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Three University of Houston Projects Included in $17M+ Funding for Decarbonization and Emissions Research

Innovative Efforts to Transform Energy Landscapes

By Rashda Khan 713-743-7587

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced $17.4 million funding for 19 early-stage research projects focused on expanding clean energy technologies at colleges and universities across America. These projects will establish visiting scholars’ programs, create new academic curricula related to geosciences, and provide interdisciplinary training in humanities-driven science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.


The list includes three projects from the University of Houston, a Carnegie-designated Tier One research university. Two of these explore the feasibility and benefit of repurposing existing energy assets for clean energy:

  • A Comprehensive Roadmap for Repurposing Offshore Infrastructure for Clean Energy Projects in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Houston Hydrogen Transportation Pilot.

The third project is a multi-institutional collaboration to establish a visiting scholar program via student exchanges from minority-serving institutions:

  • Synergizing Minority-Serving Institution Partnerships for Carbon-Negative Geologic Hydrogen Production — The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University (Stanford, California) with visiting scholars from Texas Tech University and the University of Houston.

Projects were chosen through the DOE Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management’s (FECM) University Training and Research program, which aims to create research and development opportunities for traditionally underrepresented communities as well as educate and train future engineers and scientists dedicated to advancing integrated solutions key to achieving a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

“FECM is excited to partner with our universities in communities located throughout the country to develop a skilled and diverse workforce of professionals helping to achieve our goal of a clean energy and industrial economy,” said Brad Crabtree, Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management in the DOE press release.

“Obtaining this DOE funding not only showcases the caliber and strength of our research, but it also reaffirms the pivotal role UH Energy plays in leading the energy transition,” said UH President Renu Khator. “The work we are doing at UH is driving the urgent shift toward a cleaner and more efficient energy future and benefiting our communities."

More details on the projects:

A Comprehensive Roadmap for Repurposing Offshore Infrastructure for Clean Energy Projects in the Gulf of Mexico  — The Gulf of Mexico is home to more than 1,500 platforms, 14,000 wells and 10,000 miles of pipelines. Once these assets reach the end of their fossil energy use, they are decommissioned – usually meaning plugged and abandoned wells, as well as pipeline and equipment that are taken apart and brought back to shore or sunk to the ocean floor. University of Houston researchers plan to explore ways to prolong the life of such assets by repurposing them for clean energy projects like wind power, hydrogen generation, and carbon sequestration. The study will create a detailed plan covering technical, social, and regulatory aspects, as well as available resources. It will also identify community resources, government incentives, legal requirements, and industry concerns. The aim is to help communities, investors, and industry to engage in such projects.

The project, which received $749,992, is led by Ram Seetharam, UH Energy program officer. Harish Krishnamoorthy, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, is the principal investigator. Distinguished Professor of Engineering Kaushik Rajashekara and Gail Buttorff, instructional assistant professor with the Hobby School of Public Affairs, serve as co-PIs.

Houston Hydrogen Transportation Pilot — The current push for widespread use of battery electric vehicles overlooks consumers without access to overnight or workplace charging. While California has hydrogen supply for fuel cell electric vehicles, adoption is low due to limited hydrogen supply and its high cost compared to gasoline or diesel. This project addresses both issues. University of Houston researchers, in collaboration with a Prairie View A&M University colleague, plan to demonstrate potential for a hydrogen refueling pilot in Houston to show how existing infrastructure in the greater Houston area can be repurposed for zero-emission transportation fueled by profitable, low-carbon hydrogen. The first phase of the project will focus on creating a system to optimize hydrogen supply and demand options for the pilot, analyzing environmental and community risks. The second phase will establish a workforce training network to develop skills to support hydrogen fuel supply.

The project, which received $750,000 in DOE funding, is led by Christine Ehlig-Economides, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair of Petroleum Engineering, and managed by Joe Powell, founding executive director of the UH Energy Transition Institute. Co-PIs are Stanko Brankovic, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UH and Honeywell Endowed Professor Raghava Kommalapati at PVAMU.

Synergizing Minority-Serving Institution Partnerships for Carbon-Negative Geologic Hydrogen Production — For this multi-institutional project, Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability is establishing a visiting scholars program that will bring students from Texas Tech University and UH to the Stanford campus to focus on on creating carbon-negative hydrogen from rocks beneath the Earth's surface. The goal is to train the next generation of engineers and scientists from UH and Texas Tech, two Hispanic-serving institutions, to advance early-stage carbon-negative hydrogen production. Visiting scholars from UH and TTU will spend one month per year for three years at Stanford, conducting on-site research and publishing findings. The research focus will include studying rock properties, reactions during carbon dioxide carbonation and hydrogen generation, optimizing performance, and assessing economic and environmental impacts.

Tapan Mukerji with the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability is the principal investigator on this project, which received $1.5 million in DOE funding. Kyung Jae Lee, associate professor in the Department of Petroleum Engineering at UH is on the team along with Qingwang (Kevin) Yuan, assistant professor of petroleum engineering at TTU and Anthony Kovscek, professor of energy science and engineering at Stanford.

“These three projects show the relevance and quality of the research at UH and our commitment to making a meaningful impact by addressing society’s needs and challenges by doing critical work that impacts the real world,” said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH. “The success of these project could attract investment, create jobs, produce clean energy, save costs, reduce carbon emissions, and benefit not only the greater Houston area, but the Gulf Coast and beyond.”

More information and complete project descriptions can be found on the DOE website.

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