Universities of Princeton, in the U.S., and of Queensland, in Australia, will be partners of the Brazilian institution; proposals focus on energy transition

Two important collaboration projects between the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI – FAPESP 2014/50279-4) and universities from abroad, focusing on energy transition, promise to produce good fruits for the participating institutions at the beginning of this year. The first is in collaboration with Princeton University, launched by a public notice of the Institutional Program for Internationalization (PrInt), which is a partnership between the University of São Paulo (USP) and approved in a public tender of the Institutional Program for Internationalization (CAPES), governed by USP International Cooperation Office (AUCANI). The second is a project in conjunction with the University of Queensland, Australia, covered by the SPRINT program (São Paulo Researchers in International Collaboration), of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).

“These are projects that prove how much we are achieving internationalization, and are not fundamentally technical in nature, regarding the thematic approach they take. They focus on energy transition as a broader, multi-disciplinary process that gives merit to the RCGI, because the multi-disciplinary approach has always been one of our main characteristics,” says the Director of Leadership and Human Resources of the RCGI, Karen Mascarenhas.

The RCGI person scientifically responsible for the first cooperation initiative was Professor Suani Coelho, who has dedicated decades to studying the role of biomass in the Brazilian energy matrix. In this case, the partnership is signed with Princeton University (U.S.), represented by Professor Eric Larson, who was in Brazil last October for the Energy Transition Research & Innovation (ETRI) international conference organized, annually, by the RCGI in São Paulo, and this is the first activity involving the partnership.

“I have known Professor Eric Larson for more than 20 years. Last year, when AUCANI published a tender for a cooperation proposal with Princeton, the first person who came to my mind was Larson. So, we Skyped a meeting on the possible participation of the RCGI in a project that was already under way and coordinated by him, called Rapid Switch. This project was presented to the ETRI, last year. Thus, we started from the AUCANI tender to work out and think of a way of making possible a broad cooperation proposal,” Suani summarized.

Rapid Switch basically studies how to speed up energy transition in different parts of the world, as well as the bottlenecks, the barriers, and the unintentional consequences that could emerge in different sectors or regions of the world regarding energy transition. Currently, besides the U.S., the countries of Australia, China, and India are also participating. Brazil is ready to join the project through the partnership made possible by the RCGI.

“We are working on the proposal, now, and in March, we will meet with our American peers in the project’s correlated areas. This will result in the first draft of a proposal that is important for Brazil. Our focus is on what can be done, from the energy matrix standpoint, to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. We will take into account the Brazilian Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). We will also deal with carbon capture as a faster option for energy transition,” Professor Coelho explained.

Besides Professor Suani Coelho, the Brazilian team includes Julio Meneghini (RCGI/Poli-USP), Alexandre Szklo (COPPE/UFRJ), and Celma Oliveira (RCGI/Poli-USP), as well as Karen Mascarenhas and researcher Marcelo Moreira, from Agroícone (a private business management consultancy focusing on issues involving agriculture and changes in land use), and others.

The long-term proposal will involve several research institutions that are well-known in their specialized areas, including from other States, covering a regional and national scope that will likely result in models and future scenarios that take different technologies into consideration, as well as proposals for public policies for conducting the nation’s energy transition.

The second project, awarded, in this case, by SPRINT/FAPESP, involves partnering between the School of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology of the University of Queensland, Australia; the RCGI; and the project “Transitions in the history of energy: development and new perspectives regarding natural gas in Brazil” (FAPESP 2017/18208-8).

It is noteworthy that the representative of the University of Queensland, Professor Peta Ashworth, has been to Brazil twice and has spoken at the RCGI. One of those times dealt with the public perception of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, in 2018, and the other in 2019, covered the subject of energy transition.

“Those initial visits highlighted a series of possible synergies between the two institutions regarding the subject of energy transition, which requires much deeper research. The funding is an opportunity to consolidate collaborative research and the chances of a partnership between the two institutions,” explained researcher Drielli Peyerl.

Within the scope of activities involved in this process, Peta will be back in Brazil in September and October as a keynote speaker for the next ETRI. Coming with her will be Professor Andrew Garnett, Director of the Centre for Natural Gas, also from the University of Queensland. In return, the Brazilian team will go to Australia to hold workshops on the subject, this year, taking the discussions to a deeper level regarding the role of natural gas and of CCS in energy transition in both Australia and Brazil.

Thus, the national and international partnerships, established via the funding awarded for these two projects, will make possible a complementary and synergic approach to the work of developing viable paths for Brazilian energy transition. Both efforts tend to complement each other and to generate a broader and more robust final project. Furthermore, the underlying purpose of the proposals is to generate joint publications, thereby reaffirming the commitment to internationalization proposed by USP, AUCANI, FAPESP, and CAPES.