CBE Seminar Series: Jeff Tester, Cornell University




Geothermal Energy’s Evolving Role in Decarbonization -- Across the Country, in NY State and at Cornell Many states in the U.S. are adopting mandates and regulations to significantly lower their carbon footprints as well as increase their use of renewable energy. Most federal and state renewable energy policies and incentives currently focus on using renewables for generating electricity and electrifying land transportation, often ignoring the need for decarbonizing the supply of thermal energy for district heating. This presents a challenge as between 20 and 40% of the carbon footprint in about half of our 50 states results from thermal applications -- predominantly space and water heating in the residential and commercial sector and low-temperature industrial process heat provided by burning carbon-emitting natural gas, fuel oil and propane. Moderate temperature geothermal resources (<120°C) could provide an attractive, low-carbon alternative for meeting a majority of these heating demands. Geothermal resources using include low-enthalpy hydrothermal reservoirs, sedimentary aquifers, and deep Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) in low-permeability, crystalline rock. Cornell has initiated a project to use Earth Source Heat (ESH) technology to provide geothermal baseload heating as a key component of its strategy to reach carbon neutrality for its campus of 30,000 people. A successful Cornell ESH demonstration will serve as an example for rural and urban communities in New York State as well as for the Northern Tier of the U.S., where annual heating loads are high and valuable low-temperature geothermal resources are widespread. At this seminar, Cornell’s ongoing project research and analysis will be discussed including: (1) subsurface characterization, (2) reservoir design and heat extraction modeling, (3) combining baseload district heating using ESH with peak heating using renewable natural gas from waste biomass into Cornell’s energy system infrastructure, (4) technical and economic objectives, and (5) site-selection and design of an initial exploratory well on campus. BIO: Dr. Tester is the Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University and Cornell’s Principal Scientist for Earth Source Heat. He also founded and served as Director of the Cornell Energy Institute from 2009 -2017 and is a Fellow in the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and a Croll Energy Fellow. Prior to his appointment at Cornell in 2009, Dr. Tester was the H.P. Meissner Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as Director of MIT's Energy Laboratory for 12 years (1989-2001). While at MIT, Professor Tester chaired an 18-member international panel that evaluated the long-term geothermal potential of the US, resulting a major report in 2007– The Future of Geothermal Energy. Dr. Tester was the US representative for geothermal energy to the IPCC working group which evaluated the global potential of renewable energy. In 2011, he received the Special Achievement Award from the Geothermal Resources Council. He has published extensively in the energy field having co-authored over 300 research papers and 13 books, including a graduate textbook on thermodynamics, two books on geothermal energy technology, and a popular energy textbook --Sustainable Energy – Choosing Among Options. Currently Dr.Tester is leading Cornell’s decarbonization efforts to use geothermal heat extracted from rocks at depths to 3+ km for supplying the campus district heating system.