Lipinski Applauds Funding for Local Entities to Conduct Research on Reducing Harmful Emissions

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) today congratulated locally based Nalco Co. and Argonne National Laboratory on winning $2.25 million in federal funding for cutting-edge research that could help eliminate CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants, a major contributor to global climate change. Congressman Lipinski supported Nalco's application in a letter to the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, a new agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that he helped to create. Nalco employs 145 people at its Bedford Park plant in the Third District and more at its Naperville headquarters. 

"Energy is an area where we need to think big and invest in breakthrough technologies and new industries with the potential to drive economic growth and job creation for years to come," Lipinski said. "The challenges we face in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and becoming more energy efficient are too great to do otherwise. Nalco's work with Argonne National Laboratory demonstrates the kind of vision that we need. I am pleased that I was able to play a part in helping to secure funding for this project, which will also help support local jobs."

ARPA-E announced its first grants Monday. The agency will support transformative energy research using the research model established by the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which helped lead to breakthroughs like GPS, stealth technology, body armor, and the Internet. Congressman Lipinski serves on the House Science and Technology Committee, and was on the conference committee for the America COMPETES Act, which created the ARPA-E program. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education, he recently held a hearing exploring the best ways to support high-risk, high-reward scientific research.

Currently, it is possible to capture CO2 and turn it into a liquid that can then be sequestered underground. But doing so is expensive and consumes a huge amount of energy. Nalco proposes using water to collect CO2 emissions from power plants and then employing a novel electrochemical process to quickly and cheaply separate the CO2 from the water. Existing technology could then be used to liquefy the separated CO2 so that it could be sequestered underground, or to ready it for another use. One potential environmentally friendly use would be growing algae to produce biofuels.

CO2 naturally dissolves in water, which is how soda is carbonated. But while we've all been unpleasantly surprised to find the soda in our refrigerator has gone flat overnight, CO2 actually releases from water too slowly for a rapid, continuous industrial process. Nalco's technology would solve that problem by using a special type of wafer, a small amount of electricity, and a natural enzyme to speed up release. The enzyme used is the same enzyme our bodies use to remove CO2 from our cells when we exhale. In a sense, Nalco would mimic the process living cells use to manage CO2.

"Finding ways to use coal more efficiently while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions will allow the United States to better use one of its key domestic energy sources," said Dr. Manian Ramesh, Nalco's Chief Technology Officer. "We want to thank the Department of Energy for this grant in support of our carbon capture project. This is a tremendous opportunity to expand our existing partnership with the outstanding talent at Argonne National Laboratory to develop this exciting new technology for providing cleaner energy. Open innovation that allows collaboration among business, government, and academia is the best path forward to develop new, sustainable technologies."

"As one of the few members of Congress trained as an engineer, I'm keenly interested in supporting advanced technical research with the potential to yield lasting real-world benefits," Congressman Lipinski said. "Companies and countries around the world are racing to develop new energy technologies, and we need to make sure America is positioned to be the global leader in the field."

(October 27, 2009)