An estimated 30 percent of US carbon emissions come from power plants and other large “point sources,” like industrial furnaces and refineries. Given the fact that fossil fuels are likely to remain the mainstay for energy production well into this century, most scientists believe that the exploration of “carbon sequestration,” or terrestrial storage of carbon, merits attention.
This is what the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology reported in a study of 21st-century challenges facing the nation. “A much larger science-based CO2 sequestration program should be developed,” the committee reported. “This is very high-risk, long-term R&D that will not be undertaken by industry alone without strong incentives or regulation, although industry experience and capabilities will be very useful.”
Another approach to the problem is to reduce the carbon emissions from those working power plants through more efficient combustion processes. Sandia, through its Combustion Research Facility at Livermore, Calif., has a role in this approach as well. Sandia researcher Chris Shaddix (8367) and his colleagues are at work on concepts to allow coal-fired plants to burn cleaner, reducing CO2 at the point of emissions instead of storing it. (See stories on clean-burning coal in the next issue of the Lab News.)