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November 2008

Research feature: November 13 seminar will focus on microbially enhanced geologic carbon sequestration

Photo of Robin Gerlach.Robin Gerlach, an associate professor in the department of chemical and biological engineering at Montana State University-Bozeman (MSU) will give the final seminar in the SBI-sponsored series on Geologic Carbon Sequestration. Robin's research focuses on the use of biofilms for beneficial purposes and his seminar will describe microbially based strategies for enhancing geologic carbon sequestration. He is associated with the Center for Biofilm Engineering an NSF Engineering Research Center, the Thermal Biology Institute a multidisciplinary team of scientists studying the unique thermal environment within Yellowstone National Park, and the Molecular BioSciences Program at MSU. Robin is also the director of the Environmental and Biofilm Mass Spectrometry Facility in the College of Engineering.

Robin will speak at 3 p.m. on November 13 in 106 Owen Hall. He sent the following description of his presentation:

The geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide is one of the most promising, immediate ways to slow down the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Even under the most optimistic scenarios for energy efficiency gains and the greater use of low- or no-carbon fuel and energy sources, sequestration will likely be essential if the world is to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at acceptable levels. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that, if no action is taken, the U.S. will emit approximately 6,850 million metric tons of CO2 by 2030, increasing 2005 emission levels by more than 14 percent. 

Geologic sequestration involves taking the CO2 that has been captured from power plants and other stationary sources and storing it in deep underground geologic formations in such a way that CO2 will remain permanently stored. Geologic formations such as oil and gas reservoirs, unmineable coal seams, and underground saline formations are potential options for storing CO2 since they have been shown to store crude oil, natural gas, brine and CO2 over millions of years. In deep (roughly >800 meter depth) brine aquifers, oil, and gas reservoirs, CO2 will be present in its supercritical state after injection. In saline aquifers, the supercritical CO2 (scCO2) is less dense and much less viscous than the initially resident brine resulting in the potential for upward leakage of CO2 through fractures, disturbed rock, or cement lining near injection wells. The research at the Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University-Bozeman (CBE-MSU) has focused on the utility of biofilms to ensure and enhance the geologic sequestration of CO2 in brine aquifers. Our research addresses microbially based strategies for controlling leakage of CO2 during geologic sequestration and the enhancement of carbonate mineral formation from CO2. We are examining the concept of using engineered microbial biofilms which are capable of precipitating crystalline calcium carbonate using the process of ureolysis. The resulting combination of biofilm plus mineral deposits, if targeted near points of CO2 injection, may result in the long-term sealing of preferential leakage pathways.  Successful development of these biologically-based concepts could result in a CO2 leakage mitigation technology which can be applied before, during, or after CO2 injection.

Recent related publications:

Mitchell, A.C.; Phillips, A.J.; Hamilton, M.A.; Gerlach, R.; Hollis, K.; Kaszuba, J.P.; Cunningham, A.B. (2008): Resilience of planktonic and biofilm cultures to supercritical CO2. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids. 47(2):318-325. doi:10.1016/j.supflu.2008.07.005.

Mitchell, A.C.; Phillips, A.J.; Hiebert, R.; Gerlach, R.; Spangler, L.; Cunningham, A.B. (2008): Biofilm enhanced geologic sequestration of supercritical CO2. The International Journal on Greenhouse Gas Control. doi:10.1016/j.ijggc.2008.05.002 (In Press).


Upcoming Events

Thursday, November 6, 3:00 p.m., Owen 106. Numerical Modeling of Coupled Processes in Geologic Storage of Greenhouse Gases - Recent Results and Open Challenges (Geologic Carbon Sequestration Seminar Series). Speaker: Karsten Pruess, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. FMI: Dorthe Wildenschild.

Thursday, November 13, 3:00 p.m., Owen 106. Microbially-based Strategies for Controlling Leakage of CO2 During Geologic Sequestration and the Enhancement of Carbonate Mineral Formation from CO2 (Carbon Sequestration Seminar Series). Speaker: Robin Gerlach, Montana State University / Center for Biofilm Engineering. FMI: Dorthe Wildenschild.

Thursday, November 13, 4:00 p.m., ALS 4000. Not organic versus mineral resources, but the combination of the two is sustainable (Botany and Plant Pathology Seminar). Speaker: Johan Six, Associate Professor, Agroecology Lab, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. CA, Davis (guest of Dr. Kate Lajtha) Held on campus at ALS 4000. FMI: Bruce McCune, 737-1741.

Monday, November 24, 4:00 p.m., ALS 4000. Using Thermal Analysis Techniques to Assess Soil Organic Matter Quality. Speaker: Dr. Alain Plante, Assistant Professor of Biogeochemistry, University of Pennsylvania. Abstract: Soil organic matter (SOM) is highly dynamic and consists of a “quality continuum” ranging from highly labile microbial and root exudates with turnover times of days to months, to humified materials and charcoals that may persist for centuries or millennia. This research seeks to achieve a meaningful quantification of this quality continuum through the application of thermal analysis techniques. The potential for the application of thermal analysis technology is the state-of-the-art development of a relatively rapid, inexpensive, information-rich fingerprint for the relative stability of SOM, which could be used as a tool in soil quality assessments. Held on campus at ALS 4000. FMI: James Cassidy.

Link to a calendar of other related events...


Opportunities for Students

ASM Spring Bioinformatics Institute. The course is intended for undergraduate educators. Participants will understand, interpret, and use molecular sequence information to solve problems, providing a framework for developing classroom activities and research projects for undergraduate students. The programs feature analysis of microbial genomes, molecular sequences, and structural data. The Spring Bioinformatics Institute is planned for March 11-14, 2009, in Washington, DC, and a Summer Bioinformatics Institute is planned for June 14 – 17, 2008, in Walnut Creek, CA. Applications are due November 15 for the spring program and February 15 for the summer program.

Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowships Program for Achieving Excellence in College and University Teaching. Fellowships for individuals planning a career in teaching and research at the college or university level in a research-based field of science, social sciences, or humanities. Stipends and Allowances: predoctoral--$20,000 to the fellow, institutional allowance of $2,000 for three years; dissertation--$21,000 for one year; postdoctoral--$40,000 for one year, $1,500 employing institution allowance, to be matched by employing institution. Application Deadline Dates: Predoctoral: November 14, 2008, Dissertation: November 28, 2008, Postdoctoral: November 28, 2008.

AAAS Science and Technology Fellowships. These paid post-doctoral fellowships "provide the opportunity for accomplished scientists and engineers to participate in and contribute to the federal policymaking process while learning firsthand about the intersection of science and policy". The fellowships are highly competitive and include individual interviews in Washington, DC. Applications due: December 15, 2008.

Association for Women in Science Undergraduate and Predoctoral Fellowships. Awards of $1,000 are to female students enrolled in a behavioral, life, physical, or social science or engineering programs. The award may be used for any aspect of education, including tuition, books, housing, research, travel and meeting registration, or publication costs, for example. Applications due: January 23, 2009 for undergraduates; January 30, 2009 for predocs.


Funding Opportunities for Faculty

(listed by due date)

10 November 2008. OSU 2008-2009 International Programs Faculty Grants and Awards Program.

Description: Aims to foster faculty international initiatives that contribute to expanding and strengthening the international dimensions of teaching, research and service at Oregon State University. These grants are available for regular OSU faculty members (tenured, tenure track, professional or fixed-term non–tenure track) with at least a .5 FTE and a nine- to twelve-month appointment.
Funding Details: Nine awards of up to $2,500 are anticipated in the 2008-2009 program.

14 November 2008. IWW-USGS Water Resources Grants.

Description: Through the federal Water Resources Research Act (Program 104(B)), the OSU Institute for Water and Watersheds receives federal matching funds to support water resources research and education activities in the Oregon. All faculty at Oregon universities and colleges are eligible to apply. In recent years, IWW has supplemented the USGS funds with additional funding from the OSU Water and Watersheds Initiative. Priority will be given to proposals that examine issues related to long-term water and watershed management, although creative proposals on other topics are highly encouraged.
Funding Details: Up to $30,000. All projects require a 2:1 match of non-federal funds.This match can be made in multiple ways including “forgiven overhead” (on both the USGS and matching funds) since no overhead is provided to the faculty’s institution.

LOI due November 21, 2008 (Full proposals due: January 22, 2008). Letters of Intent (to the OSU Rearch Office) for the NSF - Major Research Instrumentation.

Description: The MRI program assists with the acquisition or development of shared research instrumentation that is, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs. This is a limited submission program so applicants must submit a letter of intent to the OSU Research Office. For more information contact Debbie Delmore at 737-8390. Information about the NSF program is available online.
Funding Details: The MRI program now accepts proposals requesting over $2 million in NSF support (to the maximum request of $4 million) for the acquisition of a single instrument.  For proposals requesting $2 million or less, investigators may seek support for instrument development or for acquisition of a single instrument, a large system of instruments, or multiple instruments that share a common or specific research focus.

1 December 2008. NSF Hydrologic Science.

Description: Hydrologic Sciences focuses on the flow of water and transport processes within streams, soils, and aquifers. Particular attention is given to spatial and temporal heterogeneity of fluxes and storages of water and chemicals over a wide range of scales, to geolimnology and to interfaces with the landscape, microbial communities, and coastal areas. Studies may also deal with processes in aqueous geochemistry and with the physical, chemical, and biological processes within water bodies. Study of these processes requires expertise from many basic sciences and mathematics, and proposals often require joint review with related programs.

5 December 2008. Office of Naval Research Summer Faculty Research Program.

Description: The Office of Naval Research Summer Faculty Research Program provides an opportunity for science and engineering faculty members to participate in research of mutual interest to the faculty and professional peers at Navy laboratories. The Summer Faculty Research Program is a 10-week program. The Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center, Port Hueneme, California, research includes materials technology/chemistry, applied mathematics/computer modeling, geotechnology, environmental compliance/ biotechnology, utilities, and construction technology.
Funding Details: Stipend of $1400 or more per week plus housing and travel allowance.

9 December 2008. U.S. EPA Broad Agency Announcement for Conferences, Workshops, and/or Meetings.

Description: Grants for the planning, arranging, administering and/or conducting of conferences, workshops, and/or meetings that focus on research to protect human health and safeguard the environment. Specifically, EPA is interested in supporting scientific and technical research conferences that address the following research program areas: (1) human health; (2) ecosystems; water and security; (3) economics and sustainability; (4) air and global climate change; and (5) technology.
Funding Details: EPA will not consider applications for less than $15,000 or more than $75,000.

6 January 2009. USEPA STAR Integrated Design, Modeling, and Monitoring of Geologic Sequestration of Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide to Safeguard Sources of Drinking Water.

Description: Seeking applications to conduct research to support the development of sound risk management strategies for the underground injection of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) in candidate subsurface geologic formations. To further the scientific understanding of this practice, research is needed to investigate how integrating approaches in design, siting, modeling and monitoring of CO2 in the subsurface can provide safe and effective storage, mitigate potential risks, and prevent endangerment of existing and potential sources of drinking water.
Funding Details: Four three-year awards of up to $900K each anticipated.

The SBI has funding available for proposal development and maintains a list of external grant opportunities related to the subsurface biosphere.

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