Fuels of the Future: Chemical Energy Carriers for a Decarbonized Economy

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In a recently released white paper, SEI Executive Director Tim Lieuwen and Georgia Tech Professor Matthew Realff argue that federal research and development funding for expediting the decarbonization of energy should leverage existing infrastructure to minimize costs and speed the decarbonization of the energy sector. While aggressive electrification is gaining mainstream acceptance, this paper highlights the growing challenges around movement and storage of energy. Thus, the authors argue that the existing fuels infrastructure for moving and storing energy should be fully leveraged.  In particular, they highlighted fuel options that can ‘drop into’ existing infrastructure (think pipelines, gas stations, and automobiles) is the most pragmatic way to proceed, in parallel with electrification. In other words, while all options should be explored, such as hydrogen, they particularly emphasize the role of drop in fuels, such as renewable gasoline or natural gas in order to keep costs down and reduce adverse social impacts.

“As we transition to a clean energy economy, we must acknowledge that the movement and storage of energy is of growing significance. To be practical, a low-carbon economy must use both the electricity and the fuels systems, because the existing networks are so extensive, and so embedded in society.” states Tim Lieuwen.

Advocating for a pragmatic approach to decarbonizing energy systems is nothing new for Dr.’s Lieuwen and Realff. In 2019 they, along with Dr. Adam Stulberg and Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall, founded the Circular Carbon Fuels Economy Working Group at Georgia Tech, a group that has grown to over 50 members from multiple academic disciplines, dedicated to advancing the concept of capturing CO2 from the air and synthesizing it into liquid fuels that can be used to power autos and airplanes. Dr. Realff says that “the goal of this working group is to create a community at Georgia Tech which fosters the cross-fertilization of ideas among researchers around this critical facet of decarbonization.”

For more information on the Circular Carbon Fuels Economy Working Group visit:



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