Spotlight on a Student: Nasim Pour
Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS); Sustainability, Challenges and Potential
Dr Nasim Pour recently completed her PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Melbourne. Her research investigated the sustainability of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) as carbon removal technology. Since obtaining her doctorate late last year she has applied her knowledge gained through research to industry.
What is your research about?
My research is on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), which is a negative emission technology that offers permanent net removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In most of climate models this negative emission is seen as essential to reach the Paris Agreement target of keeping global warming well below +2 °C by 2100.
BECCS is a multifaceted complex system which consists of a range of variables such as type of biomass resource, energy conversion technology, carbon dioxide capture process and storage options. Each of the pathways to connect these options has its own environmental, economic and social impacts and needs to be assessed through a holistic sustainability framework. Too often, the sole focus of assessment models is on techno-economics of BECCS to produce energy and deliver negative emissions. My study proposes an integrated adaptive management approach to model technical, economic, environmental, social and political aspects of BECCS systems. The adaptive management system employs a multi-criteria decision-making tool to rank BECCS systems against a set of key sustainability criteria. The aim of such adaptive management systems is to facilitate the decision-making process by evaluating the sustainability of the BECCS systems and introducing a systematic methodology to analyse the synergies and trade-offs between different criteria and mitigation scenarios.
One of the main challenges to deploy BECCS at the level required in the stringent emission scenarios is expanding sustainable bioenergy production. Intensification of bioenergy production could result in severe pressure on natural resources, especially land and water, and competition between food, feed, and energy. So, it potentially could lead to controversial economic, ethical, and environmental issues. To avoid the social uncertainties and environmental impacts resulting from dedicated energy crop production, my study focuses on BECCS potential restricted to the presumption of no land-use expansion and no increase in water consumption. That is to say any projection of the potential of BECCS to deliver negative emissions in the future should be limited to bioenergy using organic residue and waste.
So far, lack of integrated governmental and public support has made investment in BECCS subject to economic, regulatory and sovereign risk. An effective and widely-applied carbon price or credit, together with supporting legislation and for some years to come, direct support for BECCS RD&D to bring down costs, are essential to encourage large-scale deployment of BECCS, for without negative emissions delivered through BECCS and perhaps other technologies, there is little prospect of the global targets agreed to at Paris, being met.
Who are your supervisors?
I was fortunate to do my PhD degree under supervision of Prof. Paul Webley from Department of Chemical Engineering, who specialisesin developing novel carbon capture technologies and Prof. Peter Cook from School of Earth Science, who is one of Australia’s foremost scientists and technology leaders in the areas of energy, greenhouse technology and sustainability.
What do you want to do next?
After graduating in 2018, I started working as an analyst for Jacobs’ Energy Markets Insights team. I apply my knowledge in data modelling and analysis, advanced research, policy analysis and carbon management to model electricity markets under a multitude of scenarios for a range of clients including government bodies and industry, assisting them to better understand wholesale price movements and therefore make informed investment decisions.
I was a recipient of the Melbourne International Engagement Award from the University of Melbourne and the Peter Cook Centre for CCS Research. I also received Melbourne Abroad Traveling Scholarships (MATS) in 2015, and the Global Environmental Sustainability Award from Rotary Club of Balwyn in 2016.
Nasim and her supervisors welcome any enquiries about her research. You can email her at Nasim.Pour@jacobs.com