Archive for the 'Energy' Category

Economics professor’s book derides “false promise” of green energy

Prof. Roger Meiners, chair of Economics, is co-author of a recently released b0ok, The False Promise of Green Energy.

press release, April 8

Congratulations to recipients of ACES sustainability awards

The University Sustainability Committee is pleased to announce the winners of this years sustainability awards in the ACES competition:

  • ACES Undergraduate Sustainability Award: Ruben Tovar, “Chemosensory Prey Preference in Neotropical Gastropod-eating Snakes”
  • ACES Graduate Sustainability Award: Mohamm Moghadam, “Infrared Imaging Detection of Oil Slick Heat Signature Patterns”

Douglas Klahr, ACES Sustainability Judging Coordinator and a member of the USC’s Curriculum, Research, and Community Engagement Working Group, commented:

Both of these awards were given for excellent poster presentations that featured not only top-notch graphics, but also text that was accessible to a well-educated general audience while still including disciplinary-specific language when it was absolutely essential to successfully convey the research. Ruben Tovar’s poster explicitly brought in biodiversity as an underlying component of the research, leading one judge to write: ‘Very articulate presentation, clear data. Fits quite well into sustainability.’ Mohamm Moghadam’s poster not only was closely tied to the issue of oil spills but also extremely timely, considering the BP fiasco of last year. One judge wrote: ‘Nice presentation, good preliminary data. Very relevant for sustainability.’ In addition to top-quality posters, both students also were dynamic and engaging presenters, which is part of the judging process, since poster entrants have to be available for 1.5 hours to explain their posters to judge who inquires.

Congratulations, gentlemen.

“The Big Push: 2010-2013,” Oct. 21

Jim Schermbeck

Downwinders at Risk

October 21, 7-8 p.m.

College Hall 101

Schermbeck explains how a “perfect storm” of industrial air pollution from the Gulf Coast to East Texas to Midlothian and now the Barnett Shale keeps DFW in violation of the Clean Air Act — and argues that to finally bring safe and legal air to DFW we have to put modern controls on these upwind sources.

Free

Map

Contact: Jeff Howard, School of Urban & Public Affairs

Downwinders at Risk web page

Shorthorn article, Oct. 21

Sustainability Committee meeting, Aug. 10

A car-sharing program, a new website, and guest speakers will highlight the University Sustainability Committee meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10, in the Carlisle Suite at the E.H. Hereford University Center. Faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend.

Information on the car-sharing program can be found at tryparkingit.com, a website managed by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Mindy Mize, program manager for NCTCOG, will speak on the car-sharing program and Air North Texas.

Other guest speakers include Donald Gatzke, dean of the School of Architecture; Laura Fiffick, environmental manager for Gresham, Smith and Partners; and Pamela Sexton from the Department of Public Works and Transportation for the City of Arlington.

Refreshments will be served.

350.org workday

A couple of history grad students who were  inspired by Bill McKibben’s book and campus visit this past spring are going to do something — they haven’t figured out what — for the 350.org Work Day on October 10, 2010. They would like to coordinate with other like-minded students. If anyone else is thinking of doing a 350.org project, please contact Dr. Christopher Morris and he will forward your message.

Fundamentals of Sustainable Energy, April 7

April 7 from 7-8:00 a.m.
To Register: www.arlingtontech.org
Presenter: Fuqiang Liu, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, UT Arlington

Finding an economical and environmentally-friendly source of energy isn’t easy. However, thanks to technological advances, several approaches are becoming more feasible – thermal, tidal, solar, biomass, wind and electrochemical. Is there a “one size fits all” solution and will existing sources – nuclear, coal, natural gas – remain in use?

In this presentation, Dr. Fuqiang Liu of the Materials Science and Engineering Department will provide an overview of several sustainable energy sources and examine the positive and negative aspects of each. He will also examine methods for storing excess energy for later use.

Fuqiang Liu received his Ph.D. in 2006 from Pennsylvania State University, and then became a senior research scientist at the United Technologies Research Center in East Hartford, CT., where he studied a variety of fuel cell technologies. Dr. Liu has more than 10 years of experience in fuel cells and energy-related developments. He is currently conducting fundamental studies and material developments for electrochemical generation and storage.

Green computing research initiative

I am posting the following announcement on behalf of Prof. Ishfaq Ahmad in the Computer Science Engineering Department.

Jeff

Large-scale computer systems and data centers consume substantial amounts of electric energy. Their  power and cooling costs are becoming comparable to the cost of their acquisitions. Energy is one of the most valuable and scarce resources available to humanity, a substantial portion of which is now being consumed to power up computers and their accessories. Massive energy consumption is an escalating threat to the environment. The explosive growth in computing is leading to rapidly increasing consumption of precious natural resources such as oil and coal, strengthening the looming danger of an energy shortage. Recent studies have reported that computers consume close to 4% of the total energy produced and this fraction is growing. One can systematically shut down or slow down such systems to save energy, but this can reduce their quality of service and performance.

In the Computer Science and Engineering Department, our group is engaged in research to design intelligent software that will allow computers to become self optimizing by determining their own speed and energy requirements. Incorporating these efficient software techniques in the operating system will allow a computer to determine an optimum balance between energy saving and good performance. The quality of service can be different for different applications. Sometimes the computing tasks may be more urgent and time critical (e.g., health and security applications).  Sometimes there are computing jobs that are not so urgent. Similarly, there can be energy shortages or budgetary constraints. We are developing techniques that will enable large-scale computers and data centers to handle such scenarios by finding the required tradeoffs between performance and energy requirements under a given situation. Such software solutions can assist IT organizations to better support their users while reducing energy costs. Hence, our work has tremendous potential for an economic, environmental, and societal impact.

