U-M team wins first place in DOE carbon competition
A team of University of Michigan graduates, including Greg Allinson (MS/MBA ’23) of the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), won first place in a Department of Energy (DOE) carbon competition.
Allinson and his Ross School of Business teammates Stephen Brown (MBA ’23), Tess Antrim-Cashin (MBA ’23) and Caroline Chisolm (MBA ’23) will share a $12,000 cash prize for their winning submission, which provided a hyperlocal blueprint for safe CO2 sequestration and integrative city planning in Houston, Texas, with a replicable pipeline system designed for major metropolitan areas.
The team, which called themselves the Sequestration Squad, participated in the American-Made Carbon Management Collegiate Competition sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. The competition ran from January to May 2023.
It challenged students to help shape the future of carbon management by proposing regional carbon networks capable of transporting at least one million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year from industrial sources such as power plants or ethanol production facilities to locations that either use the CO2 to manufacture products or for permanent storage.
“As we graduate and enter the workforce, winning the first annual Carbon Management Collegiate Competition provided strong confirmation that our time at the University of Michigan prepared us to tackle the complex challenges of today’s ever-changing world,” Allinson said. “My advice for any student considering entering a similar competition is to make use of the University’s vast resources.”
After considering various geographies and industries from which to capture CO2, Allinson’s team settled on point-source capture of CO2 from the chemicals industry in Houston.
Factors such as relatively low capture cost, proximity to large CO2 sources and sinks, and environmental justice considerations influenced their decision, Allinson noted. The transportation network included 30 miles of pipelines from two large industrial sites to a nearby saline aquifer where the CO2 would be stored at a rate of 4.8 million metric tons per year.
To optimize across the five parameters, the team researched and considered a wide range of topics, including tax incentives for carbon capture, utilization, and storage; federal pipeline safety regulations; recent safety incidents; route planning to minimize community impact; CO2 intensity of the local electrical grid; local environmental justice communities; lifecycle impacts; and climate change implications for the project.
“As part of our work, we determined that for a 50-year project life over 95% of project CO2-equivalent emissions would be due to operations of pumps and compressors—as opposed to materials, construction or end-of-life emissions—via an analysis of lifecycle emissions for our transportation network*,” Allinson said. “This is due to the relatively short distance that our pipeline system covers. Importantly, this finding means that most of the emissions from the transportation of CO2 could in theory be eliminated through the use of renewable energy to power the equipment.”
The team consulted with U-M faculty and staff including SEAS Assistant Professor Michael Craig and Industrial Ecology Graduate Student Instructor Anna Norman.
Allinson and his teammates plan to use the prize money to prepare themselves for the next phase of their careers, whether that be setting up a home office or relocating to a new city.
*CO2 was required to be pressurized to a supercritical state at 2,200 psi in their analyses.