With carbon capture as the linchpin of the energy transition, the race is on to find the right path toward a sustainable future for industry, consumers and the global marketplace. To that end, a few energy Coogs have accepted the challenge of solving tomorrow’s issues today. If the initial results are any indication, we’re in good hands.
As part of the UH Multidisciplinary Entrepreneurship Competition on Carbon Utilization on May 17 – sponsored by Chevron Innovation & Technology Ventures – four different student interdisciplinary teams led by a faculty mentor took on the task of repurposing greenhouse gas emissions into unique sources of renewable energy. Then, each group presented their findings to a judging panel consisting of UH faculty and Chevron executives.
Each quartet impressed with their approach and research toward carbon capture. In the end, the team of Lucy Umanzor, Kainat Chaudhary, Michelle Alexa Newnom and Carson Havard took home the top prize for their presentation on methane & emissions. The winning squad was advised by Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Praveen Bollini and won $5000.
“Considering that we’re doing the project for an integrated energy company – meaning that they have assets within upstream, downstream and midstream – and considering that flaring happens at all three stages of that, especially upstream, we felt that focusing on flaring as our source of methane was the right option,” Havard said. “It can be applied to any process of their business.”
For the students, the competition drove home the need for the current generation to take the matter of sustainability into their own hands in hopes of a cleaner energy future. To that end, no stone can be left unturned when it comes to carbon capture, utilization and storage.
“We need to focus on every aspect of carbon emissions,” Chaudhray said. “Even the topics that the other groups covered are especially important. These are huge topics, and together they all make a big impact in the reduction of emissions.”
“If anybody at UH has an opportunity to do one of these case competitions, I’d definitely say do it.” Newnom added. “I learned a lot from this experience, as I’m sure everybody else has. The application of CO2 and sustainability is really prevalent in today’s world, and getting a better understandings of these topics was very gratifying.”
Finishing runner-up was the team of Ebelyn Harriman, Elijah Walker, Victoria Garcia and Alvin Wang – advised by Assistant Professor of Biotechnology Venkatesh Balan – for their research in capturing carbon from algae and repurposing it into fish feed, a novel idea in aquaculture. The group of Kopikah Tharmakulasingham, Khalad Elsayeed, Armando Rodriguez and Alejandro Flores took third place with their presentation on minimizing emissions during cement production.
The third-place winners were advised by civil engineering professor Cumaraswamy Vipulanandan. Chevron Vice President of Global Exploration Liz Schwarze was on hand as one of the judges and was blown away by the students’ collective efforts, citing that their subject acumen and problem-solving approach are the sort of skills the world will need on the road to sustainability.
“We need to decarbonize traditional energy. We need to stand up new energy sources as the population is growing, and economies are growing,” she said. “We need help, and we need these students to do exactly what they did [in this contest], which is work together on a specific problem and figure out how to best use the resources we have to support our world.”