MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


The Energy Laboratory and its associated Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) are multi-disciplinary organizations bringing together sectors of the MIT community with research interests related to energy supply, conversion, and utilization technology, as well as associated environmental, political, economic, geographical, and societal impacts. Professor Jefferson Tester is the Director of the Energy Laboratory and is supported by Associate Director Dr. Elisabeth Drake, Associate Director Dr. William Peters, and Administrative Officer John O'Brien. The CEEPR is directed by Professor Richard Schmalensee, with Dr. A. Denny Ellerman, Executive Director, and Joan E. Bubluski, Administrative Assistant.

For more than 20 years, the Energy Laboratory has sustained a unique organizational structure to develop and implement strong single- and multi-disciplinary energy-related work at MIT. It provides a variety of research opportunities for students at all levels - from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program to postdoctoral studies. Our research programs in FY97 involved about 50 undergraduates and 130 graduate students, along with about 55 associated faculty members from twelve Academic Departments representing all five of MIT's Schools.



Many of the Laboratory's projects involve quantitative and cross-disciplinary study of complex energy and environmental systems. The Sloan Automotive Laboratory, directed by Professor John Heywood and managed by Dr. Victor Wong, continues promising research to improve fuel economy and utilization within the engine and reduce adverse emissions. The Consortium on Engine Research has been combined with the Engine/Fuels Interactions Consortium to highlight the common interests of sponsors from both the automotive and petroleum industries. Many of the sponsors in the resulting Engine and Fuels Consortium also participate in the Consortium on Lubrication in Internal Combustion Engines. The Sloan Laboratory also engages actively in basic combustion research in advanced engine systems with US DOE support, and in engine emission research with support from the EPA Research Center on Airborne Organics.

Energy Laboratory collaboration with the Center for Environmental Health Sciences (CEHS - directed by Professor William Thilly) seeks to determine how combustion emissions and effluents from treatment of hazardous wastes may lead to adverse human health impacts. The Energy Laboratory is an active member of the Program for Environmental Engineering Education and Research (PEEER) under the leadership of Professor David Marks and has also worked over the years with the Building Technology program (led by Professor Leon Glicksman) in research on energy efficient, "healthy" buildings.

With the formal retirement of Professor Adel Sarofim from MIT, Professor Jack Howard has become the director of the EPA Center on Airborne Organics. This Center, focusing on sources, atmospheric transport and transformation, monitoring, and control of airborne organic compounds, is staffed with colleagues from MIT, the California Institute of Technology, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. MIT scientists participating in Center research projects include Professors János Beér, Heywood, Simone Hochgreb, Howard, Gregory McRae, Sarofim, and John Vander Sande. In addition to the research, the Center hosts an annual Summer Symposium on high visibility topics in ambient air quality. In 1996, the meeting addressed Advanced Instrumentation for Air Quality Measurements and was chaired by Professor Richard Flagan of CalTech and Dr. Charles Kolb, President of Aerodyne Research Inc.

Continuing our prior internationally visible work relating to technologies for carbon dioxide mitigation through capture and sequestration of fossil-fueled power plant emissions, we completed a study for the US DOE to investigate the potential environmental impacts of ocean disposal of carbon dioxide. The final report is co-authored by Mr. Herzog and Dr. Eric Adams of the Parsons Laboratory.

The MIT Energy Laboratory has continued its administration of the University Research Consortium (URC) on behalf of the Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies Company (LMITCO), the operations and management contractor for the DOE Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL). During the past fiscal year, the URC has supported 47 research projects at 23 universities in 17 states at a total funding level of over $7 million, including 17 projects at MIT. These projects, done in collaboration with members of the INEEL staff and private sector participants, are designed to help INEEL in its reorientation to the new goals set by DOE for its national laboratories.

No new projects were begun during FY97, but a solicitation of new proposals was published for projects to start during FY98 in research areas including treatment of mixed (nuclear) wastes, management of water resources, nuclear technologies, natural disaster-resistant structural design and testing, and agricultural technologies. MIT provides oversight of the continuing projects and participates in the technical evaluation of proposals for new projects. As part of the oversight role, MIT conducts a summer review meeting in Idaho Falls, at which each principal investigator discusses research progress before an evaluation panel in an open meeting. Professors Tester and Mujid Kazimi are the co-Principal Investigators for the URC, which is directed by Dr. Weiss. Other URC leadership is provided by Dr. Drake, the program co-director, and by Technical Focus Area Leaders who are: Professors Merton Flemings (Advanced Engineering Systems), Kent Hansen (Nuclear Technologies), and Kenneth Smith (Environmental Engineering).

