University of Illinois to receive Energy Frontier Research Center awards

June 24, 2014

U of I to Receive Energy Frontier Research Center Awards One newly funded center, four sub-awards highlight range of campus expertise in energy generation, carbon storage, and transport

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced 32 new and continuing multiyear, multimillion-dollar Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs)--and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is involved in five of them.

The "Center for Geologic Storage of CO2," which will be led by Robert J. Finley at the U of I's Prairie Research Institute, will work to reduce uncertainties surrounding carbon dioxide storage by objectively analyzing early results from current field demonstrations. Ultimately, the project seeks to illuminate potential "showstoppers" for real-world, commercial-scale CO2 storage projects.

The Center will receive funding for four years and involves a number of academic and not-for-profit research partners, including the University of Texas at Austin, Brigham Young University, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Indiana University, the University of Southern California, Wright State University, NORSAR, and SINTEF. Each are vital to the success of the project, which will uniquely link staff with expertise in basic science with staff who have experience applying current industry technology at the management, engineer, and scientist level.

"The Center for Geologic Storage of CO2 will build on our applied CO2 injection projects by focusing on new models of reservoir-seal geologic storage systems to help reduce uncertainty in our knowledge in such systems," Finley said. "Our objective is to advance understanding of the basic science that will improve the safety and effectiveness of subsurface carbon storage."

According to the DOE, EFRC awards are geared to accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build the 21st-century energy economy. This is the second round of funding for EFRCs, and research supported by this initiative will enable fundamental advances in energy production, storage, and environmental mitigation.

"Managing our nation's energy needs is one of the most pressing societal issues that we face," said Peter Schiffer, the Vice Chancellor for Research at Illinois. "I'm proud that the U of I is playing such a large role in the important work that will enable new scientific discovery and critical new advances in energy research."

In addition to the CO2 storage project, U of I researchers are also involved in the following EFRC projects:

Center for Emergent Superconductivity, led by Brookhaven National Laboratory Center for Electrical Energy Storage, led by Argonne National Laboratory Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Light-Material Interactions in Energy Conversion, led by Caltech

The U of I is a national leader in energy research, a vital area as the world's population grows and economies become more industrialized, said Evan DeLucia, Director of the University's new Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE).

"Managing human-caused climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, and weaning society from its dependence on fossil fuel for energy is critical step in meeting this challenge," DeLucia said. "Taking active measures to prevent carbon dioxide from accumulating in the atmosphere by storing it below ground will buy us time as we ramp up the use of renewable energy.

"Finley's team is the preeminent group globally exploring the potential for sequestering carbon dioxide deep below the earth's surface. With new support from the Department of Energy, this group will provide us with much-needed answers to the question of how to slow the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."

The funded projects were selected from more than 200 proposals. Ten are new, while the rest received renewed funding based both on their achievements to date and the quality of their proposals for future research. Awards range from $2 million to $4 million per year per center for up to four fiscal years, subject to a progress review in Year 2.
For more information about the EFRCs, see the DOE website at

Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois

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