Large-scale computers and data centers are complex systems and consist of several design layers. At the lowest level are the building blocks, such as processors, while a network of computers with disks and other peripheral devices form a high level layer. Efficient control mechanisms are required at all of these levels. We have several projects funded by the National Science Foundation and Semiconductor Research Corporation. One project addresses the problem at the system level while another project is focused at the processor level. We are seeking new research funding that will enable us to develop smart software that will use a holistic approach to enhance energy saving without performance degradation at all levels of a complex computer system.

We also are initiating new  courses on related topics and are developing relevant tutorials for conferences and industrial workshops, which will help to create awareness and educate a large audience on a critically important research topic. Green computing is a new research direction in computer science and engineering, creating a fresh area of knowledge. To support such research activities, UT Arlington is a co-sponsor of the First International Green Computing Conference (http://www.green-conf.org/) to be held in Chicago this August. The conference addresses key issues and topics related to energy efficiency in computing and promoting environmentally friendly computer technologies and systems. The conference aims to provide a forum to a wide audience for discussing, sharing and investigating the state-of-the-art for all aspects of green computing, which include energy-efficient use of computers, design of algorithms and systems for environmentally friendly computer technologies, and a wide range of related topics. The conference will publish papers pertaining to hardware and software systems, algorithms, and applications as well as power, energy and temperature related research areas of current importance to researchers, engineers and practitioners. The conference will hold forums and workshops on hot topics related to how the carbon footprint of computing can be reduced and how computers can contribute to the environment and overall well being of the planet.

Update on carbon footprint reduction

Yesterday I updated the PSC Steering Committee on the carbon footprint reduction initiative. The committee requested that Sustainability Director Meghna Tare prepare a proposal on how to formally get footprint reduction planning underway.

Presentation

Infrared video of emissions from University’s gas well site

The Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP), sponsored by the environmental advocacy organization Earthworks, recently obtained a series of videos produced by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) showing infrared images of natural gas facilities emitting plumes of volatile gases not visible to the naked eye. Texas OGAP, a collaboration between OGAP and Texas activists, has now posted these videos on YouTube. One of the videos depicts emissions from the UT Arlington gas well site.

Last week TCEQ verified the authenticity of the YouTube video and provided me with three additional infrared videos of the University well site (see list of links below). One is a slightly revised version of the August  footage; it includes a visible-light photo of the installation and correctly identifies the operator of the equipment venting gases as DFW Midstream (the version on YouTube incorrectly indicates the operator is Carrizo Oil and Gas).

The other two were shot by agency personnel in October. One shows emissions from the same vent stack depicted in the August footage, which TCEQ staff member Ken Rozacky told me is part of a natural gas compressor. The second shows emissions from  a vent stack on equipment identified as a dehydrator.

OGAP obtained the original set of TCEQ infrared videos through a formal Public Information Request (aka open records request). The existence of TCEQ’s Barnett Shale videos was first widely publicized August 1 when local activists released a compilation of images entitled ”Un-clean, Un-natural, Un-healthy.” The video compilation juxtaposes conventional video images with infrared images in which volatile emissions are visible:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiU4ehXV-LI

The composition of the vented gases is not identified in the videos of the UT Arlington site. The OGAP compilation video showing emissions at facilities across the region identifies the gases only as “hydrocarbon vapors” but also includes a long list of compounds that such emissions “could contain.”

Many of these are among substances whose presence downwind of the UT Arlington well site are periodically monitored by TCEQ. Analysis of an air sample that TCEQ personnel collected at the site in August 2008 confirmed the presence of numerous compounds, all apparently at concentrations below — and usually far below — the so-called Effects Screening Level, the level at which short-term effects would be expected to occur or at which odor would be deemed officially objectionable. The 2008 analysis does not identify the specific sources of these compounds, and it isn’t clear what impact the compressor and dehydrator vent stacks have on air quality in the vicinity of the facility.

Vice President for Communications Jerry Lewis asked me to convey two points about the legal status of emissions from the University site:

  • “NO UNPERMITTED EMISSIONS would show up in a video of these operations in August 2009 or at any point before or after that, including today. The … operation on campus is, and always has been, in full compliance with all local, state, and federal regulations related to air quality.”
  • “Neither [the operators] nor UT Arlington have been accused of ANY VIOLATIONS of air quality laws. Frequent and stringent air quality testing in the area — often in excess of what is customary for regulators — has been conducted to satisfy occasional complaints from a small handful of neighbors, yet there have been no violations found.”

Lewis also stated:

“… DFW Midstream’s facility includes a specific piece of equipment called a BTEX Eliminator, which is specifically designed to capture and destroy benzene and other similar material.”

A report on the gas industry’s impact on North Central Texas air quality was released in January by Southern Methodist University environmental engineer Al Armendariz, who served as a consultant on the OGAP video compilation project and has recently been appointed as administrator of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6. Armendariz made a presentation at UT Arlington in November 2008.

Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP)

Texas OGAP campaign

OGAP public information request, Oct. 20

Complete set of TCEQ videos  obtained by OGAP

DFW Midstream

Additional TCEQ videos:

Infrared video of compressor vent stack, August 25

Infrared video of compressor vent stack, October 10

Infrared video of dehydrator vent stack, October 10

Armendariz report, January 2009

Special Events Center is expected to meet LEED Silver standard

The university has announced that the design for the $78 million Special Events Center is expected to qualify for a “silver” rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. It incorporates numerous features to conserve energy and water, use native plants, and minimize waste. The building, to be completed in 2012, is expected to be the campus’ second LEED Silver building, following completion of the Engineering Research Building in 2011.

Star-Telegram story, Nov. 15

Press release, Nov. 12