Professor Hansen and Dr. Weiss completed research sponsored by the DOE related to management of nuclear waste from the DOE weapons program, with recent emphasis on the Hanford waste tank system. The waste stored in the tanks represents one of the most significant public risks in the entire weapons complex. Management of the operations of the system is very complex technically and administratively. The research focused upon developing a system dynamics model of the waste tank management and operations to permit simulation of performance for a variety of policy options.

The Electric Utility Program (EUP), directed by Mr. Stephen Connors, is jointly sponsored by twenty-five electric utility companies, equipment manufacturers, and fuel suppliers, and the DOE. EUP facilitates the development of collaboratively funded electric industry-related research projects by bringing together MIT faculty and researchers with EUP members through an annual series of workshops and meetings. Meetings at MIT over the past year included the annual planning meeting which focused on the role of changing prospects for knowledge-based (academic) research in the evolving competitive and global electric industry, and three workshops. Two of these workshops served as kickoff meetings for two separate consortium projects. The first is a project exploring possible biophysical mechanisms related to electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure, led by Dr. James Weaver. The second project, entitled Transmission Provision and Pricing Under Open Access is led by Dr. Marija Ilic.

The EUP is currently in the process of changing its organizational structure to better attune itself with the changing structure of the industry. This will entail breaking up the EUP into more functional tracks associated with generation, transmission and distribution, energy and environmental services, and overall industry coordination and environmental performance. We anticipate that such a reorganization will provide better communication and collaboration between industry and individual MIT researchers and research groups. The EUP will continue to serve as a source of information to MIT faculty and staff, including the Industrial Liaison Program, regarding electric industry trends and leaders.

The Analysis Group for Regional Electricity Alternatives (AGREA), also directed by Mr. Connors, employs multi-attribute power systems planning tools to identify environmentally-responsible and cost-effective electric development strategies. Under the auspices of the Alliance for Global Sustainability, AGREA is applying its experience in strategic planning via the SESAMS project (Strategic Electric Sector Assessment Methodology under Sustainability Conditions) in Switzerland, in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (Zurich and Lausanne) and the Paul Scherrer Institut. AGREA is also currently assisting in the evaluation of water and energy strategies for the Argentine province of Mendoza, in a project led by the Technology and Development Program. AGREA continues to be active in the assessment of environmentally proactive emissions reductions strategies for New England. Through his EUP and AGREA research activities Mr. Connors is active in both the World Energy Council as a member of the Technical Program Committee for its 1998 World Energy Congress in Houston, and as a representative of the academic community in the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Collaborative.

A major collaborative program between MIT and the INEEL, with funding from DOE Basic Energy Sciences, seeks new engineering understanding to improve efficiency and materials conservation in energy-intensive processes. This program, with one project led by Professor David Parks and another by Professor Thomas Eagar, is directed by Dr. Drake.

The Energy Laboratory is in the last year of a five-year grant proposal from the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for Research and Assessment Studies in Support of DOE Programs including analytical capabilities development for research and development and technology transfer related to improved resource conservation and environmental quality. This grant, managed by Dr. Drake, has resulted in a series of about ten successful research projects. The final projects include two led by Dr. Marija Ilic, the first characterizing the needs of a restructured electric transmission and distribution system, and a second, focusing on effective energy management under competition with real-time controls, accounting, and supporting systems. The third project, directed by Professors David Marks, Fred Moavenzadeh, and John Sterman has developed systems dynamics-based planning tools for municipal solid waste managers and industries.

Under the University Research Initiative of the Department of Defense, a five-year fundamental and applied research program on the use of chemical reactors for supercritical water oxidation of military toxic wastes is being conducted for the Army Research Office (ARO). Goals are to develop new understanding of important chemical and physical processes for successfully applying this technology, e.g., how rapidly and completely wastes can be destroyed, how fouling of vessel surfaces by solids can be minimized, how solid byproducts can be separated, and how corrosion of processing construction materials can be controlled. A related goal is to use this understanding to develop reactor models and process flowsheet simulations that will aid in the eventual implementation of the technology. The project team is led by Professor Tester and involves Professors Tomas Arias, David Cory, Peter Griffith, Howard, Ronald Latanision, and Kenneth Smith, Dr. Michael Modell, Dr. Peters, and Mr. Herzog, as well as visiting faculty from Merrimac College, Professors Angelike Regos and Katherine Swallow.


The CEEPR is an activity, jointly sponsored at MIT by the Energy Laboratory, the Department of Economics, and the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management, that funds policy-related research in energy and environmental economics. The Center and the Joint Program receive financial support from a number of corporate sponsors in North America, Europe, and Japan; the U.S. and Norwegian governments; and the Vetlesen Foundation. In addition, affiliate relations are maintained with several environmental groups and other policy-oriented research groups in other countries.

