Posted in | News | Climate Change

Project Hopes to Apply Social Science to Clean and Affordable Hydrogen Energy

The University of Oklahoma's Carbon-Free H2 Production and Storage project, referred to as CHEPS, is set to receive an approximately $3.6 million Growing Convergence Research grant over a span of five years from the National Science Foundation.

Image Credit: University of Oklahoma

This funding will support their collaborative efforts in developing and implementing equitable technologies associated with the hydrogen energy transition within rural and Tribal communities in Oklahoma.

Dimitrios Papavassiliou, who serves as the Director of the School of Sustainable Chemical, Biological, and Materials Engineering, will lead this project. He will be joined by co-principal investigators, including Nicholas Hayman, who is the Director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, Katerina Tsetsura, an Associate Professor and Gaylord Family Professor in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Firat Demir, holding the position of the L. J. Semrod Presidential Professor of Economics, and Dingjing Shi, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology.

Notably, Papavassiliou also holds the titles of C. M. Sliepcevich Professor of Chemical Engineering and OU President's Associates Presidential Professor.

The research opportunity from this grant will allow us to do exactly what we wanted to do when we developed our original Big Idea Challenge proposal in 2020. Through this NSF grant, we will combine expertise from the social sciences with our deep knowledge in engineering to create a new paradigm in research. It will truly be convergent.

Dimitrios Papavassiliou, Director, School of Sustainable Chemical, Biological, and Materials Engineering, University of Oklahoma

The research team aims to construct an equitable framework that enables local communities in Oklahoma to actively engage in sharing their present and future energy requirements, thus influencing the creation of energy solutions.

The project's central objective revolves around the development of socially just methods for producing clean and cost-effective hydrogen energy. Given Oklahoma's substantial natural gas reserves, extensive transportation infrastructure, and a skilled workforce with expertise in natural gas, the state is well-positioned to facilitate this endeavor.

By establishing a meaningful collaboration between local community representatives and scientists who work on carbon-free hydrogen production and storage, our team hopes to test and further develop a co-creational, community-centered approach to solving the country's energy challenges.

Katerina Tsetsura, Associate Professor and Gaylord Family Professor, Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Oklahoma

The CHEPS team will collaborate closely with the OU Native Nations Center to actively engage Tribal communities in their research efforts. They will be working in partnership with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, which will not only offer valuable guidance but also facilitate connections with other Tribal collaborators. Their collective focus will be on achieving just and equitable outcomes throughout the research process.

When we wrote our Big Idea Challenge a few years ago, we planned how to communicate technical information to a non-technical rural audience; essentially telling people what we will be doing. Since that time, we’ve evolved our thinking. We now plan to discuss the technologies and ramifications with the residents and decide together what needs to be done moving forward.

Dimitrios Papavassiliou, Director, School of Sustainable Chemical, Biological, and Materials Engineering, University of Oklahoma

The research team is also conducting an assessment of the economic consequences associated with the transition to green hydrogen energy. Should communities choose to participate in hydrogen production or storage, the team intends to analyze the financial and labor market effects, with the hope of discovering positive outcomes such as creating wealth and job opportunities.

At the end of this project, we hope to develop catalytic technologies to produce hydrogen in a socially just way, limit the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and use subsurface reservoirs to store hydrogen in a safe manner. We also hope to create jobs and wealth for rural communities and leave a greener, more sustainable environment for our children and our grandchildren,” Papavassiliou concludes.

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