You work at a company called Carbon America. If you had one minute to describe the purpose and mission of the company to your grandma, what would you say?
The purpose of carbon America is to combat global climate change by significantly reducing the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants and from industrial processes like the production of steel and cement. This is accomplished by a process called carbon Capture and sequestration, in which over 95% of the carbon dioxide is first separated from the exhaust of the power plant or industrial site, and then it is permanently stored or sequestered in deep geological formations. Carbon America's mission is to sequester as much CO2 as possible as quickly as possible. This involves both implementing carbon capture and sequestration projects using the technology that exists today and by developing new technologies that we think will work best in the future.
Why is carbon capture important in our efforts to decarbonize the economy?
Carbon capture will play an important role in decarbonizing the economy because it allows us to retrofit existing coal and natural gas power plants so that we can continue to have consistent sources of electricity throughout the decarbonization process. Renewable electricity generators like wind turbines and solar panels are very effective and economical solutions. However, at full scale, they require significant electricity storage infrastructure in addition to significant improvements to the grid transmission and distribution systems. Carbon capture provides a method to significantly reduce emissions while the electricity infrastructure evolves to support full scale renewable generation. In addition, carbon capture provides a solution to the hard to abate industrial sectors like steel production.
What is your job title and what does a typical day look like for you?
My job title is Senior Systems engineer. I work on the process design and analysis for Carbon America's pilot plants and for developing future commercial products for carbon America's novel Cryogenic carbon capture technology called FrostCC. I also work with technoeconomic analysis used to estimate the economic potential of FrosTCC at different electricity generation industrial sites. A typical day for me consists primarily of computerbased thermodynamic process modeling using inhouse modeling tools that carbon America has developed.
I know you found this role while studying for your master’s. How did you learn about the company and meet the people who eventually hired you?
While completing my master's degree at Colorado State University, I worked on a research project that contracted Carbon America's sister company called StorWorks Power. Through this, I got to know Carbon, America's vice president of research and development. Later, he let my graduate advisor know that Carbon America was hiring. I reached out to him and got an interview.
Can you name the other types of engineering jobs at Carbon America and give a brief summary of what each type does?
There are many types of engineers that work at Carbon America. The systems engineers and process engineers like me, work on designing and analyzing how the network of equipment works together without getting into the specific design of individual pieces of equipment. The mechanical engineers work on designing the individual pieces of equipment, like the heat exchangers used in the process. The test engineers run tests and collect data from in house experiments that go on and will run tests for the up and coming pilot planes. The modeling engineers work on developing the in house modeling tools. They also dynamically simulate the experiments and pilot plants and use that data to validate their models.
Can you describe other technical or field job roles at Carbon America?
The technical jobs at Carbon America are both computer based and field related. So far, all of my work has been computer based. However, many engineers have hands on with the in house experiments. Additionally, Carbon America is finishing up commissioning of a pilot plant at the National Carbon Capture center in Alabama. Currently, many engineers are traveling back and forth to Alabama to assist with commissioning and very soon will serve as plant operators during testing. Also, Carbon America has employed shop technicians for in house manufacturing for the test and pilot plant.
What has been your proudest accomplishment while working at Carbon America?
I have contributed significantly to the design of what we expect will be the first commercial product for FrostCC. This design has been used in applications for funding that hopefully will fund our first commercial pilot. So that will be a huge accomplishment if and when that funding comes through, and I'm proud of that design.
If you met a person aspiring to get a job in the carbon capture industry, what words of advice would you share?
I was fortunate in that my master's degree led right into my current job. However, I will say that in any industry, especially in clean energy or carbon capture, I would say that hard work and dedication really speaks for itself, and being able to show that will go a long way. It's also important to be passionate and knowledgeable about whatever field that you're interested in getting into. So knowing about the pluses and minuses of carbon capture and what its potential is is very valuable. And being passionate about its potential also, don't be afraid to put yourself out there and to make connections in the community, because at least for me, the job prospect came from a previous connection, and so it's very valuable to be able to put yourself out there and let people know that you're available.