For the past several years, CEEPR's principal research activity has been conducted under the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, sponsored in collaboration with MIT's Center for Global Change Science. This program, led by Professors Henry Jacoby and Ronald Prinn, draws on MIT's traditional strengths in science and economics to conduct the serious interdisciplinary work needed to provide a basis for global climate policy. The Joint Program is now in its fifth year of existence during which time it has become established as one of the world's leading centers for the Integrated Assessment of Climate Change. The Integrated Global Systems Model is now operational and has provided the basis for a number of reports, articles, and presentations on the science and policy of global warming. The principal faculty and researchers are frequently requested to attend scientific and expert group meetings related to climate change. Contributions to the Joint Program continue to grow with annual funding now exceeding $3 million.

CEEPR research outside of the Joint Program has focused on three areas: emissions trading, productivity improvements in the supply of energy, and energy futures, forwards, and arbitrage. By merit of its research on the Title IV SO2 emissions trading program, the Center has become an authority on the actual functioning and implementation of emissions trading as an instrument for the more efficient achievement of environmental goals. The work on productivity is concerned with determining the sources and causes of the remarkable improvements that have occurred over the past 10-15 years in the supply of conventional hydrocarbon energy supplies. Most of the current work has been concerned with coal; however, with the cooperation of the Norwegian government, this research in being extended to cover oil and gas, using the North Sea as a case study. Finally, research on energy futures, forwards, and arbitrage applies an area of expertise at the Sloan School to the emergence of highly liquid spot, futures, and forward markets for crude oil and natural gas as well as to the current development of such markets for coal and electricity.


The Energy Laboratory is launching a new initiative, Energy Choices for the 21st Century, to bring improved and factual energy technology forecasting and assessment to initiatives seeking practical options for cleaner and more environmentally-friendly energy supply and use in the future. This initiative is the outgrowth of collaboration with the Joint Program to improve the adequacy of the technology component in the Integrated Global Systems Model and from concerns about the role of present and future energy choices on the local, regional, and global environment, under the leadership of the Program in Environmental Engineering Education and Research (PEEER), the Alliance for Global Sustainability (AGS), a collaboration between MIT, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH - Switzerland), and the University of Tokyo. The Energy Choices Program will interface with the Joint Program and other AGS activities and is seeking funding from the AGS, corporations, government agencies and a foundation. A major initial planning meeting is scheduled for November 1997, bringing together a diverse and international group of energy and policy experts, to plan the specific goals and research agenda for the program.

In July 1997, Mr. Herzog will play a major role in a DOE workshop on Fuels Decarbonization and Carbon Sequestration. There are obvious synergies between mitigation technologies and the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change (described further under the CEEPR), which will be highlighted in conjunction with this meeting. Mr. Herzog and Dr. Adams are in the final phase of negotiations for leading an international experiment in ocean disposal of CO2. This project will be a collaboration between the US, Japan, and Norway under the Climate Technology Initiative of the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Energy Laboratory is coordinating a national program aimed at developing new technologies for rapid drilling, tunneling, and cavity creation in rock formations. Important applications include drilling for exploitation of deep petroleum, gas, and geothermal energy; mining; and tunneling for infrastructure expansion and revitalization. Under the leadership of Professor Carl Peterson, a National Advanced Drilling and Excavation Technologies (NADET) Institute has been established at MIT with initial funding from the DOE. MIT contributions include expertise in engineering (Professors Kim Vandiver, Herbert Einstein, Peterson, and Tester) and earth sciences (Professor Nafi Toksoz and Dr. Roger Turpening). The major function of the Institute is to be carrying out industry-guided and co-funded RD&D on proposed new technologies. The first proposal solicitation and evaluation has taken place under sponsorship of the Geothermal Division of the DOE and five research contracts were awarded. We expect to continue our project management, research, and technology transfer roles as the NADET continues on a national scale with U.S. universities as well as government and industrial laboratories encouraged to participate.

Since the University Research Initiative funding for supercritical water oxidation research will cease in early 1998, follow-on support is being sought through a proposed industrial consortium (The Supertech Consortium) and through several other research proposals to DOD, DOE, NSF and EPA. These research initiatives will focus on chemical synthesis in supercritical fluids, on salt formation and deposition in supercritical water, on the use of power ultrasound to initiate supercritical water reactions for cleaning contaminated soils in situ, and on instrumentation for characterizing the growth of salt particles. One of these proposals, for computer simulation of supercritical water reactions and reactor flowsheets, has recently been approved for funding under an ARO-STTR.

More information about the Energy Laboratory can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL:

Jefferson W. Tester

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97