Pitt Hosts World Summit of Fossil Fuel Researchers, Environmental Policy Experts

Issue Date: 
September 14, 2009

The week that world financial leaders converge on Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit, the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering will host the foremost experts on fossil fuel research and environmental policy from 26 countries at the 26th annual International Pittsburgh Coal Conference (PCC), the premier conference devoted to the more efficient and environmentally responsible use of coal and coal byproducts.

The 2009 conference, titled “Coal—Energy, Environment, and Sustainable Development,” focuses on the environmental, technology, and policy issues related to the continued use of coal. The conference will be held Sept. 20-23 at the Westin Convention Center, Downtown. During the three-day conference, more than 400 researchers and coal experts from around the world—including from 17 of the G-20 countries—will explore such topics as climate change; carbon and mercury sequestration; sustainability and environmental policy; the development of near-zero emissions coal-based power plants; and byproduct management, including deriving additional energy sources such as hydrogen from coal. A full conference schedule is available on the PCC Web site at www.engr.pitt.edu/pcc.

“The PCC is the world’s most prominent forum for addressing the environmental and policy issues surrounding coal with practical research,” said PCC Executive Director Badie Morsi, director of the Petroleum Engineering Program in the Swanson School and a professor of chemical and petroleum engineering. “The 2009 conference will allow representatives of developed and emerging economies to exchange the latest ideas and technology that will help society use the world’s coal resources in a manner that better serves societal and environmental needs.”

Each day of the conference begins at 8:20 a.m. with an address by a leading thinker or practitioner of better coal use. The Sept. 21 panel on energy production and policy includes a discussion of how to make clean coal a reality. It will be led by Carnegie Mellon University professor M. Granger Morgan, who specializes in climate change, carbon sequestration, and advanced energy policy. The panel will also include a presentation by Al Whitehouse, director of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s international program, about international cooperation on combating climate change. The Sept. 22 panel features leaders of international companies describing the move toward more efficient coal use in other countries. The panel includes Zhongxue Gan, vice president of ENN Group, the Chinese clean energy company that in 2007 unveiled the first pilot process for converting coal to a gas fuel through a zero-emissions process. The Sept. 23 panel covers environmental issues and such methods of preservation as carbon sequestration. Frank Princiotta, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Pollution Prevention and Control Division, will talk about climate change and air pollution.

The research objectives of the PCC mirror the larger energy initiatives under way at Pitt and in the Swanson School. The University-level Center for Energy hosts more than 40 faculty members pursuing advanced energy sources, from harnessing solar energy to developing synthetic and biomass-derived fuels. In the Swanson School, efforts include: Pitt’s nuclear engineering program; the Swanson Institute for Technical Excellence, which draws on faculty from all engineering fields to design cleaner, more efficient processes for oil, coal, and electric companies; and the Power and Energy Initiative, which works with industry partners to identify and address key areas of concern such as energy efficiency, power system operation and management, energy technology development, and the increased demand for electricity.

“For more than a quarter century, the PCC has attracted researchers from around the world to discuss advancements in making coal—the source of most of the world’s electricity—a cleaner energy source, and that focus exemplifies the values of the Swanson School,” said Gerald D. Holder, Pitt’s U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “Our researchers who organize and participate in the PCC are exposed to the latest research and technologies, enabling them to help reduce emissions and work toward more efficient electricity production. We are a school committed to accountability and responsibility in our research and have invested heavily in attracting and retaining faculty researchers to further this mission. We have particularly increased support of research in carbon sequestration, capture, and storage, among other research aimed at developing increased efficiency related to natural energy resources.”

The PCC was established in 1973 following the Arab Oil Embargo. Originally named COGLAC (Coal Gasification, Liquefaction, and Conversion to Electricity), the name was changed to the Annual Pittsburgh Coal Conference in 1984, with its current name adopted in 1988 to reflect the expanded scope and participating nations. Although usually hosted in Pittsburgh, the conference has also been held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2007; Osaka, Japan, in 2004; Newcastle, Australia, in 2001; and Taiyuan, China, in 1997.