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UW Selected as Part of $20 Million Energy Coalition

May 27, 2016
man standing in room with 3-d images of geological areas around him
Nick Jones of the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute studies oil and gas development and subsurface geology in the Shell 3-D Visualization Center in the UW School of Energy Resources. (UW Photo)

The University of Wyoming has been selected by the National Energy Technology Laboratory -- part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory system -- to be part of a prestigious nationwide energy coalition to investigate the future of fossil energy.

The award, titled the University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research (UCFER), was established by the DOE through an open competitive process to advance basic and applied research that supports continued use of fossil energy. UCFER is a collaboration of nine universities, many of which have Tier-1 status in energy and engineering research.

The award to UCFER includes $20 million in initial funding, spanning the next six years.

Pennsylvania State University is the lead institution and will spearhead and coordinate expertise, facilities and resources from the founding coalition members. In addition to UW and Penn State, the group includes Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Texas A&M University, University of Kentucky, University of Southern California, University of Tulsa and Virginia Polytechnic and State University.

UW College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) Dean Michael Pishko believes the announcement is welcome news for Wyoming’s oil, gas and coal industries, which stand to benefit from the results of the research.

“This award demonstrates UW’s continued leadership in research of clean and efficient use of fossil fuels,” Pishko says. “Leveraging investments made by the state in energy research has allowed the CEAS to build strength in critical research and technology areas required by the coal, oil and gas industries.

“We are grateful for this support from the Legislature and the confidence placed in our researchers working on clean-energy solutions, as these investments are now paying dividends by placing us in a strong position to gain external grant awards demonstrated by UCFER. We look forward to working with our colleagues in this consortium to help develop new and high-impact technologies to serve our nation’s economy,” he adds.

Coalition members will research areas that directly support the Office of Fossil Energy’s coal, oil and gas strategic priorities, which embrace five core competency areas: geological and environmental systems; materials engineering and manufacturing; energy conversion engineering and development of transformational technologies; systems engineering and analysis for advanced energy systems; and computational science and engineering integration of experimental data and engineering analyses.

UW School of Energy Resources Deputy Director of Emerging Projects and Technology Richard Horner says UW faculty members are well positioned, thanks to the pioneering work of the CEAS on coal conversion and better understanding of oil and gas behavior in reservoirs.

“Building fossil energy-based, world-class research programs that focus upon sustaining a prosperous future for Wyoming oil, gas and coal cannot be achieved alone,” Horner says. “UCFER is a fantastic opportunity for the brightest faculty and researchers of the CEAS to work alongside recognized scientists and researchers at NETL and other leading universities. That will not only help them realize their talent, but also elevate their research work onto the world stage.”

During the project selection and implementation stage, each university member will propose research projects through a competitive evaluation process, with UW well placed to capture some of the early release of money. UW’s gain in research funding out of the immediately available $20 million pool remains to be seen.

An important feature of UCFER is to seek out industry participation in research projects and promote technology transfer to the private sector, and for the purposes of economic development. It is expected that the UCFER coalition membership will expand over time and become an important centerpiece for DOE-funded fossil-energy research.

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