Building Pathways to Net Zero: Global R&D Leadership by UIUC
Abstract: Net zero has been a key goal that many companies, regions, and countries aspire to achieve. It is critical to achieve net zero to reduce the threat of climate change. Yet the challenge is that a portfolio of technologies will be required: nuclear; carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS); Direct Air Capture (DCA); renewables; energy storage; hydrogen; and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECSS) to name just a few.
Fortunately, UIUC is well positioned to address this net zero challenge. The University has established itself as a leader in the research and development (R&D) of technologies listed above. It has also shown the ability to function as a “living lab” where technologies can transition from laboratory-scale testing to pilot testing in the field. The leadership of UIUC as a living lab for carbon management is recognized both domestically and internationally.
A major R&D opportunity will be to explore hybrid approaches to carbon management that combine technologies to achieve net zero or even net negative carbon emissions. The microreactor which NPRE is spearheading offers a unique opportunity to explore a variety of hybrid approaches to achieve net zero. Combining this R&D tool with other technologies, such as CCUS and DAC, will enable cost effective approaches that truly reduce the global threat of climate change.
Bio: Kevin OBrien, Ph.D., is the Director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and Director of the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS). These organizations are dedicated to the use of energy and water resources in a sustainable fashion to drive economic development. One of the major focuses of ISTC has been on capturing and utilizing carbon emissions from power plants and industrial sources. Dr. OBrien is the Principal Investigator (PI) for the largest capture FEED study in the world and the largest capture pilot in the world (now at a build/operate phase). He also leads the 21st Century Power Plant project – a project that combines capture, utilization, and energy storage. Dr. OBrien is also the PI for scaling-up Direct Air Capture (DAC) technologies and for the formation of three DAC Hubs within the U.S.
Dr. OBrien has over three decades of experience ranging from early-stage venture organizations to Fortune 500 corporations. The breadth of his experience enables him to infuse an entrepreneurial spirit within organizations. He is an inventor and author for a variety of patents and journal articles related to the commercialization of carbon capture and water treatment technologies. He has also addressed the formation of carbon-based ecosystems to drive regional economic growth and create jobs. Dr. OBrien has managed multimillion-dollar programs related to carbon capture, renewables, water treatment and sustainable practices in the U.S. and abroad. His international project experience includes Europe, Middle East, and Asia.