. The issue is complicated by the variety of different clay minerals that make up shales. PNNL scientists are getting to the bottom of these details by conducting laboratory experiments and computer modeling research to determine how carbon dioxide, methane and common power plant byproducts such as sulfur dioxide react with the four clays common in shales. Early results show the clay mineral montmorillonite expands to hold more carbon emissions under certain conditions. Tests also show the clay kaolinite has a sweet spot to absorb emissions with an ideal combination of pressure and carbon dioxide concentrations. PNNL geologist Todd Schaef will present these and other results, including a preliminary cost-benefit analysis of carbon sequestration at the United States’ shale gas reservoirs.

MR21B-5: “CO2 Utilization and Storage in Shale Gas Reservoirs,” 9-9:15 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 10, 301 (Moscone South).

Water consumption to increase with future U.S. energy needs

Future power plants can use more water-efficient cooling technologies to withdraw less water from rivers and ponds, but PNNL research shows there is a tradeoff. Water-efficient cooling technologies typically reuse water instead of using it just once, but they also warm the reused water and cause evaporation that removes water from the local ecosystem. PNNL used a computer model to estimate future energy generation and associated water use for each of the 50 states. The detailed analysis found while the nation’s energy sector could withdraw less water with advanced cooling technologies, the amount of water consumed through evaporation would increase. The study also identified several other trends, such as energy-related water withdrawals decreasing in the Eastern U.S. while they increase in the West. PNNL environmental scientist Lu Liu will present a poster on this research.

H11J-1274: “An integrated assessment of energy-water nexus at the state level in the United States: Projections and analyses under different scenarios through 2095,” 8 a.m. – 12:20 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 10, Hall A-C (Moscone South).

Climate change alters bacteria behavior

Climate change doesn’t affect just polar bears and ice caps; it also impacts the tiny microbes that help plants soak up nutrients in the soil. New research shows transplanted soil bacteria adjust their enzyme production to better survive in a new climate. The findings are a result of a unique study where soil samples were transplanted between two elevations about 1700 feet apart on an isolated mountain in rural Washington state. The scientists gave the transplanted soil about 17 years to settle into its new surroundings and then compared its bacteria with bacteria in unmoved soil samples. The researchers found bacteria made more of some enzymes in the higher-up soil, where it’s wetter and cooler and there’s more vegetation. The enzymes found in greater abundance break down cellulose – the tough, pithy material that gives plants structure – and chitin – another tough material that strengthens fungal cell walls. The researchers hypothesize the higher-elevation bacteria produce more of those enzymes because the richer soils there are home to more plants and fungi for the bacteria to digest. Better understanding how climate impacts microbes can also help us better understand climate change, as many of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change occur as a result of interactions with microbes. PNNL microbiologist Vanessa Bailey will present a poster on this research.

B51D-0311: “Bacterial Community Structure after a 17-year Reciprocal Soil Transplant Simulating Climate Change with Elevation,” 8 a.m. - Noon, Friday, Dec. 13, Hall A-C (Moscone South).

# # #

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of about $950 million. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy. For more information, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Media contact: Franny White, PNNL News & Media Relations, 509-375-6904, franny.white@pnnl.gov

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Kentucky Researchers First to Produce High Grade Rare Earths From Coal

University of Kentucky researchers have produced nearly pure rare earth concentrates from Kentucky coal using an environmentally-conscious and cost-effective process, a groundbreaking accomplishment in the energy industry.

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How Fungal Enzymes Break Down Plant Cell Walls

Lignocellulose-degrading enzyme complexes could improve biofuel production.


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Jefferson Lab Scientist Selected to Receive Francis Slack Award

Dr. Hari Areti, has been selected to receive the Francis G. Slack Award, established by the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society, to honor excellence in service to Physics in the Southeastern U.S.

ORNL Wins Nine R&D 100 Awards

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have received nine R&D 100 Awards in recognition of their significant advancements in science and technology.

Argonne Scientists Capture Several R&D 100 Awards

Innovative technologies developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory recently earned several R&D 100 Awards.

Eight Los Alamos innovations win R&D 100 Awards

Eight Los Alamos National Laboratory technologies won R&D 100 Awards last week at R&D Magazine's annual ceremony in Orlando, Florida.

Physicist David Gates Named Editor-in-Chief of Plasma, a New Online Journal

Article announces David Gates' appointment as editor-in-chief of Plasma magazine

Argonne to Install Comanche System to Explore ARM Technology for High-Performance Computing

Argonne National Laboratory is collaborating with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to provide system software expertise and a development ecosystem for a future high-performance computing (HPC) system based on 64-bit ARM processors.

CANDLE Shines in 2017 HPCwire Readers' and Editors' Choice Awards

Argonne National Laboratory has been recognized in the annual <em>HPCwire</em> Readers' and Editors' Choice Awards, presented at the 2017 International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis (SC17), in Denver, Colorado.

SLAC's Helen Quinn Honored with 2018 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics

Helen Quinn, a professor emerita at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, will receive the 2018 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics - one of eight prestigious Franklin Institute Awards that will be handed out in Philadelphia next April.

PPPL Honors Grierson and Greenough for Distinguished Research and Engineering Achievements

Article describes PPPL's presentation of 2017 Kaul Prize and Distinguished Engineering Fellow awards.

INCITE Grants of 5.95 Billion Hours Awarded to 55 Computational Research Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science announced 55 projects with high potential for accelerating discovery through its Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program. The projects will share 5.95 billion core-hours on three of America's most powerful supercomputers dedicated to capability-limited open science and support a broad range of large-scale research campaigns from infectious disease treatment to next-generation materials development.


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The Challenge of Estimating Alaska's Soil Carbon Stocks

A geospatial analysis determined the optimal distribution of sites needed to reliably estimate Alaska's vast soil carbon.

Unplugging the Cellulose Biofuel Bottleneck

Molecular-level understanding of cellulose structure reveals why it resists degradation and could lead to cost-effective biofuels.

How Fungal Enzymes Break Down Plant Cell Walls

Lignocellulose-degrading enzyme complexes could improve biofuel production.

Stretching to Perfection of 2-D Semiconductors

Scientists use heat and mismatched surfaces to stretch films that can potentially improve the efficient operation of devices.

Simple is Beautiful in Quantum Computing

Defect spins in diamond were controlled with a simpler, geometric method, leading to faster computing.

The Effect of Hurricanes on Puerto Rico's Dry Forests

More frequent storms turn forests from carbon source to sink.

A Chemical Thermometer for Tropical Forests

Monoterpene measures how certain forests respond to heat stress.

Where a Leaf Lands and Lies Influences Carbon Levels in Soil for Years to Come

Whether carbon comes from leaves or needles affects how fast it decomposes, but where it ends up determines how long it's available.

Twisting Molecule Wrings More Power from Solar Cells

Readily rotating molecules let electrons last, resulting in higher solar cell efficiency.

Rules Are Only Suggestions in Heavy Elements

The arrangement of electrons in an exotic human-made element shows that certain properties of heavy elements cannot be predicted using lighter ones.


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