UW Energy School Annual Report Presented to Legislative Committees

October 16, 2008

The hiring of nine new distinguished faculty members and the awarding of more than $4.5 million in matching funds for clean coal research initiatives are among highlights included in an annual report by the University of Wyoming's School of Energy Resources (SER).

The report was submitted to members of three Wyoming State Legislature joint interim committees: Minerals, Business and Economic Development; Appropriations; and Education.

As outlined in UW's Academic Plan, SER's objectives are to provide nationally-competitive undergraduate and graduate instruction in energy-related disciplines, to advance Wyoming's energy-related science, technology and economics research, and to support scientific and engineering outreach through dissemination of information to Wyoming's energy industries, companies, community colleges and government agencies.

Mark Northam, SER director, says the nine faculty hires, to go with one hired last year, complete 10 of 12 faculty positions authorized by the Wyoming State Legislature.

"Most are internationally recognized as leaders in their respective fields and help to position the university as a national leader in energy research and education," he says.

Among other academic initiatives accomplished during the year was the continued support for 16 graduate assistantships across a variety of university departments.

In the area of research support, $4.5 million in matching funds supported nine projects through the Clean Coal Technologies Research Fund, created by the Wyoming State Legislature to stimulate research to enhance and improve clean coal technologies, with an emphasis on the use of Powder River Basin coal. Proposals were evaluated competitively based upon their probable benefits to the state of Wyoming.

More than $1.5 million in matching funds was awarded through the SER Matching Grant Fund (MGF) program, which provides significant additional leverage to already strong UW proposals to federal agencies such as the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, improving the chances of acquiring external funding. The MGF supported 17 proposals for research in areas such as solar energy, clean coal technologies, hydrogen production from coal, reservoir modeling for enhanced oil recovery and other projects.

"The MGF program continues to provide substantial tangible benefits to UW researchers while significantly elevating the overall campus awareness of the SER," Northam says.

Another major accomplishment cited in the report is the nine research centers either established or in development at UW, including a coal bed natural gas center, a renewable energy resources center, a clean coal technologies center and a wind energy research center.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory awarded UW a $1.55 million contract to prepare for field tests to fully characterize a potential CO2 (carbon dioxide) storage site in western Wyoming and to demonstrate the long-term storage of sequestered carbon.

The report notes numerous SER outreach accomplishments, such as sponsoring, along with the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute and the School of Environment and Natural Resources, a climate and energy summit focused on the impact of and challenges created by greenhouse gas emissions; sponsorship of the Wyoming Conservation Corps in which four teams of eight students contributed nearly 20,000 service hours on energy projects; and SER participation in numerous conferences, exhibitions and trade fairs.

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