TomKat Natural Gas Exit Strategies

Principal Investigator(s): 

David Auston, Alan Meier, Steven Davis, Igor Mezić, David Victor

The University of California Carbon Neutrality Initiative calls for achieving carbon neutrality for scope 1 and 2 emissions at UC by 2025 and for scope 3 emissions by 2050, thereby making UC the first research university to reach these goals. About 70% of the scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions from UC come from natural gas combustion. A large portion of this comes from combined heat and power plants (also referred to as cogeneration plants), located at seven of the ten UC campuses and their medical centers. Natural gas fired combined heat and power plants are seen by many as the pinnacle of efficiency for fossil fuel-derived power. These large-scale facilities achieve a high operational efficiency by using natural gas to generate electricity and capture the waste heat for heating and cooling services. Unfortunately, they still rely on natural gas, thus emitting greenhouse gases and contributing to global climate change.

This TomKat working group will develop solutions to achieving a transition away from natural gas and towards a zero net carbon future.

The working group is approaching this challenge by dividing work into three subcommittees to perform focused analyses on the following topics:

  1. Efficiency and Optimization Subcommittee: performing technical analyses of energy efficiency and optimization strategies to inform recommendations about the best opportunities for the University of California.
  2. Renewable and Sustainable Gas Subcommittee: performing techno-economic analyses of hydrogen gas and biogas to determine the costs of replacing natural gas in the cogeneration plants at the University of California.
  3. Electrification, Dynamics, and Storage Subcommittee: investigating the feasibility and potential of converting natural gas services at University of California to non-combustion driven electricity.
Each of these analyses will provide insights into how best to achieve carbon neutrality.

This project is made possible by a gift from the TomKat Foundation as well as supplemental funding from the University of California Office of the President.