Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, WVU Consortium Receives Funding For Fossil Energy Research

Issue Date: 
March 24, 2008

A consortium of three universities—Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and West Virginia University (WVU)—will receive up to $26 million in funding over the next two years to develop clean and efficient technologies for the use of fossil fuels. The results of the consortium’s work could reduce regional as well as national dependence on foreign oil.

The partnership, called CWP Inc., will receive the funding through a subcontract with RDS Inc., an onsite contractor at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). NETL is the national laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy with facilities in five states, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia. More than 75 scientists—with student researchers—at the three universities will work with more than 150 NETL scientists and researchers to address key areas of fossil fuel research.

Speaking on behalf of CWP Inc., Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, who also chairs the group’s board, said, “The three university members of this consortium have distinguished records of research, as well as a proud tradition of effective partnering. We are excited by the opportunities presented by the work to be done through this consortium. Our researchers are positioned to have a significant and positive impact on the economy, the environment, and national security, while further establishing our home region as a leader in energy research. We also are proud to have formalized this new relationship with NETL, which is a national resource and which has been an important research partner for all three of our universities for many years.”

Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon and WVU President Mike Garrison also are members of the board.

Carnegie Mellon Chemical Engineering Professor Andrew Gellman has been appointed research director for the consortium. Under his direction, the university team will engage in a portfolio of research programs aimed at developing new technologies for fossil fuel utilization, reducing the environmental impact of fossil energy use, and optimizing the efficiency of energy production from fossil fuel sources. The combined capabilities and resources of the three universities and NETL create an energy research enterprise with unique capabilities and breadth of scope, Gellman said.

Pennsylvania and West Virginia hold millions of tons of coal, a fuel that can meet the country’s energy needs far into the future. Policymakers are calling on the region and the nation to use more of its plentiful coal reserves to increase the nation’s energy security. Scientists can advance research into better ways to use coal and convert it into cleaner-burning fuels, Gellman said.

“We need to develop improved turbine generators and new fuel cell technologies that use coal-derived synthetic fuels, along with new ways to capture and store greenhouse gases instead of releasing them into the atmosphere,” Gellman said.

“The National Energy Technology Laboratory is encouraged and proud to work with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and West Virginia University,” said NETL Director Carl Bauer. “By advancing science and technology in the region and the nation, this collaboration will provide clean, affordable energy for many generations of Americans and help secure national energy security.”

The consortium will address these needs by focusing its research within eight program areas:

  • Materials for energy technologies;
  • Process and dynamic systems modeling;
  • Catalyst and reactor development;
  • Carbon management;
  • Sensor systems and diagnostics;
  • Energy conversion devices;
  • Gas hydrates; and
  • Ultradeep and unconventional oil and gas production technology.