University of Houston Students Shine in DOE’s American-Made Carbon Management Competition

GreenHouston Team Harnesses Diversity to Win Third Place

Person with computer in front of a fleet of cars for carbon management
GreenHouston's optimized carbon dioxide transportation strategy for the Houston area received the U.S. Department of Energy nod.
Houston area map showing transportation proposal
The greater Houston area was an obvious choice for the team because it is a global hub of the hydrocarbon energy industry.
GreenHouston team members with their carbon dioxide transportation poster
GreenHouston team members from L to R: University of Houston students Steven Chen, Fatemeh Kalantari (team leader), Massiagbe Diabate, Bethel Mbakaogu, and Simon Peter Nsah Abongmbo.

GreenHouston, a team of University of Houston students mentored by Assistant Professor Jian Shi from the UH Cullen College of Engineering, created a winning proposal for an optimized carbon dioxide transportation pipeline specifically tailored for the Houston area. The team’s strategy, which factored in cost analysis, revenue potential, safety considerations, weather hazards and social impact on neighboring communities, addressed complex challenges surrounding carbon management and won third place in the first American-Made Carbon Management Collegiate Competition.

The competition, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), challenged students to develop the future carbon management by proposing regional carbon networks capable of transporting significant amounts of carbon dioxide.

Focusing on Houston was an obvious choice for the students. “We chose the greater Houston metropolitan area as our target transition area because it is a global hub of the hydrocarbon energy industry,” said Fatemeh Kalantari, team leader.

“Our team was committed to delivering an optimized and cost-effective carbon dioxide transfer plan in the Houston area, with a focus on safety, environmental justice, and social engagement,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure the health and safety of the diverse population residing in Houston by mitigating the harmful effects of carbon dioxide emissions from refineries and industries in the area, thus avoiding environmental toxicity.”

A panel of expert judges from academic, federal government and utility backgrounds reviewed the final submissions and chose the winning teams.

GreenHouston won a cash prize of $5,000 and the opportunity to present their winning proposal at DOE’s annual Carbon Management Research Project Review Meeting, scheduled to take place in August.

“With this competition, DOE hopes to inspire the next generation of carbon management professionals to develop carbon dioxide transport infrastructure that will help drive technological innovation and emissions reductions, new regional economic development, and high-wage employment for communities across the United States,” said Brad Crabtree, assistant secretary of fossil energy and carbon management in the DOE press release.

Meet the Team

The GreenHouston team is made up of four Cullen College of Engineering doctoral students from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) – Kalantari, Massiagbe Diabate, Steven Chen, and Simon Peter Nsah Abongmbo – and one student, Bethel O. Mbakaogu, pursuing his master’s degree in supply chain and logistics technology.

The team found out about the competition about one and a half months after it launched but made up for its late start by working smart and making use of all available resources. The students reached out to the experts at UH Energy and the UH Energy Transition Institute for guidance and to better understand carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), related transportation issues and what the U.S. needs to achieve 2035 climate goals. A group of pipeline engineers from Fluor Corporation also provided valuable guidance, along with several Cullen College faculty.

All five team members belong to a UH student organization called "Fostering and Aspiring Minority Leader in Energy Evolution” or FAMILEE. Its core mission is to promote and empower diverse groups of students who have been historically under-represented in the energy industry.

GreenHouston made use of the diverse experience, skills and ideas each group member brought to the table to create their proposal and divvied up the work:

  • Kalantari was responsible for overall economics and business model, plus project management.
  • Massiagbe Diabate was responsible for life cycle analysis.
  • Steven Chen was responsible for operational safety considerations.
  • Simon Peter Nsah Abongmbo was responsible for projected climate change impacts.
  • Bethel O. Mbakaogu was responsible for identifying potential environmental justice issues, social impacts, and engagement needs.

Shi, assistant professor of engineering technology and faculty advisor of the team, is justifiably proud of how the team worked and learned together, and how much it accomplished.

“The team is greatly motivated by the urgency of climate change and the necessity of a rapid and low-carbon-oriented energy transition,” Shi said. “When we started, the team members had little knowledge of carbon transportation, but through four months of dedication and preparation, the team was able to build their knowledge and expertise enough to secure third place in this prestigious national competition.”

The Next Step

The team plans to use the cash award to grow their project through additional research, refining existing technologies, addressing remaining challenges and raising awareness of CCUS and its project.

Team members, Kalantari explained, feel a responsibility to continue to grow themselves and the GreenHouston project.

“The energy landscape by 2050 will be characterized by reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner air quality, and a more sustainable environment,” Kalantari said. “The transition to green energy will not only mitigate the harmful effects of carbon dioxide on climate change but also create new jobs, promote economic growth, and enhance energy security. This is important, and we want to be part of it.”

She and the others are looking forward to their next DOE presentation.

"We are thrilled to see the exceptional work and dedication displayed by the GreenHouston team in this competition," said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at UH. "The team’s innovative proposal exemplifies UH’s commitment to addressing the pressing global issue of carbon management and advancing sustainable practices. We wish the students continued success."