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Ohio University's Russ College of Engineering and Technology is nestled on West Green in Athens, Ohio, the morning of Feb. 23, 2023.

Department of Energy awards OU researchers $2 million grant

Researchers from Ohio University's Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment were awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, to fund a project to mitigate carbon dioxide waste. 

The researchers at OU have worked on developing produced-water remediation technology for the past 10 years. Produced-water remediation is a process that consists of capturing CO2 from produced water, which is the wastewater produced by oil and gas production. The CO2 can then be converted into building products.  

The project will have a 24-month duration following its start sometime around June 1, said Jason Trembly, a professor of mechanical engineering and the director of the ISEE and the project's principal investigator. 

"We're developing ideally a direct air carbon capture technology that will allow us to convert CO2, whether that's in the air or in a point source, and utilize that to remediate produced water waste to generate carbonate products," Trembly said. 

The researchers have been working in collaboration with industry partners Brown and Caldwell, Tundra Companies and CONSOL Energy.

Joe Stoffa is a technology manager for the carbon conversion program at NETL, a lab under the direction of the DOE's Office of Fossil Energy, and is involved in awarding grants like the one given to OU researchers. 

Regarding the grant application process for the DOE, Stoffa said the applicants had to submit multiple documents that are extensive and require heavy research. 

The grant is about 1% of the DOE's grant budget for projects and is a typical amount given to fund a university-based project, Stoffa said. 

OU is required to provide $500,000 as the 20% cost share for the grant, making the grant a total of $2.5 million, Stoffa said. 

Another researcher on the project, Damilola Daramola, is an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and assistant director for research at the ISEE. 

Daramola said he believed his research team was fortunate to receive such a grant from the DOE.

"You put in something with the confidence that you would want to get it, knowing that you will get supported," Daramola said. "We're just … extremely fortunate that (the DOE) liked the idea that we presented."  

The grant will help fund the evaluation of the project and scale the technology to be applied in the real world, Trembly said. The evaluation process would provide an understanding as to what conditions would be the best windows for capturing and converting carbon dioxide into useful carbonate products.

Researchers are not the only members of OU working to contribute to national environment security; OU students will also have the opportunity to work in the labs, develop simulations and work with industry partners, Trembly said. 

"I'm also really excited about the opportunities it provides our students to work on cutting-edge technologies, providing them with significant educational and professional development opportunities," Trembly said.

Daramola said he is also excited about the opportunities the project could provide to OU students. He said that being involved will help students develop professional skills for the workforce.

"A real key aspect is developing the students that get to work on this and get to see a new technology," Daramola said. "Then they go into the workforce, they can figure out ways to use those skills to develop."


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